In the University of Wisconsin System we have Teaching Academic Staff in addition to tenure-track Faculty and Adjunct Instructors. We Teaching Academic Staff (TAS) are full-time professional educators, not adjuncts. Although some of us have PhDs, most of us do not. Except for those hired on a fixed term basis, we TAS go through a 7-year review process parallel to tenure for faculty, although not as demanding. We are integral members of the university and of our departments and schools. We have various service responsibilities (professional, university, community) in addition to our primary focus on teaching, but usually not the mandate to do research or to publish, as our faculty colleagues have.
With rare exceptions, Faculty and TAS work together collegially to contribute to the total mission of our schools and departments, and TAS are not treated as second class citizens. We TAS are proud of our professional, educational, and other contributions. We respect and support the critical importance of research in the university and in our programs. And some of us also choose to engage in research and publication in addition to our other duties, often working with our tenure-track faculty colleagues. My personal experience has been that my advocacy for adding new cataloging and other information organization courses has been respected and unanimously supported by our faculty and administration. I have not felt that my being a teaching academic staff member of my School has been an impediment whatsoever or that my contributions are devalued because of that.
Our School also hires a limited number of adjunct instructors. These are usually people who have other full time jobs and teach a course for us on top of that. Many of them are excellent and knowledgeable teachers. Students are often inspired to take more cataloging courses and to go into cataloging and related careers by any of our instructors, be they faculty, academic staff, or adjuncts.
In the realm of library and information science I personally think of the PhD as the terminal research degree and the MLIS (or equivalent) as the terminal practitioner degree. As schools of nursing often have non-PhD clinical faculty teaching some courses for those who are going to be practitioners rather than researchers, so also it seems to me there may be a similar role in our field. This takes nothing away from the importance of research. In fact, it frees up faculty from some of the teaching load so that they can do more research.
Certainly having a faculty composed predominantly of tenure track PhDs doing research is critical to a research academic institution, as well as to the overall environment for educating MLIS students. And it is of course essential for educating doctoral students earning the research degree. But there is room for many types of contribution, as I see it, and we each play important and complementary roles.
This is my personal perspective as someone who is neither tenure-track faculty nor an adjunct instructor but who teaches Masters-level courses in information organization, cataloging, metadata, and the like as my full-time career. For all I know I could well be the only person on this particular discussion list in such a position, so I thought I'd speak up.
Steven J. Miller, Senior Lecturer
School of Information Studies
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
PO Box 413, Milwaukee, WI 53201
Email: [log in to unmask]