While looking at potential future classes, students are provided with class options that vary between part-time and full-time professors. But, there are several factors that affect the hiring of each type for the deans at the University of Rhode Island.
The Common Data Set, published for the academic year 2015-2016, stated that the number of full-time faculty members at the University of Rhode Island was 699, while part-time faculty was 407, totaling 1,106 instructional faculty members. Full-time faculty then make up about 63 percent of URI faculty and part-time faculty make up almost 37 percent. According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), the national average of part-time faculty is, with another 19 percent listed as non-tenure-track full-time faculty- making up almost three quarters of all faculty.
While URI’s numbers for full-time professors are above the national average according to these sources, there is a different type of professor demand for each of the colleges on campus. Sciences are taught in vastly different ways than liberal arts. URI being a research-based institution may account for the larger numbers of full-time faculty in these departments. Each college has a different way of teaching their classes and a different demand for their classes. The College of Arts and Sciences houses the most general education courses, making the demand for their courses much larger than a pharmacy class.
Winnie Brownell, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said that while hiring professors on a full-time and tenured-track basis is her first choice, she sees equal quality in other types of faculty members.
“I must say we’ve been very fortunate in bringing in professionals as part-time instructors too,” Brownell said. “We always try to get the best professional we can. But our preference is a tenured-track instructor.”
Many of the arts and humanities courses on campus are taught by both tenured and part-time faculty.
“Generally, each year the deans have the opportunity to request in the strategic investment process new faculty hirings; both to build up a program that’s growing… or to reinvest in a continuing program,” Brownell said. She said that the decisions to add more professors to a given program is also influenced by both enrollment trends and student demand.
Another part of this decision-making process can be accounted for by the fact that hiring on part-time faculty is much cheaper than hiring new full-time professors. Part-time faculty have a base pay of $3,549 per course, equaling approximately $21,294 for teaching six courses in one year. Whereas a full-time, tenured professor has a base pay around $61,649, according to AAUP.
To ensure students’ success in courses such as communication studies and English, Brownell said the university tries to keep class sizes as small as possible.
“We have many sections so there could be a bigger demand in an area to add more sections,” Brownell said. “If we need to add some at the last minute, the easiest way to do that is to reach out to our part-time professionals who can come in and help us.”
One of the problems that may come about with hiring on part-time faculty is that they are unable to give students an “Incomplete” for a grade. “Part-time faculty are not in a full-time continuing appointment, so they can leave and not come back,” Brownell said. “That leaves the student with an Incomplete on his/her record without any ability to turn that into a grade.”
John Kirby, dean of the College of Environment and Life Sciences, explained that the majority of faculty the college hires are full-time, continuing faculty.
“Each semester we also have a limited number of ‘per course’ part-time faculty we hire on a temporary basis to teach a critical class or two to cover for retirements, departures, additional workload assignments, or a course that benefits from a professional from outside of the academy,” Kirby said.
Paul Larrat, dean of the College of Pharmacy said, “[Tenured professors are] really the foundation for the programs we have… they’re the ones that do the bulk of the teaching.”
Though the preference for all three of these colleges is to gain more tenured professors, Brownell emphasized that the university does not discredit the additional expertise that part-time professors have brought to the curriculum.