Keynote Speech at the Faculty Roles and Rewards Committee Conference
President, California State University, Northridge
Grand Salon, University Student Union
Thursday, March 29, 2001
Becoming a university president is a fairly risky thing to do. At least at various moments I'm very convinced of that. As I was putting together my thoughts for this speech, I realized that, in agreeing to give the keynote address I was embarking on a fairly dangerous course. First of all, because I have not even been through a full promotion and tenure cycle at this university. Although I know a lot of the history (because many of you have shared a lot of the stories with me), I would not purport to fully understand scholarship and faculty load at CSUN. That's another element of danger in talking about this topic with you today. Also, I realize that it is a little dangerous to talk about this with all of you, because there are certainly many of you in the audience who are still being evaluated using our current promotion and tenure standards.
There will be a possibility that any of you who are in that position will take my comments as indicative of the standards that I will apply when we review your promotion and tenure packets. So, recognizing that there's a certain amount of danger in this topic, let me put, at the very beginning of this conversation with you, the caveat that what I am presenting to you is, in fact, a miscellaneous set of ideas that in no way represents the promotion and tenure criteria of the university. Certainly they do represent my thoughts around this very compelling and important topic, and I hope that all of you will take my comments within that particular caveat. I use the term "miscellaneous" very deliberately, because there is not necessarily a logical link between the various ideas that I'm going to present today. These are a collection or a packaging of a certain set of issues that I think are quite relevant to considering the role of faculty at CSUN.
I'm going to try to cover five basic points today (which Jo Sprague sitting in the front of the audience knows as a speech teacher, and Margaret over there) that that's two beyond what I should really consider. But I couldn't figure out a way to do this in less than five points. So I'm going to go through this very slowly, so to all of you who are the notetakers - the students once again appearing here in the role of a faculty member - these five points, I think, are fairly important.
First, we have to recognize that there's a national context for this discussion. Second, we have to recognize that there is a local context for the discussion, and these two are not necessarily the same. Third, we have to look at the impact on the discussion of the fact that most of our faculty are prepared in doctoral or research institutions. Fourth, I want to talk about what we mean or don't mean by the scholarship of teaching. Finally I have a series of miscellaneous, provocative thoughts about the relationship of the mission of CSUN and the role of each of you as faculty.
The national context for this discussion has two symbols. The first one is the AAHE Conference on faculty roles and rewards that's held on an annual basis, usually at some nice warm spot in January. This conference has been happening about ten years. There may be someone in the audience who knows exactly how long it's been going on, but I think it's about a decade. The other national symbol for the conversation about faculty roles and rewards is Ernest Boyer's book on Scholarship Reconsidered published by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement in Teaching.
It might be useful for all of us to very briefly review some of the tenets of Boyer's argument because, like many things, Boyer's work has had such an influence that very few of us go back to read or reread what Boyer actually said. Consequently, a great deal of the conversation takes place but may not necessarily be linked to the specific arguments that Boyer laid out. Boyer started from a historical perspective and reviewed the history of higher education in the United States by first reminding us that higher education was originally linked to the moral upbringing of youth - religious colleges that were developed to make sure that good and moral citizens were educated. The next phase of American higher education was characterized by the land grant institutions where applied research was the mission - not just the teaching of moral virtue, but applied research on research in service to the community. The land grant institutions were the next major phase in American higher education, and it was not until the end of the 19th century that the influence of the German and other European institutions where there was an emphasis on research began to take hold.
We began to see colleges and universities develop into a hierarchy where at the top of the hierarchy were the institutions that granted doctorates and did what Boyer called the scholarship of discovery. What Boyer then describes is that we saw developing in American higher education, a very clear hierarchy with the doctoral and research institution at the top and those institutions that primarily focused on teaching at the bottom. There is no better proof of this assertion than if you go back over the history of the last decade and read the vision statements of new presidents going into universities saying, "My vision for this university is that we will move from a doctoral II to a doctoral I, or we will move from a doctoral institution to a research II." That is the goal - explicit and with no need for support, accepted as a positive goal.
Similarly, one of the other consequences is that in this discussion we often find a dichotomization of the terms teaching and research, which I believe is a linguistic peril but one that we at CSUN and in the CSU often fall into. Nevertheless, that was also one of the consequences of this explicit status hierarchy of institutions. Boyer's work offered a new way to think about the work of the faculty.
Most importantly, though, Boyer always argues in his book, and in his thinking, that the mission of the institution drives the work of the faculty member. I believe that that is one of Boyer's key ideas and one that does not get talked about as much as the scholarship of teaching, and we'll come back to that later.
I also want to make an aside here, because there is another slight linguistic problem that we have, particularly for universities like ours. We talk about research and we talk about scholarship, when in fact, we have a lot of our faculty who engage in those activities by creative pursuits. I just want to make sure that everyone in the audience knows that as I think about the term "scholarship," and as I think about Boyer's work, I'm also thinking about the creative products that are also used in the evaluation of faculty work.
In addition to Boyer's work and the discussion of the AAHE Faculty Roles and Rewards Conferences, there are a couple of other issues in the national context that affect this discussion that need to be identified. An important factor is the impact of technology on the way in which faculty members do their work because technology changes the way in which faculty members participate in the teaching and learning process. If you go back and read the journal, Change, over the last decade, you see a number of pivotal articles that look at the work of faculty and the changing nature of that work which also impinge on this discussion of faculty roles and rewards.
There is another external, national issue that affects this discussion, and that is the persistent and sustained demand on the part of the public or the various publics for accountability discussions are sometimes white noise, sometimes a little more focused and directed, but nevertheless also affects the discussion of faculty roles and rewards.
A final difficulty inherent in the national context is that, many times, discussions are not bracketed or indexed to the specific type of institution that is being talked about. We, as faculty members, have conversations about appropriate faculty roles without specifying and linking these comments to a particular institution. To me, two elements of appropriate role and rewards are inextricably linked to institutional interior. Too often the dialogue that we have don't identify both elements.
Another element of confusion, just to continue to lay out confusing parts, is that oftentimes the discussion takes place around the issue of mission and roles of faculty members at a very general level, yet the individual faculty member, participating in the discussion, is thinking about what's happening in his or her promotion and tenure process. Again, we have a complicating set of perspectives. The upshot for me is that it is necessary to be careful and precise in having these conversations. Too often, we don't take that time. That the national context.
What is the local context of this discussion? As most of you know, I have been having coffees with all of the full time faculty of this university. These have been very, very useful for me. One of the major surprises that these coffees have presented to me - one that I would not have predicted at all - is that as I have listened to individual faculty members from this university talk about their perception of the role of a faculty member at CSUN. There is not a common experience in relationship to the faculty role at this university. Specifically for faculty members who are of the more senior generation - some of you may be sitting in this room - there is not one common experience with respect to the place of teaching, scholarship, and research in faculty members roles here at CSUN. I am very surprised by that. My previous experience in the CSU would have suggested to me that faculty who were hired earlier would have had a common experience with respect to the expectations for appropriate roles and rewards.
Instead, what I have found at CSUN - and I'm going to categorize faculty into two groups here - is that I have had senior faculty at this institution describe two very different experiences. I have had senior faculty say to me, "I don't understand what is happening at this university. When I was hired, research was valued. I was expected to publish and engage in scholarly activity for myself and often with my students. Now I hear repeatedly language around the 'scholarship of teaching.' I see a diminution of the institution's emphasis on research. I don't like it. I think newer faculty are no longer being told that they have to engage in scholarship or research to stay current." In other faculty coffees, I have senior faculty who have been here the same amount of time as that first set of voices, who say to me, "I don't like what's happening at CSUN. When I was a new faculty member here, we knew that our role was teaching students. We knew that that was the priority. Now when faculty in my department are hired, they come to an increased set of expectations that include scholarship, research, publication in peer review journals. They are expected to do community service as well. They can't do all of these things, and I don't like this. I think this is wrong." I must tell you these contrasting descriptions of the history of CSU has been very surprising to me.
Similarly, I hear a different set of messages from our junior faculty, perhaps not as discordant but nevertheless also representing different understandings. Some say, "I came here because I thought this was an institution that valued teaching and learning, and now I'm being told that I have to do scholarship. What's going on?" On the other hand, I've had junior faculty say, "My scholarship is very important to me, and when I interviewed for this university position, everybody assured me that I would be able to continue to do that, and now I get here and I find that really the only thing that counts is whether or not I do well in teaching."
I would suggest to us that we have an issue and concern around our contradictory internal messages on the role of research and scholarship. The issue stems from a difference in experiences of our senior faculty, so that conversation that this faculty roles and rewards committee and that this conference represents is not only entirely useful and functional, but I would suggest it is entirely necessary. Senior faculty socialize junior faculty, and primarily within the departments.
So, we have a national context and we have a local context represented, I think, as the stimuli for this conference today.
I move then to what I believe is the most critical factor in how it is we understand and move forward on understanding faculty roles and rewards at CSUN. And that is, frankly, the impact of the reality that most of our faculty members - most of you, certainly me - come to the California State University system, come to California State University, Northridge, having received our doctorates in traditional research and doctoral institutions. All of you know, I came from the University of Minnesota, and most of our faculty, if you look at the list of our new faculty every year, if you look at the list of our faculty as a whole, you will see that most of us have had a very traditional experience in doctoral and research institutions. This again, to me, is the central compelling idea out of Boyer's work - the impact of the mission of the institution on how it is one understands the role of its faculty members.
If you think about your faculty members in the doctoral programs - just pull their image up - most of us can never forget them either because they were so positive or because they were so negative. I can think up Ernest Borman right here. And his image will never leave me in my entire life - he was a wonderful, wonderful doctoral dissertation advisor. He is with me forever and so are those other faculty. Most of us experienced graduate school as the basis for our understanding of what faculty members do. The amount of time those faculty members were available for you as a graduate student, the amount of engagement they had with undergraduate students, the way in which they used their knowledge in service to the community, the way in which they used their knowledge in service to the institutions were models for us.
My guess is that many of us also had the experience when we were applying for our first positions out of graduate school, and we were applying to an institution like the CSU, someone on that graduate faculty said to us, "Oh, you can do better than that."
A student I worked with in Sacramento went on to get a Ph.D., and I'm going to "fuzz up" where she went, and then wanted to come back to teach in the CSU - a very bright student, a "knock your socks off" student - one of those kinds of students. She experienced a concerted campaign within her doctoral institution department, including repeated conversations with faculty members, to tell her not to come to the CSU and teach because she was too bright, too capable of scholarship and research, and she was too good. Many of us have had that experience or have heard about other people who have had that experience. We experienced the explicit judgment of these comments about the value of where we work.
Let me describe what I think the fundamental problem is in terms of the preparation of doctoral students. I would like to whip the tail of the CSU and influence the way the UC graduate programs socialize faculty who might apply and come and work here, which brings to the CSU an enormous number of our faculty. I would change those graduate programs so that the programs were structured to celebrate and recognize the teaching and learning process as the central feature of a faculty member's life in the CSU. We cannot get around that mission - that is what we are primarily here for. Teaching and learning is the focal point, the building block, it is where you start. I would have those doctoral programs build into their work methods ways to allow us to understand that teaching and good teaching happens because we evaluate, critique, and reflect on it. I would have those doctoral programs teach us how to be willing to innovate with pedagogy, including the recognition that pedagogy must incorporate something other than the stand-and-deliver methodology, that most of our faculty members at the graduate level use if they are teaching a course other than a seminar (even in a lot of seminars). I would have those graduate programs recognize that disciplinary preparation cannot be based on a sub-specialization of the discipline. It is a disservice to each and every one of those doctoral students to lead them down a primrose path and think they are going to come to a CSU and teach that narrowly defined specialization that is represented in the doctoral dissertation.
I would have the doctoral programs recognize that not all students come to a university with the same set of talents already developed - that talent development, as Sandy Astin says, is a major part of what American higher education is all about. I would have graduate programs celebrate, encourage, emphasize and, if I could, require applied research. Every one of our fields has the capability of doing that. We have evidence of that on this campus. I would have those programs recognize and celebrate the linkage between a curriculum and a community, and again if you look at CSUN and our curriculum, we have evidence that that can be done. And, finally, I would have the faculty who are socializing all future faculty emphasize that their identity is based on and connected to the university they serve, not simply their own individual achievements and accomplishments. If we could do all of those things in graduate programs that prepared faculty for our university, I think that the need for the conversation we are now having would be reduced and mitigated.
Now, let me jump to the fourth point, and it is a jump. Nevertheless I do want to spend a little bit of time talking about the phrase "scholarship of teaching." That phrase has a lot of currency and a lot of potency for us because of the centrality of teaching and what it is we do here at CSUN. If you go back and read Boyer's work, you see the perspective from which his argument is made, which is really to herald and to recognize that at the historical moment in which Boyer was talking, there was an overemphasis on research as the grounds for tenure and promotion in research and doctoral institutions, and he saw a kind of a creep of that into other types of institutions. It's always important to remember this context of Boyer's work. Having said that, in preparation for this presentation, I went back and I read as many different other pieces of work as I could easily get my hands on. I have to confess, I did not go to the library. I called Cynthia, I called John Mason, I dug through files at my home office (which is still incomplete and total disarray from my move nine months ago), but nevertheless I managed to find about five or six articles in AAHE publications and Journal of Higher Education publications from the last several years. I can say to you quite definitively there is no commonly held definition of what anybody means by the "scholarship of teaching." A fairly recent article in the Journal of Higher Education offer three definitions that are commonly used, and the authors concluded that they don't like any of the three of them, and offer a fourth. Pat Hutchins and Lee Schulman in a Change magazine article in 1999 offered another definition and suggest that really the scholarship of teaching requires a form of "going meta" in which faculty members frame and systematically investigate questions related to student learning.
I would like to suggest to you that as we have this conversation on this campus, we need to first take some time to come to a common agreement, concerning a definition of the scholarship of teaching. I'm not going to stipulate for you what I think is the best definition, but I would suggest to you that, if we are going to talk about the scholarship of teaching, we need to recognize that inherent in that is that we're talking about scholarship. Scholarship means that we display a high level of discipline-related expertise, have an ability to have our peers look at our work (it does not necessarily mean peer review journals, but peers must evaluate the work) that we can document the work, that the work in some way can be built upon, (we might say replicated, but that's a somewhat dangerous term), and that one's work has significance or impact. The key to any definition, in my view, is linking it back to what we accept as scholarship.
Finally, some comments to close that draw us back to the mission of CSUN and the role of our faculty. There are a couple of things that I think we need to recognize here. First, we should recognize that universities, like CSUN, start with the presumption that when you are hired that you will be with us for your career. All of the quantitative evidence that we have on hiring faculty at this university supports my articulation of that assumption. Yes, there are people who don't get tenure, and there are people who choose to leave, but for the most part, when you are hired by this university, we commit to you as a member of this family for your professional career. For most of you, that's going to be 20 years, 30 years - that's a long time, and so when we have this discussion about faculty roles and rewards, we have to think about it in terms of a faculty member's career.
<Editor's Note: Due to a technical malfunction, the remaining portion of this speech was not recorded. Therefore, the text that follows below is not a verbatim transcript of the actual recorded remarks but rather a reconstruction of the comments based on the speaker's notes.>
We must take into account that the promotion and tenure process must assure that you can function well in the context of the mission over that 30 years of your career (not doing all things at all times but that you have the elements of successful performance) and that you value what we value.
We must also consider that disciplines change over time and therefore any discussion of the faculty member's role over time must take that into account. Faculty have to learn how their disciplines have changed.
CSUN and other institutions like us are not served well by the current approach of doctoral granting institutions. And we should consider that when we discuss the differences in how CSU faculty are expected to perform in comparison to how they were trained to perform by their doctoral education.
As we continue our discussions of roles and rewards, we will have to consider that we don't do a very good job of evaluating excellent performance in teaching effectiveness. Our definition of teaching is too narrow. And, clearly, we do not do well in evaluating the usefulness of scholarship to the teaching responsibilities of the university. If we are going to use the term "scholarship of teaching," we need to define what we mean or decide whether we need the term at all. We are not in danger of becoming a research institution if we have a dialogue and emphasize the importance of scholarship for faculty.
Through these conversations, we will understand that the lifetime career of a faculty member-integrated, variable-tells the story with all elements fitting into and benefiting the other elements. But the institution should know that you as the faculty member can and will, in fact, perform all of the elements of the role before we grant you tenure.
If you have any comments, please contact Randy Reynaldo in the Office of the President.