University News

Lecturer to join Faculty Executive Committee

By
News Editor
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Faculty Executive Committee will be expanded to include either a full-time lecturer or senior lecturer, following a faculty vote approving the proposal Tuesday night. The FEC, which manages faculty governance, will now include 10 members instead of the previous nine.

 The proposal came out of a meeting between the FEC and lecturers last spring that was held in an attempt to address concerns of underrepresentation and lack of support for lecturers, according to recent FEC meeting minutes. This was the first time such a group had met with lecturers as a constituency, according to the FEC minutes. 

Administrators wanted to address general policy related to the lectureship position at Brown, said Kevin McLaughlin P’12, dean of the faculty, and Mary Louise Gill, chair of the FEC and professor of philosophy. The main concerns addressed during the meeting were lecturers’ exclusion from the University retirement policy and the lack of determined criteria to promote lecturers to higher positions, according to the FEC minutes.

After discussion and a survey conducted among lecturers, the FEC put forth a proposal to represent lecturers in the committee, and “voted unanimously to include one lecturer/senior lecturer in its membership,” the minutes reported. Faculty members approved the proposal in their meeting Tuesday.

The proposal “seems like a very reasonable policy,” McLaughlin said, adding that many lecturers feel “neglected and unrepresented.”

“There is no question that lecturers and senior lecturers play a very important role in teaching at Brown,” said Rajiv Vohra P’07, professor of economics and former dean of the faculty. But Vohra said he is “not sure that increasing the size of the FEC is the right answer.”

“Adding a position and reserving it for senior lecturers seems a bit odd to me,” he said.

The key difference between lecturers and tenured and tenure-track professors “is that the lecturer and senior lecturer track is heavily teaching-oriented” with less of an emphasis on research or scholarship, McLaughlin said.

“I don’t see this as a question of equity because different jobs come with different expectations,” Vohra said.

“I think it’s a great decision,” said Carol DeBoer-Langworthy, a lecturer in English. “It’s very nice to see affirmation of our value as teachers and scholars,” she said.

DeBoer-Langworthy said she is happy to be a lecturer because she doesn’t feel like she has to please anyone. “The field is so wide that that gives us a lot of freedom,” she said of the nonfiction writing program.

Lecturers serve terms of up to three years and senior lecturers serve up to six years. Departments can create lectureships when there is a specific need for a pedagogic specialist, McLaughlin said, adding that departments should present a plan for the whole department when proposing a new lectureship.

Lecturers and senior lecturers are “exempt from some of the status and caste rules that afflict the tenure system,” DeBoer-Langworthy said, adding that McLaughlin “has been remarkably strong as an advocate” for lecturers.

Lecturers have “an emphasis on pedagogy, on teaching,” said Kate Schapira MFA’06, a lecturer in English. “For me, that’s good,” she said, adding that she considers herself a writer and not a scholar.

Though she is not expected to conduct research as part of her position, “I feel very supported by the department in independent writing endeavors so far,” she said.

Each department creates lectureships for different reasons, but lecturers have concerns as a group about their ability to make a difference in their departments, Gill said, adding that she is very much in favor of the faculty decision. This change will help alleviate those concerns, she said.

 

– With additional reporting by Kate DeSimone