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  • Specialization, Status, and Stigma: Teaching-Stream Roles in Research-Intensive Institutions
  • Heidi Tiedemann Darroch (bio)

University teaching-stream jobs that “unbundle” research from traditional faculty duties now make up a substantial minority of the academic positions at many institutions, including some of the largest (Bradshaw). While full-time teaching-intensive roles represent a significant improvement on casualized contract teaching, compared to research positions they are often marked by lower pay, a protracted path (if any) to tenure and promotion, and diminished status. By fostering more parallel professorial tracks, universities could address existing inequities, but the unequal status of research and teaching in research-intensive institutions means that faculty members who do not conduct research will not be viewed as scholars, perhaps not even, as a blunt colleague from another faculty noted in conversation, as “real professors.”

Several recent studies have suggested that teaching-stream faculty are a financial necessity in an era of “massification” that has been accompanied by unpredictable provincial funding, leading to concerns about “the significant cost of … using a comprehensive teacher-scholar model as the standard” for faculty employment (Gopaul et al. 58). But as Jamie Brown-lee argues, these claims rely on the “shifting perspectives on the value of teaching and research” that have influenced the distribution of university [End Page 4] resources, resulting in higher administrative budgets and enhanced investments in research and graduate education (46). In many universities, these changes have been accompanied by a reduction in faculty teaching load intended to spur research productivity: “twenty years ago, the norm in many faculties was 3 + 3,” while “it is now closer to 2 + 2” (Clark et al. 17). Institutions have resorted to larger class sizes, online courses, increasing use of graduate student instructors, and, especially, dependence on contract faculty, the academic precariate. The rise of “just-in-time” hiring for teaching positions has had devastating consequences for aspiring academics since the 1970s. Governance and collegiality have also been eroded by the casualization of academic labour, with a shrinking proportion of the faculty available to serve on committees and mentor students, which has increased the workload of full-time faculty members.

While cost has been a key concern, teaching-stream positions have also been identified as a solution to the ethical and pragmatic problems of contingent academic labour. In The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom, Michael Bérubé and Jennifer Ruth propose a parallel tenure track for teaching-focused faculty, reasoning that since “the overwhelming majority of faculty in the classroom are not being paid to do research” (130), regularizing teaching-stream roles will be a vast improvement, even if it does foster a “two-tier system” (131). Yet Bérubé and Ruth view these non-research positions as requiring a doctorate, arguing that it is the appropriate credential for tenurable members of the profession.

Even if they do hold PhDs, teaching-stream faculty members are likely to experience second-class status in their departments, which can manifest in exclusion from administrative roles and other forms of marginalization. Concentration of teaching-stream faculty in first-year and service teaching, common at many institutions, can discourage research faculty participation in lower-division courses, creating increasingly bifurcated faculty duties. Leslie Sanders suggests that without efforts to raise the status of teaching, teaching-only faculty will experience significant professional disadvantages; further, “if they are confined to introductory courses, their relation to their field could soon atrophy” (4), threatening even their pedagogical effectiveness.

Ensuring a satisfying career track for teaching-stream faculty includes crafting reasonable teaching loads and service expectations, as well as supporting the teaching-related research that is a nominal but crucial part of positions. But this requires time, and some proposals for ensuring that teaching faculty can still publish are farfetched. Clark et al. call for teaching-only undergraduate universities in Ontario, with a faculty work-load [End Page 5] divided 80/10/10 between teaching, service, and scholarship related to teaching. Despite this minimal allocation, they maintain that “[c]onsistent with aucc standards, the new university should expect academic staff to be engaged in independently peer-reviewed research and to publish in externally disseminated sources” (134).

Time pressures and role tensions were central...


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