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Departments see higher student enrollment but no increase in full time faculty

Departments see higher student enrollment but no increase in full time faculty

Provost Jennifer Evans-Cowley (right) takes a question from Senate member Gloria Olness. Cowley. Evans-Cowley gave feedback as to the amount of people affected by hurricane Harvey and Irma in the UNT community. Rachel Walters

Departments see higher student enrollment but no increase in full time faculty
November 17
19:04 2017

The UNT Department of Criminal Justice has experienced an increase in student enrollment but not in full-time faculty. As a result, faculty members are stretched thin, said Eric Fritsch, department chair of Criminal Justice. This issue is not specific to Criminal Justice as many departments across campus are facing similar situations, which affects students in different ways.

The criminal justice department gained a higher student population after launching its fully online bachelors and masters programs. Over the past five years, undergraduate enrollment increased by 26 percent, while graduate population increased by 59 percent over the past four years. During this growth period, the department has kept its 12 full time faculty members and hired 20 additional adjunct professors. Fritsch said the best solution to handling more students is to hire more faculty, or adjuncts, who are usually temporary, part-time professors that teach one – two classes a semester.

“We haven’t been afforded the opportunity to get additional resources to have full time faculty teach the courses,” Fritsch said. “In the meantime, the only way to service the population is to hire more adjunct [professor], which we have done.”

While Fritsch said his department has some wonderful adjunct professors, he would prefer to hire full time faculty. Fritsch said most complaints from students have been over adjuncts.

“When I’m forced into [hiring adjuncts] because of a lack of resources and the adjunct doesn’t perform well, it certainly impacts the students because they’re not getting the quality education that they deserve,” Fritsch said.

The National Education Association, a professional public education advocacy organization, stated how adjuncts are “members of the rapidly growing contingent academic labor workforce.” The review said these working conditions “undermine student learning.”

Michael Hughes, criminal justice adjunct professor, said he thinks adjuncts can offer a different point of view to students.

“I think I bring a real-world perspective into the classroom,” Hughes said. “Students want to hear what I’ve learned in my experiences.”

Fritsch has not received the sources his department needs in part because of the process by which faculty lines, which are specific monies set aside used to fill professor positions, are approved and allocated.

To receive new faculty lines, department chairs make their personnel requests to the dean of their school, said Beverly Cotton Shuford, associate vice president for budget & analytics. The dean reviews all requests, prioritizes them into a list and shows it to the provost’s office. The provost looks at all the appeals and makes recommendations to the president. Shuford said that these recommendations are taken into consideration during the budget hearings but not all will be approved.

“[Requests] have to be weighed with all other university wide priorities,” Shuford said.

This year’s new provost, Jennifer Evans-Cowley, has implemented a new process for approving faculty lines, at least for this year. Previously, lines were approved throughout the year. Evans-Cowley will instead wait to approve any new lines until late next spring semester when the budget for the next fiscal year is being made.

“I need a more comprehensive view of all the needs of the institution,” said Evans-Cowley.

As a result, departments like criminal justice will not receive any new faculty lines, or faculty members, until possibly the end of the spring semester.

The 26 faculty lines that were approved last year will still stand. Evans-Cowley said all the money for those lines has been distributed appropriately.

According to UNT’s consolidated budget for fiscal year 2018, $1.87 million was approved for 21 new faculty lines. Shuford said this money comes from state appropriations and student tuition.

Other departments affected by similar factors as criminal justice include political science and history.

The department of political science has increased in student population while the number of full time faculty members have stayed the same, said Matthew Eshbaugh-Soha, department chair of Political Science. In 2012, there were 26 full time faculty members. After changing numbers, there are currently 26 faculty members. In fall 2012, there were 196 political science majors. As of this fall semester, that number has increased to 382.

Eshbaugh-Soha said there is enough faculty for the classrooms, but not outside of class. Besides teaching their courses, full time faculty are required to complete service and research requirements. Eshbaugh-Soha said his department has been able to keep up with student demand by increasing class sizes and adding more sections, but this leads to faculty juggling many tasks.

“Typically, each professor teaches two classes, but it can feel like a lot more,” Eshbaugh-Soha said. “If we had more faculty we could do a lot more. We’re meeting demand, but it gives us less flexibility.”

Eshbaugh-Soha said faculty could use more flexibility to focus on completing their requirements or helping increasingly engaged students with their research projects.

Harold Tanner, department chair of history, said his department struggles a bit to cover the needs of those students enrolled in the required university core classes courses.  Tanner said there is not enough faculty to easily cover the number of upper level and core courses needed.

“It’s probably impacting students in that sometimes there are not enough courses available at the right times that students want them,” Tanner said. “This also results in higher enrollment than ideal in online courses. We raise the enrollment levels but its probably better practice not to have so many students. It’s not as if you can add them infinitely and not affect the quality of instruction and the amount of time the instructor is able to give to the students.”

Tanner said the loss of a few faculty members in his department for a particular area of upper-level study has also impacted students.

“There are some areas in history that are interesting to students and are in demand and we’re not able to offer them because of lack of faculty,” Tanner said.

Holley Vaughn, lecturer and undergraduate advisor in the department of communication studies, said that her department has been short one faculty member since a professor in performance studies left in 2014. While the faculty line is approved, it’s a matter of filling it. They still offer the same number of classes out of necessity to serve students despite the impact of more stress on faculty.

“There’s clearly a need for faculty lines,” Vaughn said.

Featured Image: Provost Jennifer Evans-Cowley (right) takes a question from Senate member Gloria Olness. Cowley. Evans-Cowley gave feedback as to the amount of people affected by hurricane Harvey and Irma in the UNT community. Rachel Walters

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Celeste Gracia

Celeste Gracia

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