By Todd Mordhorst, Office of Provost

The new academic year will bring changes that could make the stress and uncertainty of temporary annual contracts a thing of the past.

Beginning in August, college administrators at WSU will be able to offer what are being called continuous contracts to clinical and assistant professors and instructors as a result of a change in the faculty manual sought by the Faculty Senate. Previously, the only option available was a temporary contract, often for just one year, leaving nearly half of the University’s faculty uncertain whether they’d be returning each fall.

“What I saw from some colleagues was a period of stress that started in April and lasted until they got their contracts, which sometimes wasn’t until October,” said Judi McDonald, who as chair of the Faculty Senate helped pushed for the change. “Some of them had worked here much longer than I had and they’re going through the stress of their contracts, waiting on the paperwork.”

The level of anxiety concerned McDonald and others on the Faculty Senate and they spent four or five years exploring options. The new continuous contract helps provide greater certainty for faculty but maintains flexibility for administrators.

Brendan Walker chaired the Faculty Affairs Committee, which worked on re-wording the relevant section of the Executive Policy Manual addressing the change.

“It will give these faculty members additional options, and additional security,” Walker says. “It creates a new continuous track, whereas before everyone in that classification was on a temporary track.”

The Office of the Provost was an ardent supporter of the shift.

There are other efforts in the works, and recently implemented, that aim to better recognize the contributions of clinical, assistant, and instructional faculty. Awards have been added in recent years to recognize outstanding instruction, and other vital contributions to the University’s success.

Walker points out that the continuous track is advantageous for colleges, as well as the faculty members. The continuous contracts allow for more stability and should help with long-range planning. The new track extends the notification period for non-reappointments of faculty without cause, which will help reduce potential gaps in employment.

“WSU is a haven for really quality people that are going to be committed and dedicated,” Walker says. “This was a really fantastic example of the faculty senate and administration working together to create positive change. And in terms of WSU’s overall mission and goals, this type of policy will allow us to attract better people and keep better people.”

 

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