State officials are recommending that New York's public universities mine their ranks of adjunct faculty for the 2,000 new full-time faculty the universities are seeking to hire by 2013. But the proposal is meeting resistance from many tenured professors, who say giving preference to part-time staff could restrict faculty searches and lower the quality of their departments.
In an 85-page report outlining measures the state could take to repair its public higher education system, a commission on higher education appointed by Governor Spitzer identified a lack of full-time faculty across the board at all 64 state and 23 city university campuses as a major problem with the system. The commission recommended hiring at least 2,000 new full-time faculty over the next five years to lift the system and stimulate economic growth in the state.
"The adjunct faculty are of a very high quality and many are qualified to be full-time," a senior advisor to Mr. Spitzer who has worked closely with the commission, Lloyd Constantine, said in an interview when asked where the universities would look for new hires. "There's an indication that there is a readily available group, and hires would come from adjunct faculty."
Giving preference to part-time faculty from within the system runs counter to a national trend, education experts said. The move also pits part-time staff members, who want full-time jobs, against tenured professors, who want to conduct national searches.
"When universities expand their faculties and they've been heavily relying on adjuncts, there's always a very delicate and controversial issue of whether the slots should go to the adjuncts or to new people," an editor of the Web site InsideHigherEd.com, Scott Jaschik, said in an interview. "Especially in institutions that are looking for research as much as teaching, adjuncts tend to be at a disadvantage." Departments that value research and publication usually conduct national searches for senior researchers and scholars.
Many full-time faculty at City University of New York and State University of New York schools said giving preference to the adjunct faculty in their departments would restrict who they could hire and would not necessarily strengthen their departments.
"That's not the normal way we do it," the chairman of the physics department at the University at Albany, John Kimball, said. "It's a nationally advertised search for any new faculty members. Adjuncts are welcome to apply, but they're not given special preference over anyone else."
Many faculty members said their departments would have no problem recruiting top talent from across the globe. "The market in political science is on the buyer's side, but it varies by subfield," a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Albany, Stephen Wasby, said. Mr. Wasby said his department received 300 applicants for a full-time position in international relations.
The faculty union has long been pushing for adjuncts — the lowest-paid instructors in the system — to be hired on tenure tracks. "You have a lot of people who are heavily qualified," a past president of the faculty union, the United University Professions, Nuala Drescher, said. "When you have people who have been committed to the institution, it's moral to give them the first crack at it."
CUNY, which employs 6,100 full-time teaching faculty, has hired 1,000 new full-time faculty since 1999 and is seeking to boost its percentage of full-time faculty to 70% from 50%. SUNY currently employs 30,916 full-time professors, who account for 48.3% of its faculty. About 75% of credit hours are taught by full-time faculty, according to its Web site.
"Two thousand full-time faculty is not a small percentage, but rough and dirty, it's probably around half of what you would really like to do," Mr. Constantine said. Most of the new hires would likely go to research campuses such as Stony Brook University and the University at Buffalo, Mr. Constantine said.
Mr. Spitzer has not yet indicated which of the commission's recommendations he will include in the preliminary budget he is expected to deliver in January.
Earlier this month, he referred to the importance of boosting the public universities' full-time faculty ranks.
University officials said they would still be conducting national searches for faculty.