HAMPTON — Faculty at Hampton University are dusting off their dossiers and preparing to apply for tenure and promotions after a four-year freeze was lifted this spring.
Resuming promotions and tenure will help HU become a major research institution as it commits to long-term relationships with faculty members, says Provost Pamela Hammond.
HU implemented the freeze in October 2008 to avoid moves such as laying off staff, implementing furloughs and cutting pay as the economy hit a downturn, employees say.
"It allowed us to protect our faculty and staff during a time that a lot of other universities and colleges were laying off people," Hammond said. "Hampton never had to lay off one faculty or staff member."
While they haven't laid off faculty members or frozen promotions and tenure, other local colleges have laid off some non-teaching staff since 2008, according to officials at Christopher Newport University, the College of William & Mary and Thomas Nelson Community College.
CNU in Newport News has laid off 26 staff members since then, said spokeswoman Lori Jacobs. That includes jobs lost when the university transferred management of the campus bookstore to Follett Corp. in 2010, she said.
In Williamsburg, W&M has eliminated vacant positions, including teaching jobs, and in 2009-10 laid off about 12 staff members, according to spokesman Brian Whitson. The cuts were a result of budget reductions.
TNCC, which has campuses in Hampton and in the Historic Triangle area , also laid off staff in 2010 — 21 people lost their jobs as about $2.1 million was cut from the 2011 budget, according to information from Belinda Baker, a TNCC spokeswoman.
Thomas Nelson, W&M and CNU are all state-supported public institutions. HU is a private university that doesn't rely on state funding to operate and isn't required to disclose budget information..
Hammond said she doesn't know how much money the tenure and promotion freeze saved at HU, but faculty salaries average $66,000. Full professors average $98,000, and some hires begin in the $40,000 range, she said.
Faculty ranks, in ascending order, are instructor, assistant professor, associate professor, and full professor. Faculty members who have a doctorate can apply for tenure after six years regardless of rank, Hammond said.
The application includes a dossier of the person's work such as their publications, grants and presentations as well as student evaluations and peer recommendations that show you are "a very productive faculty member," she said.
By the numbers
Currently, about 90 of 339 total HU faculty members have tenure at the 5,300 student school, which means they are guaranteed an annual contract. Tenured faculty can, however, be fired for cause or extreme financial circumstances, such as elimination of an entire program or department.
HU staff members did receive raises during the tenure freeze, including an average of 3 percent last year and this upcoming academic year. Some faculty earned up to 7 percent last year for merit-based increases thanks to a $1 million donation from President William Harvey and his wife, Norma.
Hammond said committing to more tenured faculty will help HU when it applies for long-term research grants, because it shows applicants are invested in staying for the length of the project. The university conducts research in areas including health disparities, atmospheric science and digital innovation, she said.
The freeze was one money-saving move — HU also restricted travel and hiring of non-critical personnel, Hammond said, although it did approve professional development trips and replace faculty that left.
Nobody who resigned or retired cited the freeze as the reason, she added. About 20 faculty members are expected to apply for tenure this fall, she said, and those approved will receive tenure in 2013-2014.
Most tenure-track faculty will also apply for a promotion, Hammond said, while other employees will apply only for a promotion, which is not tied to years of experience.
A 'tough' situation
Applying for both tenure and a promotion is Jean Muhammad, an assistant professor and chair of the computer science department. She described the freeze as "tough," and "uncomfortable," but said it was far better than being jobless or underemployed.
"If you don't have tenure at a certain point, it has a negative connotation," said Muhammad, who joined HU in 2006 and was eligible for tenure about two years ago. "We constantly had to explain (to peers at other institutions) that we don't have it yet because it's frozen."
Freezing people at their 2008 teaching rank hurt when collaborating with other institutions, Muhammad said, because grants and research projects are often led by the person with the higher rank.
"It's not always about the money," she said. "It's about the respect you get from fellow colleagues at other institutions. I was ecstatic that I can apply in the fall."