Sep

12

AskBwog: What’s Up With Professor Titles?

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If you’re like us, you’ve spent hours of valuable registration appointment time agonizing over whether to take a class with a visiting associate professor or an adjunct assistant.  What do these titles actually mean?  Bwog’s expert on esoteric distinctions, Jon Edelman, breaks it down.

According to the faculty handbook, there are twenty-three possible titles for the Arts and Sciences faculty, not counting the over 500 named professorships that go to members of “unusual academic distinction.”

At the bottom of the tenure track are Instructors, doctoral candidates who will become Assistant Professors when they complete their Ph.Ds.  After roughly six years of original scholarship, good teaching (as measured by course evaluations), and service to the department (working on committees and such), Assistant Professors can be granted tenure by the already-tenured members of the department and become Associate Professors.  Usually, if they publish enough, they’ll go on to become full Professors. Professors with “exceptional scholarly merit of the highest distinction and extended service to the university” can be appointed University Professors by the trustees.  Only eight professors can hold this title at once, unless one of them is seventy, in which case an exception is made in anticipation of his or her retirement.

Adjuncts, on the other hand, have it rougher.  Although there are Assistant, Associate and full adjunct Professors, and many are very accomplished, their positions can be terminated at will.  The wages are lower, and the work is part-time.  Many adjuncts hope  to get picked up for tenure-track jobs, but it doesn’t often happen unless they write a major book. There are also assorted Lecturers (both part and full-time), Professors of Professional Practice (for the grad schools) and visiting faculty from other schools, who also have Assistant/Associate/Full distinctions.  Does any of this mean anything about how good your professors will be?  Who knows?  In the meantime, we recommend sticking with CULPA.

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13 Comments

  1. jon edelman  

    hi I just wrote an article that basically said nothing

  2. Anonymous

    associate profs do not have to be tenured

  3. also

    instructors are generally not tenure track. i might go as far as to say never.

  4. Anonymous

    "At the bottom of the tenure track are Instructors, doctoral candidates who will become Assistant Professors when they complete their Ph.Ds."

    HAHAHA good luck with that without at least one good post-doc stint (at least in the physical sciences).

  5. to clarify  

    Instructors are doctoral candidates who MIGHT (but probably won't) become Assistant Profs and get on the tenure-track once they get their doctorate. It's much more likely they'll end up as non-tenture track adjunct Assistant Profs or even Lecturers. If they do get on the tenure track, they still have to do incredible research, get good course evaluations, and master departmental politics in order to get tenure and become Associate Profs.

    Bottom line: Don't go into academia; just get a job after graduate school.

  6. nope  

    In the A&S which is the home of the College and GSAS and GS and CE, Arts, and SIPA, Instructors are only those who have been recruited/hired as assistant professors (almost always) on a tenure-track. They show up for appointment but the PhD is not finally certified as complete. There are never more than a very few ever holding this title in the Arts and Sciences. Instructors are indeed hired as "research faculty" -- same classification as assistant and associate professors and professors. Research faculty are distinct from "special instructional faculty" (Lecturers, say, in language); from "Practice Faculty" (like in the Arts and in SIPA); and from "clinical faculty" (CUMC). Colloquially, the term "instructor" is applied to teachers of varying rank, but technically there is only the one official usage. Adjuncts are those appointed in a part-time capacity, at any of the ranks and classifications indicated above.

  7. So the big question is  

    Who are those eight university professors?

  8. Alum

    "According to the faculty handbook, there are twenty-three possible titles for the Arts and Sciences faculty, not counting the over 500 named professorships that go to members of “'unusual academic distinction.'”

    No, there are 23 possible titles university-wide. They include clinical positions and "of practice" positions, which essentially don't exist in the arts & sciences. The total of 500 named professorships is also university-wide; roughly half are in the arts & sciences.

    "Assistant Professors can be granted tenure by the already-tenured members of the department and become Associate Professors."

    They can be *recommended* for tenure by their tenured colleagues after a formal review by an ad hoc committee that includes at least one person from outside Columbia. The recommendation then goes to the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences (currently Nicholas Dirks). If he approves it, it goes to the provost. If the provost approves it, the recommendation goes to the president. Then, if the president approves it, it goes to the trustees. Only *they* have the authority to grant tenure. And as others have mentioned, most assistant professors who are promoted to associate professor do not receive tenure at the same time. Some will get tenure later, some will be turned down, and some will leave before their review.

    "Only eight [University Professors] can hold this title at once, unless one of them is seventy, in which case an exception is made in anticipation of his or her retirement."

    That's correct, but incomplete. There can be no more than four of these exceptions at a time. This creates an effective limit of 12 university professors rather than eight. Since this rule was put into place there have always been 12 in practice, except for brief periods when a newly-vacated position has not yet been filled.

  9. Anonymous  

    So bwog, are you going to right your wrongs or just leave up the original

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