Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries

What does “Faculty” mean? (your opinions, please!)


Steven Bell’s ACRLlog post What it Really Means to be A Faculty Member has gotten me thinking, particularly about what it means to be a member of the faculty. I posted a comment there about how I might define faculty status, and have spent a few hours searching Google, GoogleScholar, The Policies of the SUNY Board of Trustees, and EBSCO Education databases for a definition (my facultystatus tag and faculty status on Furl will be very dynamic over the next few days…). While I have found an overwhelming number of articles about librarians and faculty status (just search for faculty status — 85% of what turns up is about librarians!) I have seen nothing that effectively defines faculty — including in my own university’s governing documents.

Right now, I’m planning on turning this quest into an opinion piece on what it means to be faculty and the ways that the being an academic librarian fits that meaning (because for me, this is true). I have a score or so of articles to look through to see if faculty si defined there (most seem to be very concerned with tenure and tenure requirements and protections, and not with how librarians do the work of Faculty Members, whatever that is)

I’m pasting a bulleted form of my ACRLlog comment below, and I’m very interested in your opinions — what does “faculty” imply to you? Remember, “teaching faculty” isn’t the only faculty! There are plenty of research faculty who spend as little time in the classroom as they can can get away with it! Am I completely off the mark? Have I missed vital aspects? Am I thinking too closely about my own work and not broadly enough?

  • actively involved in faculty governance,
  • actively involved in setting general education requirements
  • actively involved in being expert in my field
  • actively involved in using that expertise to maximize possibilities for student excellence
  • research and publications within areas of expertise for practical advancement of the pursuit of student excellence
  • research and publications within areas of expertise on theoretical implications for the sake of furthering knowledge.

Summed up,

  • actively involved in student learning
  • perform university service
  • participate in shared governance
  • have a defined area of subject specialization
  • perform research and publication within that area
  • formal and informal teaching
  • well-trained in teaching and pedagogy.

4 thoughts on “What does “Faculty” mean? (your opinions, please!)

  1. Hi – you probably already have a sense of what I think faculty means 🙂

    Have you looked at the Boyer report ( yet? Is anything there useful? I have had our copy checked out for a while, because of project I’m doing on peer review, and haven’t gotten around to really digesting it yet. I know a lot of schools use the Boyer model to shape their p&t process, though.

    I also thought of this post when I read this article – it does seem that in a world where accreditors, etc. are pushing us to define our mission and goals uniquely, that some campuses might start defining faculty and tenure uniquely too —

    I think there might be a little too much emphasis on teaching on the list above – for some campuses – certainly being well trained in teaching and pedagogy is an ideal, but it doesn’t define faculty on a lot of campuses I’ve been on. Even some of the most fabulous teachers I had had no formal *training* in teaching and learning.


  2. A good question. I think active engagement is governance is crucial (though if you look at who shows up to Faculty Senate and such, most of the faculty might be disqualified on this one).

    Defined area of subject specialization is useful…but what about librarians, who are technically jacks-and-jills-of-all-trades? (Or at least most trades, in a university system where we don’t have subject libraries).

    Most PhDs get no training in teaching and pedagogy; they’re tossed into teh classroom as TAs and move on from there. Which I find disturbing.

    Engaging in activities to improve the world (whether locally or globally) – or what use is research and teaching? As for research, perhaps “enlarging the body of human knowledge.” ‘Research’ simply put sounds like drudgery *grin*

    Faculty – should they be on contract with their institution? Do you consider adjuncts full faculty? Just curious…

  3. Colleen,
    Thanks for joining in!

    I think that librarians forget that we have a subject domain: we are experts in locating and organizing information. That’s the subject area we all bring to the table, and many of us have further areas of specialization, such as pedagogy, database structure, user access. We may also be exert in the information universe of a particular subject or subjects — publishers, databases, navigating the LCSH for thorny topics….

    All of that before any of the subject specializations we normally think of when discussing “expertise”.

    I like your description of research! it is definitely far more engaging when you put it that way!

    I think that the adjunct questions is ultimately the arrow to the answer: if adjuncts are full faculty, then faculty is really just about semester-long teaching. And librarians may not be able to make a good argument for their faculty status. If adjuncts are not generally considered full faculty, then faculty must mean more than just teaching, and librarians can make a solid case on that ground. We don’t have a lot of adjuncts here (too far away from a civilized place for folks to relocate for that kind of non-guaranteed work) so this is a somewhat abstract and academic a question for me at the moment. Food for thought, though.

  4. I’m an english teacher in South Korea but i don’t know how to explain directly this word “faculty” to my co-korean teachers. It has several meanings. It depends upon how we used it in a sentence or in a different situation. It is rare and new word for them. It makes them confused so I ask your favor to please explain it concretely what does a faculty mean? What i have learned that it is a sysnonym of the word ” staff.” So i suggest our director to put a room sign as “Faculty Room” Is it correct? I hope this is correct because when i was still elementary until college i usually see the sign faculty room and that’s the room for teachers working in schools or in the institutes. I hope you will respond this question. I want to help and teach the korean students effectively. Have a good time and more power.

    From: Wilma Delara Lee

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