The CSU needs to improve faculty tenure density—and here are numbers to prove it
Molly Talcott, CFA Associate Vice President-South

See sources of the data cited in Talcott’s comments in the CFA Web Site Research Center.

Good morning, everyone. My name is Molly Talcott. I teach sociology at Cal State LA, and I’m an Associate Vice President of the California Faculty Association.

Yesterday, we heard discussions about how to support student success and timely graduation, about faculty’s central role in structuring the curriculum, and we heard students discuss how continuous fee hikes push them out of the CSU.

Look, there’s no mystery here to be solved. We already know that the foundation of student success is fully funding instruction, and that means hiring a stable, tenure-line faculty workforce who can mentor students, who can guide them and write letters for them, and go the extra mile, as we do.

Each month, I have a group of about seven graduate students over to my house in the evening. We sit at my kitchen table. I feed them, we discuss their thesis projects, their plans going forward into PhD programs, and so on. Mostly, this functions as an intellectually-grounded support group where, together, we reaffirm that they belong in graduate school, that they’re not imposters, and that their ideas are brilliant, powerful, and yes, world-changing.

As Black and Latinx students who are 1st gen graduate students, they need this space.  This kind of relationship-building labor is often hidden from the official data, but IT is what produces the holistic development, well-being, and success of CSU students. But look:  if I were teaching 5 or 6 classes at three different universities, as many of our faculty do, these evening sessions would be impossible for me to convene.

Now, let’s step back and recall the assembly concurrent resolution 73, passed 16 years ago. ACR 73 called on you, the Trustees, along with the Academic Senate and CFA, to jointly develop a plan that would raise the percentage of tenure-line faculty to at least 75 percent and to ensure that qualified lecturers will be seriously considered for tenure-line positions, while continuing to improve faculty diversity.

So how are we doing? The numbers just from the last five years indicate a lack of commitment to this objective. In the CSU as a whole, over the last 5 years, we have gone from 45% tenure-line faculty down to 40%.

On my campus (Cal State Los Angeles), 47% of faculty were tenure-line in 2012. As of 2016, we are down to 33%. Along with LA, I’ll point out the dismal lack of tenure density at Dominguez Hills, which went from 33% to 28% tenure density in the last 5 years.

Why do the campuses that serve the highest density of 1st generation, Pell grant eligible, and Black and Latinx students have the lowest—and continually declining—rates of tenure density? We are not going to close equity gaps with these shortsighted hiring trends. Trustees, you must redouble your efforts to address this crisis.

Recent hiring trends show how we are failing to improve our tenure density, and instead, losing ground. In AY ‘15-16, 70% of new hires in our unit were lecturer faculty, and only 21% were Assistant Professors.  While it’s true that we have a big influx of new students, this is not a set of hiring practices that will ever get us to reasonable tenure density – much less that minimum 75% target called for 16 years ago by the state leg.

Faculty need real institutional commitment from the CSU to be able to serve students over the long haul. If you want students to graduate faster, give them faculty who can devote their time to students because they have a permanent, full-time appointment and real institutional support.

The CSU should be creating a pathway to tenure for lecturer faculty who are well-qualified in their fields and who are excellent instructors. Often, the only difference between them and their tenure-line colleagues is their appointment. We cannot hire our way out of this hole through traditional hiring practices.

It’s time to make a serious effort to address faculty hiring practices in the CSU.  By reducing your commitment to tenure line faculty—we who are primarily responsible for programs, curriculum, mentoring, and advising in the major—you have also reduced your commitment to student success.

It’s time to make a U-turn and redouble your efforts to create a strong foundation for our students, the bedrock of which is a stable faculty workforce.  

Thank you.