Most colleges and universities in the United States have a tenure system – a system to grant professors permanent employment upon completing a probationary period. Professors who have earned tenure cannot be fired without due cause and, ideally, are free to teach without fear of persecution. However, such a tenure system does not exist at Principia College.
Rather than tenure, Principia College has a ranking system. The ranking system for classroom faculty relies on education level and teaching experience. For everyone, rather than a guarantee of employment, the process begins each April with a one-year contract. However, the ranking system impacts the contract.
Professors who have successfully completed five years of teaching are awarded the Gold Contract. This contract states that Principia will notify the faculty member of their job status for the following academic year by September 15 of the current year. If a faculty member is not asked to come back, they will be paid three months salary beyond the end of the current academic year in order to look for new work.
For classroom faculty, there are four ranks: instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and professor. Rank is determined by the faculty member’s degree or career experience, as well as the number of years they have taught. Faculty must approach their department and unit heads, as well as the dean of academics, for promotions; they are not automatic.
Requirements for all faculty include being Mother Church members and “upholding and supporting the established Principia community moral and ethical standards through personal example,” according to the faculty handbook. Furthermore, each rank has certain qualifications.
Instructors must have completed or be working towards a master’s degree in their appropriate field. Assistant professors have completed their master degree and successfully taught for three years full-time, or earned a doctorate degree in their discipline. Associate professors have earned a doctorate and taught for five years or are working towards a doctoral degree and have completed at least seven years of teaching. Full professors have earned a doctorate and completed 10 years of teaching or are working towards their doctorate and have completed 15 years of teaching.
With these varying qualifications and responsibilities come different salaries. Salaries take rank, as well as discipline into consideration. Dean of Academics Joe Ritter said that Principia faculty salaries are based on the CUPA index, which identifies the salaries of faculty from 126 peer schools. Principia faculty salaries are determined by calculating the median of these similar school salaries.
Prior to the 1970s, all salaries were negotiated instead of benchmarked. Multiple factors, including gender inequality, were at play with the old negotiation system. Today’s benchmarked system seeks to eliminate these outside factors. “I’m a fan of benchmarking,” Ritter said. “It makes things more straightforward.”