CCAF Task Force recommendations: Supporting faculty off the tenure track

Faculty member teaching

Editor’s note: CCAF and NTTF are used interchangeably in this guest column to refer to faculty off the tenure track. CCAF stands for continuing, contract and adjunct faculty, and NTTF stands for non-tenure-track faculty. The different terms reflect an ongoing discussion at CSU and around the nation regarding how best to reference faculty who are not on the tenure track.  

Like other institutions of higher education across the nation, Colorado State University has been on an evolving journey to improve the professional status of faculty off the tenure track. As we share the recommendations of the CCAF Task Force 2020-21, we acknowledge efforts to support CCAF/NTTF are not new to CSU, and many leaders, faculty and staff have worked passionately over several years to assess issues and bring change.

Since the early 2000s at least, NTTF at CSU and their allies have been raising their voices and their concerns about compensation, job stability, academic freedom, equity, consistency and accountability. So in Fall 2020 when Provost and Executive Vice President Mary Pedersen asked us to co-chair the CCAF Task Force to pick up where the NTTF Task Force 2019-20 left off, we were quick to accept. We want to thank the other volunteers who participated on the task force to develop these recommendations:

CCAF Task Force guiding philosophy: Align interests and needs

The CCAF Task Force began with the guiding philosophy that we should endeavor to better align faculty interests and department needs. While many CCAF are interested in long-term, full-time employment with a career path, some are not. Further, departments have both long-term stable needs and short-term less certain needs for CCAF instruction and research.

Many of the concerns of CCAF result from a misalignment of faculty interests and department needs, often caused by fluctuations in enrollments at the local level. Our task force gathered data, analyzed the Faculty Manual and CSU policies and did a lot of deliberating to deliver recommendations we hope will better align faculty careers and department needs.

Prioritizing recommendations

In our deliberations, it soon became clear that the most urgent recommendations included exploring alternative budget models for the entire University as well as at the college and department level, and striving for better remuneration, workload equity and consistency. Indeed, Dr. Adrianna Kezar, a national expert on changing faculty, put these topics into a national context for us during her two-day visit to CSU in early November. She shared examples of how other universities have rethought and reprioritized their budgets to provide better faculty compensation and job security, as well as a peer-reviewed tool for editing faculty workloads to enhance equity, fairness and transparency.

The CCAF Task Force Executive Summary notes that issues like teaching load consistency, service and salary compression are issues that have been raised across campus as affecting all faculty, not only CCAF. Certainly, compensation and salary compression are among the greatest concerns for CCAF, and this led to the task force’s budget recommendation as an “urgent” need.

Going forward the Office of the Provost and Executive Vice President will work with stakeholders across the university to enhance and understand faculty compensation, workload equity, a necessary pre-requisite to investigate alternative budget approaches and priorities.

Titles for CCAF/NTTF appointments

The CCAF Task Force also addressed the varying degrees of confusion about the difference between continuing and contract faculty appointments. Given the changes to the Faculty Manual, creating three designations for faculty off the tenure-track, the contract and continuing appointments seem more appropriate for career paths and meeting long-term stable needs, while adjunct positions seem better suited to meeting short-term and uncertain needs.

The intention in the current definitions is that contract appointments provide more job security than continuing appointments for faculty on a career path. However, in some people’s view, the contract “appears” more secure over the term of the contract (i.e., two or three years for teaching faculty), but without an end date the continuing appointment “appears” more secure precisely because it is ongoing and doesn’t have an end date. Therefore, we recommended that CoNTTF revisit the language in the Faculty Manual regarding contracts and clarify how contracts should be operationalized, including when a contract can be ended.

Prioritizing all recommendations

The CCAF Task Force included in recommendations from the NTTF Task Force that had not been fully addressed including service expectations, salary compression, and other miscellaneous issues. The CCAF Task Force recommendations are prioritized based on designation of most “urgent” to “high priority” to “lower priority.” Along with budget, better teaching/service workload equity and consistency, and appointment titles, other CCAF Task Force recommendations include:

  • Definition of “Faculty” and representation in faculty governance to ensure all faculty are represented
  • Expectations for joint AP/Faculty appointments — there are a large number of appointments that involve some “faculty” work in addition to the work of an AP; we recommend conducting an audit on this group to better understand these appointments and bring greater consistency
  • University goal for balance between T/TTF and CCAF — working together with leadership to establish a goal for CSU as an R01 university for the appropriate balance of faculty when it comes to meeting the university’s needs while recognizing that the ratio of TTF to CCAF/NTTF do not need to be the same in each college or department
  • Strategic communications plan on CCAF issues — including more policy information that would help centralize information and ensure that information on CCAF issues are communicated consistently across campus

The CCAF Task Force recognizes the pressing need to work diligently to improve work conditions for CCAF as so many of you have done for years, and we believe these recommendations will keep us moving forward and help CSU continue to shift our culture and create change.

Alex Bernask is a professor in the Department of Economics and Sue James is Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs.