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Full-time faculty numbers steady despite enrollment decline

By Kyle Coley

Staff Writer


Despite the decline in student enrollment in recent years, Framingham State University has not reduced the number of full-time faculty.


Vice President of Academic Affairs Reema Zeineldin said, “Over many years, we’ve had a drop in student enrollment, but we did not have a drop in faculty numbers that is similar to that of student enrollment.


“We're not impacting the numbers of faculty based on the enrollment of students, which is good that we're able to maintain a good number of faculty in each major,” said Zeineldin.


Referring to the decline in student enrollment, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kristen Porter-Utley said, “The repercussions from COVID are significant. There's some positive momentum in student enrollment in terms of new students this year.”


Porter-Utley added that Framingham State University is looking to hire more tenure-track professors.


“So currently this year, we have 156 tenure-track or already tenured faculty members,” she said.


There are faculty searches happening, and she hopes to have five more tenure-track positions by next fall.


Zeinelden said although the University has lost some faculty and staff members, it was not because of layoffs or firings.


Instead, Porter-Utley said, “In terms of departments which have lost professors recently, we've had retirements or resignations in education, environment, society and sustainability, fashion design and retailing, history, nursing, nutrition and health studies, and political science.”


She noted, “For the majority of these, we’re conducting searches this year.”


The University has also not seen a large fluctuation in the number of part-time faculty hired. Porter-Utley said the percentage of visiting lecturers “varies from about 8 to 11 percent.”


Regarding how Academic Affairs determines which departments are allowed to conduct tenure-track searches for the year, Porter-Utley said, “One of the big things that's important to us is that we offer our programs, and that we’re able to offer our programs in the best way we can.”


Porter-Utley and Zeineldin both work closely with the chairs of each academic department every October to determine which departments need new hires.


She said regarding hiring, the University tends to actually hire earlier than most other universities and plans to hire even earlier.


Last year, “I think we made final decisions in February or March, which was earlier than we ever have,” said Kristen Porter-Utley.


Faculty Union President Kate Caffery, a Communication Media and Performance professor, believes the University does not have enough tenured and tenure-track faculty members.

“We need more tenured and tenure-track faculty. Full-time faculty are retiring and resigning, and those positions are not being filled. More and more courses are being taught by contingent faculty who are not contracted - and do not get paid - to do all of the extra things that tenured and tenure-track faculty do,” said Caffery.


She added she thinks the University needs to focus not just on the enrollment of students, but also student retention.


Caffery said, “What keeps students at a university? The relationships and connections that they make with their professors.”


Caffery expressed concern that contingent faculty do not get paid to provide service and advising outside their classes as tenured members of the University.


“They should not be expected to spend extra time outside of the classroom to advise, tutor and give our students the support that many of them need. They are not getting paid to do that and they should not be expected to work for free,” she said.


Caffery explained that many committee seats at the University cannot be filled because the University has so few tenured and tenure-track faculty.


“Some departments do not have enough tenured and tenure-track faculty members to advise their students. Having an advisor who is a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in your major is very important,” said Caffery.


“They get to know you, can help you make connections, can write recommendations for graduate school, can help you in many, many ways as you move into a career,” she said.


Caffery added she personally believes the process by which faculty are selected for tenure-track positions is not fair.


“I think there should be more input from faculty in departments - who are content and curriculum experts - in the process. No one knows the needs of a department better than the department,” she said.


“Right now, the chairs try to persuade the deans and the deans try to persuade the provost and it is based on some kind of ‘data’ or ‘algorithm,’” Caffrey said.


She clarified she doesn’t necessarily believe the union should be more involved in the decision-making process of hiring tenure-track faculty members.


“I think the faculty should be more involved - which, by extension, means the union is more involved. The union is the faculty and librarians. I would not say that union leadership should be more involved,” said Caffery.


Joseph Coelho, the chair of the Political Science Department, said, “We are looking for a new member of the political science faculty to teach American politics and specifically in public administration and policy.


"We're looking for a candidate who has a good record of teaching, who has done cutting-edge research in public administration and policy, and we're looking for a candidate who can cultivate a network of internships in the MetroWest region for our majors. Someone who can be representative of our student body and can work with our students and build good relationships to enhance their professional development," said Coelho.


Coelho believes the department should begin focusing more on teaching public policy and administration, as many people are retiring in that field, opening new opportunities for political science graduates.


"I think we need as a department to focus on these fields that have a lot of potential for employment,” said Coelho.


Karen Druffel, chair of the Management and Business & IT faculty Search Committee, confirmed the department is looking to hire a new faculty member.


Druffel said, “We are searching for a faculty member to replace someone who retired a few years ago. The search process is underway this semester, but it usually takes longer than a semester to complete a search.


“We look at the candidate's educational background to confirm that they have studied how information technology is used in business, which is the breadth required,” said Druffel.


“We also want to know what topics the candidate has examined in their research, as they could lead to new courses. The description suggests data analytics and cybersecurity as examples, but there are other topics that the department thinks would be good preparation for our students,” Druffel added.


Druffel emphasized they will ensure the candidate they hire will have the proper qualifications.


Druffel said, “As a teaching university, we look at the candidate's experience teaching undergraduates in business programs. Later, during the interview process, we learn more about the candidate's teaching philosophy and teaching style.”


The last stage of the hiring process, according to Druffel is the potential hire visits the campus and teaches a class.


“We ask students to evaluate the teaching demonstrations and consider their comments in our recommendation,” Druffel said.


Maria Bolletino, the chair of the History Department, said, “We are not conducting a search for a tenure-line faculty this year.


“We have hired one visiting lecturer to teach gender history, and I am seeking to hire an additional visiting lecturer to teach Latin American history,” she added.


Bolletino expressed interest in hiring another professor but did not know of the need until after the hiring deadline last year, which is why there is not an active search for a tenure-track history member.


“I intend to put in a request for a tenure-line position this year whenever that request is made available to me,” she said.


The history department has not yet determined what specialty they need, Bolletino said. “That is a conversation that we as a department would have to have. It is not a decision that I as a department head would make on my own. We'd meet together to discuss how best to meet the shifting needs of our students.”


Bolletino elaborated on her desire to perform a faculty search and said the department would want a faculty member who is an active scholar, student-focused, enjoys teaching, and is passionate about discussing historical scholarship with students.


She said, “I think we offer an excellent education to our history majors. But we can offer an even more, broad-based, comprehensive, and expansive education if we are able to hire an additional faculty member.”


Anthony Grossi, a psychology major, who is also minoring in neuroscience and philosophy, said, “They could probably use more [classes]. There’s some core things they are missing out on. The neuroscience minor is lacking in classes. They have three, maybe four classes.”


Jake Measmer, a fashion design major, said “I think the fashion department is doing a relatively good job. I will say you can’t really specialize in any field as things are pretty generalized.”


He added, “They assume you don’t have a skill set coming in, so they build you up over the course of the four years,” but “I wish there were more specialized classes.”


Katie Sharp, a fashion design major, said, “Personally, I wouldn’t mind more classes as there’s so much to learn. But they offer a good base of studies to branch out to different kinds of sewing.”


Tim Reed, a history major said, “When we look at the core classes, they cover what’s needed. But I think it’d be more beneficial if we were able to expand upon gen eds and have more real-world applications for our classes.”


Porter-Utley said, “I'm so excited about all the new people who are joining the campus right now.”


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