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Education, and C. Ann Trower, a senior researcher there.
One of these professors was Peg Gray-Vickrey, who left
a tenured job at Lycoming College in Pennsylvania. “I was
kind of interested in trying a non-tenured system,” she said
in an interview. “There are some good things about tenure,
and I would never say it should be abolished, but there are
some problems with it as well. Some professors, once they
get tenure, just really aren’t active participants in the college
The attempt to make multi-year contracts work at FGCU
has been complicated by the fact that about 30 professors,
with tenure or in tenure-track jobs, transferred from the
local University of South Florida branch to the new campus,
creating an awkward two-tier system.
“This seemed to be a place where everyone was starting
on the same page,” said Gray-Vickrey, who was not told she
would have tenured colleagues when she accepted the Florida
Gulf Coast offer. “But then the South Florida people turned
up and, incredibly, we had a kind of caste system.”
“We’ve tried very hard not to have two classes of faculty,”
said Chuck Lindsey, the faculty
senate chair.
But Maria Roca called the
mixed faculty—some who have
a lifetime job guarantee, or the
prospect of one, and some who
face contract renewal every few
years—“our biggest problem.”
“They have to look for some
other way to hold the contract
people—with more money or
reduced teaching assignments
or something else,” Roca said. “Otherwise, we’re going to lose
a lot of our best people, and we’re not going to attract people
who are as good.”
In their
Change Magazine
article, Chait and Trower
reported that the overall quality of the initial faculty “as
gauged by degrees, diversity and academic experience,
compares quite favorably with similar regional universities in
the state and beyond.”
Last summer, more than
half of the faculty surveyed
said they did not think
distance learning was an
effective alternative to
traditional instruction.
“Rolling Contracts”
Instead of Tenure
March 2008
lligators still bask occasionally on the sunny campus
of Florida Gulf Coast University, just as they did when
first reported on the new school in its spring 1999 issue.
But just about everything else has changed.
Enrollment has soared, from fewer than 3,000 students in spring
1999 to more than 9,300 in fall 2007. The faculty has grown from
161 to 370. Class size has increased, and the only two lecture halls on
campus “are booked for every hour,” a dean said. Half a dozen new
academic programs have been added each year, along with 20 new
faculty positions, according
to Interim Provost Peg Gray-
The original emphasis
on interdisciplinary studies
has given way to a traditional
structure of separate depart­
ments, each offering its own
“We’re still creative, we still
have many innovative faculty,
but rapid growth tends to dull
the edges” of non-traditional
approaches, said Jack Crocker,
who was dean of the College of Arts and Sciences when the campus
opened in 1997 and has since retired.
Growth slowed somewhat in 2007-08, when a state budget
deficit forced legislators to trim higher education spending by four
percent. Florida Gulf Coast lost $1.8 million in state support. As a
consequence, the campus was ordered to hold fall 2008 freshman
enrollment at the same level as the year before.
In addition, the campus
imposed a hiring freeze,
restricted faculty and staff
travel, and delayed the start of
master’s degree programs in
engineering, environmental
studies and mathematics.
One innovation that
has survived is a no-tenure
policy for faculty. Instead of
tenure, faculty members sign
“rolling contracts” for three
to six years. Each instructor
is reviewed each year, and if
he or she is judged to have
performed satisfactorily,
another year is added to the contract.
Florida Gulf Coast “has not faced any particular challenges in
hiring, without a tenure system,” Gray-Vickrey said, although she
acknowledged that occasionally a prospective faculty member turns
down an offer in favor of a campus with a tenure system.
The rolling contracts approach “really does make us feel pretty
secure, but it creates recruiting problems,” said Maria Roca, dean of
the Department of Philosophy and Communications. “If a candidate
has a choice between our policy and tenure, most often they’ll choose
Although rolling contracts have been around for some years,
Florida Gulf Coast is one of the few colleges or universities to adopt
this approach. Others include Hampshire College, in Massachusetts,
and Georgia Gwinnett College, the newest campus in the Georgia
State University system. The Evergreen State College, in the state
of Washington, began with fixed eight-year contracts but shifted to
“continuing contracts for life,” which Provost Don Bantz called “pretty
much the same as tenure.”
—William Trombley
Enrollment at Florida
Gulf Coast University
has soared, from
fewer than 3,000
students in spring
1999 to more than
9,300 in fall 2007.
One innovation that
has survived is a
no-tenure policy
for faculty. Instead
of tenure, faculty
members sign
“rolling contracts”
for three to six years.