By Jeff McCallister
Nancy Lahmers was in her first year as a senior lecturer in Fisher College of Business when she tried to make an online donation to the Campus Campaign. When the system denied her access to the donation section of the website, she figured it was a simple glitch.
What she found, however, was that it not only was not a glitch but was in fact one of many ways the employment status of lecturers — even those working full-time, even for multiple years — was different than that of tenure-track faculty or even full-time staff. She has worked ever since to raise that status.
“I went to Human Resources to clear it up and found out that lecturers were basically classified as temps,” said Lahmers, who worked in the HR industry for 25 years before coming to Ohio State. “It seemed like a really obvious misclassification. These are devoted teachers, many working full-time, and for too long they have not been recognized for their value to the university.”
Lahmers is quick to point out that most people seem to be in general agreement that certain things were in need of some tweaking, if not full-on reform.
One of those who helped take up the cause was Susan Williams, vice provost for Academic Policy and Faculty Resources.
“We have a strong commitment to the tenure track and to growing the tenure-track faculty,” Williams said. “At the same time, we also have a strong commitment to fostering strong teaching at all levels, and recognizing the contributions of our lecturers is part of that.”
Some of the issues were easy to take care of; for example, lecturers were almost immediately given the access needed to donate to Campus Campaign. Others have taken time.
The Board of Trustees enacted an important change in February when it amended the Rules of the Ohio State Faculty to allow lecturers to sign contracts for up to three years instead of for only one year at a time.
“We essentially had to terminate and re-hire all lecturers every year,” Williams said. “That’s not good for morale, it makes planning difficult and, from our chairs’ point of view, it was really tough to be able to recognize and reward the contributions of lecturers who had been teaching for many years.”
That led to another change that went into effect this year: The addition of the Provost’s Award for Distinguished Teaching by a Lecturer to the university-wide awards — right up there with the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching or Distinguished Scholar Award. Winners of that award are presented a $4,200 honorarium and, like those of the Alumni Award, are inducted into OSU’s Academy of Teaching.
“If you look throughout the university in units that give student recognition, there are always many lecturers named,” said Lahmers, who has taken a full-time staff position running Fisher’s graduate programs. “But there was no broader university-wide recognition available until this year so I’m glad that was addressed.”
More changes now appear imminent. University Senate approved resolutions April 18 that will (pending approval by the Board of Trustees) replace the term “auxiliary” with “associated” when referring to adjunct and clinical practice faculty and lecturers, and remove the term “regular” altogether from faculty designations. New rules also will allow lecturers to serve in academic unit governance when approved by tenure-track faculty in that unit. Lecturers formerly were expressly excluded from serving in any governance.
There still are a few issues Lahmers would like to see addressed, such as gaining an HR designation that would allow lecturers to keep their e-mail address upon retirement and the point system that determines eligibility for purchasing football and other athletics tickets. But she’s happy that changes have been a priority.
“These improvements are awesome and I’m thrilled to see them,” she said.