Faculty Assembly Votes to Allow Some Non-Tenured Professors to Join Faculty Senate

Board of Trustees chair, university president and provost also gave remarks on state of the university.

Image of Faculty Assembly vote
The referendum allowing some non-tenured faculty to serve on the Faculty Senate passed almost unanimously. (William Atkins/GW Today)
October 31, 2016

By Ruth Steinhardt

A resolution permitting non-tenure track faculty members from two schools at the George Washington University to serve in the school’s Faculty Senate passed almost unanimously at GW’s annual Faculty Assembly Tuesday.

Previously, the Faculty Organization Plan allowed only full-time, tenured faculty to serve in the senate. Now, non-tenure track faculty members from the School of Nursing and the School of Medicine and Health Sciences will be able to join them.

The resolution was an adaptation of a broader measure that would have applied to all GW schools and which failed to pass last year. Faculty from the Virginia Science and Technology Campus voted via remote video. 

“Because of the unique problems of having tenured faculty in the School of Medicine and Health Sciences and due to the initial growth phase of the School of Nursing, the Faculty Senate felt an exception should be made for those two schools,” said Faculty Senate Executive Committee Chair Charles Garris, explaining the resolution before the vote began.

The academic curriculum at SMHS differs from that of other schools in that a high degree of intensive clinical training is involved. Those programs require a low student-faculty ratio and a large number of regular faculty members holding non-tenure track appointments, many of whom are affiliated with Medical Faculty Associates (MFA).

GW has for over a decade adopted a policy of not granting tenure to MFA faculty, a policy consistent with other universities with medical schools. That means that a larger than average portion of SMHS faculty are ineligible for Faculty Senate.

The School of Nursing faces a different set of challenges. The Faculty Organization Plan stipulates that faculty members whose duties are primarily administrative—like vice presidents, assistant vice presents, deans, associate deans and others—are ineligible to serve as faculty senators. At SON, only one tenured faculty member is currently not holding an academic administrative position. Consequently, only one senator has represented SON for the past two terms, although under the Faculty Organization Plan the school is allocated two.

The resolution allows regular faculty from SMHS and SON who have completed more than three years of full-time service to GW and who hold the rank of associate professor or higher to serve in Faculty Senate. At least half of the senators from both schools will still be required to hold tenured appointments. The exemption for SON will be limited to three years.

George Washington President Steven Knapp, Board of Trustees Chair Nelson Carbonell and Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Forrest Maltzman also gave remarks during the assembly.

Mr. Carbonell, B.S. ’85, gave faculty an update on the university’s search for its 17th president. More than 100 candidates have been nominated so far.

“I’m happy to report that we have a very broad pool, and it’s very diverse,” he said.

Mr. Carbonell also urged faculty to engage with the process via the presidential search website.

“The chances that you know the next president are far higher than the chances that I know the next president,” he said. “Your colleagues at other institutions, people that you’ve worked with, people that you’ve observed in higher education are going to be the people we want to choose from.”

Dr. Maltzman gave an update on GW’s upcoming accreditation process, and said he would make student retention a focus of the upcoming year.

“I plan to make front and center enhancing the nature of student experience,” he said.

Dr. Knapp used his annual state of the university address to reflect on the evolution of the university during his nine years in office.  (Dr. Knapp announced in June that he will not seek to renew his contract when it expires at the end of the 2016-17 academic year.)

Dr. Knapp focused on seven areas where he saw progress: the development of physical infrastructure on GW’s several campuses; the university’s progress toward becoming a model of urban sustainability, epitomized by new buildings’ receipt of high LEED certification rankings; the growth of tenure and tenure-track faculty; the growth of research programs; partnerships with neighboring institutions like the International Finance Corporation; the deepening culture of public and community service; the cultivation of a worldwide community of alumni; and the growth and diversification of the student body.

“I want to say how grateful I am for the support I’ve received from faculty over the past nine, soon to be 10 years, and I know my successor will enjoy that support as well,” Dr. Knapp said. “We do have challenges, but our strategic location, the energies of our students and the strength of our faculty, which continue to grow, make the future of the university very bright.”