Faculty gets scoop on ranking changes

By Kaiti Deerberg

Faculty members gathered in the Ferguson Auditorium at the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., on Oct. 22 to discuss the newly adopted faculty ranking system at Columbia.

The meeting followed the board of trustees approval of adopting a faculty ranking system on Oct. 2. The board of trustees approved the new ranking system after a recommendation was gathered by a task force spearheaded by senior vice president and provost Steve Kapelke.

The system will give full-time tenure-track faculty the title of assistant professor, tenured faculty the title of associate professor and interested tenure faculty the opportunity to apply for the title of professor. The ranking system will take effect in fall 2009.

The question-and-answer session was led by Steve Kapelke and vice president of Academic Affairs Louise Love. The meeting was the first of two scheduled Q&A sessions where faculty members were invited to express questions and concerns about the newly unveiled faculty ranking system.

Faculty members vocalized worries about the application process for the professor title, salary fluctuations and work load. Many voiced concerns over the lengthy application process often associated with applying for titles in universities.

Love said efforts were being made to streamline the application process and condense it in order to decrease excessive paperwork. Love also explained that there will be a collegewide set of standard criteria for eligibility, but there will be room for departments to create specific eligibility criteria within departments.

Changes in salaries were also a topic of concern for faculty members.

“No one is going to lose money,” Kapelke said.

Kapelke said faculty will be rewarded with the proper salary increase if necessary when the ranking system begins, and Columbia is aiming to be in the top third of compensation for professors among its peer institutions. Faculty members were also reassured that work load would not be directly affected by the ranking system.

Issues of honor programs and restructuring the open admission policy have been discussed on campus, all with the intent of making Columbia a more competitive college.

A faculty ranking system is just another stepping stone on Columbia’s path to becoming a more traditional institution.

Kapelke stressed Columbia is one of few colleges that does not institute a faculty ranking system among its peer institutions. A task force gathered information from a list of peer institutions made up of art schools, conservatories and local institutions that do not serve as research facilities. These institutions included DePaul University and Roosevelt University.

“We want to become a more faculty-based institution, in order to become a more student-based institution,” Kapelke said.

Questions dwindled down an hour into the meeting, and attending faculty gathered to talk after the meeting was adjourned.

“I gained a lot of clarity and insight into this whole process,” said George Bailey, an English Department instructor. “The people who have done the work for this ranking system have done an excellent job.”