March 23, 2014

Cornell Defies National Trend With 79 Percent of Faculty Tenured

Print More


Despite a recent congressional study stating that adjuncts represent half of all higher education faculty in the United States, adjuncts still remain a minority at Cornell.

According to the Cornell University Factbook — a compilation of current and recent historical statistical information issued by the University — 79 percent of all faculty members are tenured.

Among undergraduate faculty, 81 percent — or 1,093 people — are tenured. 17 percent of undergraduate faculty are on tenure track, and the other two percent — 22 people — are not on tenure track, the Factbook said.

“We actually don’t have large numbers of adjunct faculty,” John Siliciano ’75, senior vice provost for academic affairs, said.

According to the Factbook, faculty are defined by three professioral ranks — part-time, clinical and acting. Adjunct, visiting, courtesy and emeritus appointments are excluded from this definition.

Prof. Joe Burns, Ph.D. ’66, astronomy, dean of the University faculty, said adjunct professors are “quite rare at Cornell.”

“[Adjunct professors are] usually research colleagues from other universities who visit often, or outside industry, or past Cornell faculty who have moved to new jobs but stay on the Cornell faculty to finish advising grad[uate] students,” he said.

According to Burns, a mix of tenured and non-tenure track faculty is “best.”

“[This mix] allows more change among the faculty but also attracts the highest-level professors,” he said.

Echoing Burns’ sentiment, Siliciano said that the University benefits from having a “strong and tailored mix of different kinds of faculty.”

“[There is] no set ratio between [adjunct and tenured] faculty,” he added. “The right combination [of adjunct and tenured] will vary considerably among different fields and colleges.”

However, all seven of Cornell’s undergraduate colleges exhibit a remarkably similar composition of faculty, according to Factbook data.

All seven of the colleges’ faculties are between 71 and 85 percent tenured, with an average of 78 percent tenured faculty, the data said.

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences has the highest share of tenured faculty — 85 percent, or 311 people.

Five of the other colleges have between 75 and 80 percent tenured faculty. The lowest percentage of tenured faculty is in the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, with 71 percent.

Three colleges — the School of Hotel Administration, College of Human Ecology, and College Architecture, Art and Planning — have no faculty who are not tenured or on track for tenure.

Siliciano said the University still “relies heavily” on tenure and tenure track faculty, along with other full-time academic faculty.

“Tenured faculty are expected to be carrying out world-class research while providing quality teaching,” he said. “Because of their tenure, they are freer to challenge conventional ideas.”