Perspective: Direct resources toward Senate Faculty

In light of several recent public expressions of concern, I welcome the opportunity provided by this forum to speak more fully to the situation of our lecturers in Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, the division of which I am dean.

Lecturers in HArCS make substantial contributions to our teaching enterprise, particularly in writing and beginning language instruction. The division currently has 44 lecturers who have been employed at UC Davis for more than six years and have earned three-year contracts. These long-term lecturers have over many years contributed substantially to teaching, so I am pleased to be able to recognize their dedication and excellence by certifying their ongoing appointments, consistent with our needs and their previous contracts. This commitment is appropriate.

However, some members of our community have questioned aspects of my five-year academic plan for the division that call for a gradual reduction in our reliance on lecturers, accompanied by a proportional increase in the number of tenure-track and tenured faculty. This plan has been mistakenly interpreted as a decision to eliminate upper-division writing instruction and to weaken the writing requirements for undergraduate students.

Let me clarify my intentions.

When I arrived on campus a year and a half ago, there were wide-spread concerns about the adequacy of our students' writing. I was charged by the provost with reviewing our requirements and proposing any curricular changes. Toward that end, last year I appointed Professor Karl Zender as my faculty assistant on curriculum and charged him and a task force with reviewing our requirements in composition and bringing forward recommendations for the future.

He will soon present the task force recommendations-stemming from not only its broad review, but also from knowledgeable comments by two external evaluators we brought to campus to comment on requirements and structure. I am committed to working with the provost's office to identify necessary resources to implement an effective writing curriculum in partnership with the English faculty and the Academic Senate.

At UC Davis, we pride ourselves on the quality of the education we offer our undergraduates, a quality built upon the complete integration of our research and teaching missions. All of my proposals pertaining to the future of the Department of English are grounded on enhancing its excellence as both a scholarly and a teaching enterprise.

The Department of English has 30 senate faculty, a relatively small number given our mission and the size of our institution. A key part of my academic plan calls for the investment of additional senate faculty in English.

Why is this necessary? Tenured and tenure-track faculty members are the foundation upon which universities are built. Although we tend to speak of the senate faculty as research faculty, in fact, they have responsibility for all three dimensions of our mission: teaching, research and service.

The senate faculty in English is responsible for the curriculum, from developing a composition program, to creating a major and graduate program, to overseeing the training of both undergraduate and graduate students. That oversight guarantees the integrity of the major and graduate program. Departments suffer when there are too few faculty relative to the demands they must meet.

I have proposed several measures to enhance the research and teaching missions of our English department and writing programs.

First, I have authorized for this year a search for a senior scholar in composition theory/literacy. The person we hire will provide leadership for our writing program and help to integrate the teaching of writing more fully into our research enterprise. Next year, I will authorize an additional English department position in rhetoric and composition.

Second, I have asked the English faculty to play a greater role in lower-division instruction. They have met that challenge and have this year introduced a new series of sophomore-level writing-intensive courses.

The senate faculty in English shares with the lecturers a vigorous commitment to undergraduate education, a commitment manifest in their student credit hour generation. English faculty members are fully engaged in undergraduate instruction at all levels even as they are directing work of our graduate students, managing the department and conducting research.

Third, I have proposed that we simultaneously enhance our graduate teaching mission and partially meet the needs of undergraduate growth by developing postdoctoral teaching positions. These two-year positions would function as do postdoctoral research positions in the sciences, enabling our graduate students to spend two years after receiving their PhD's developing their teaching and research portfolios to improve their prospects on the job market. In a recent discussion, humanities deans at other UC campuses endorsed this concept.

We will continue to depend upon lecturers in English to help deliver our writing curriculum. My goal for the future is to strike the appropriate balance among the number of lecturers, graduate student assistants and the postdoctoral teaching fellows and senate faculty.

The future is bright with promise for UC Davis. The growth of the next few years will bring new resources that we must direct toward further enhancing the excellence of our teaching, research and service missions. That is both my goal and my responsibility as dean.

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Amy Agronis, Dateline, (530) 752-1932,

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