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U journalism student points the way to tenure analysis

I spent most of Tuesday trying to find a faculty member or administrator at the University of Minnesota who has a comparison of the U’s tenured, tenure-track and part-time faculty over time. I came up empty-handed — possibly because this is a big vacation week and I didn’t hunt in the best cyber-places.

A few of the answers arrived Wednesday in an email from a U journalism student who’s an intern this summer at the Wichita Eagle in Kansas.

Readers of Wednesday’s post — “Is tenure dying in Minnesota, too?” — know that I’ve requested the data from the university. Update at 9 a.m.: I’ve just received a spreadsheet from the U and will write about it after eyeballing it and interviewing a key administrator.

Meanwhile, it turns out that the Minnesota Daily, recently named the best college daily in the nation, published in May a solid database analysis that answers some of my questions. (Note to self: Search the Daily’s archives in the future; read the Daily daily.)

Conor Shine, the intern in Wichita, and Brad Perlich found that the number of tenure-track faculty dropped 20 percent between 2003 and 2009 while the number of non-tenure track faculty increased 15 percent. Their analysis also found that while the U hired 409 faculty in the seven-year period, there are “only 510 tenure-track faculty now, compared to 559 in 2003.”

“We were only able to analyze faculty data from 2003-2009 due to limitations in the database,” Shine wrote in his email, “but we found that while tenured faculty numbers remained relatively steady, there was a stark decline in the number of tenure-tracked professors.”

Shine and Perlich worked on the project for a computer-assisted reporting class in the School of Journalism. Interestingly, the class was taught by an adjunct — MaryJo Webster, the CAR editor and a reporter at the Pioneer Press. Webster “shepherded” the pair through the crunching of data, Shine said.

Thanks to Shine for alerting me to the analysis and to those readers who responded to other questions I posed in Wednesday’s post. Check out this comment from Howard Miller:  

“Tenure is akin to the immune system for the higher education body — it fights off the political and monetary infections that distort the integrity of scholarship. It keeps the academy free and healthy.”

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/08/2010 - 10:53 am.

    Kudos to the Daily for excellent work. It would do the local press good to monitor them. I’m sure this happens since a number of local journos are Daily/U of M J-school grads.

    Unfortunately, the Daily does not always get the cooperation that it deserves from the U of M administration. See for example the excellent analysis of the situation by Professor Ison:

    Special to the Daily

    Opinion: The Closed U
    As administrators circle the wagons, open discourse, and citizens, lose out.
    Published: 03/09/2009

    Chris Ison is an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He was the Daily editor-in-chief in 1982-83, and later was an investigative reporter and editor at the Star Tribune. He won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 1990.

    “Take the recent e-mail sent to a reporter after she politely explained her role as a journalist and said she hoped to forge ‘a more professional and collaborative’ relationship with his office. Wolter responded in part by criticizing her calls to other University offices, saying ‘there’s nothing in their job description about talking to the media.’ He complained of how ‘most people who have been at the ‘U’ for more than a couple of years also have a story of how the Daily wasted their time in some way.'”

    “It’s a petty claim that would be fodder for jokes in most newsrooms. But for Daily reporters, it’s another reminder of who wields the power.”

    For the full article, please see: http://bit.ly/a21Irn

    A free press, especially at the U, is fundamental to our democracy.

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