Recently, the Board of Trustees at State College of Florida voted to end continuing contracts for new faculty. The practice of continuing contracts is a critical component of the success of the Florida College System.
On Oct. 27, I had the opportunity to speak to the board to encourage trustees to reconsider this decision. These contracts ensure that the best and brightest are afforded stability and security on the job following a long and arduous process of careful evaluation and the meeting of critical professional benchmarks.
The loss of continuing contracts will undoubtedly make it harder for the State College of Florida to recruit top-notch faculty and will damage the institution's reputation in the academic community.
These are huge problems on the horizon, but perhaps the most significant impact to your community and your students is the loss of stability and its impact on students' ability to create meaningful educational relationships with their professors.
I have been in the academy for 16 years, and I also served as a classroom teacher at the high school level. In all of that time, as a teacher, a professor, and a graduate student, I have found that a key component to student success is the professional relationships, the professor-student bonds that develop in an academic setting.
My own experiences and independent research clearly illustrate that students succeed when these bonds are able to form, and in order to do that, the professor needs the stability of a continuing contract. Our colleges are not factories and our faculty are not tools designed to crank out students as carbon-copy widgets.
Faculty are human beings who have dedicated themselves toward the pursuit of knowledge and the commitment to share that knowledge with future generations of leaders.
They are dedicated, but they are people, and we can't ask them to go the extra distance and put their hearts and souls into building these meaningful relationships with their students without the stability of continuing contracts.
They and their students need to know that they will be there the next year and beyond. Without that, the most dedicated and the most passionate will find those institutions where they have the stability they need and deserve, and State College of Florida students will lose out on those opportunities for success.
Continuing contracts are a cornerstone of quality institutions of higher education, not as a gift to entitled faculty or as some form of professional welfare. They exist and are supported because they ensure the best possible education for students.
If the students of the State College of Florida are to enjoy the benefits of an education that benefits from strong student/professor bonds, that is free of unnecessary interference in the exchange of thoughts and challenging ideas, and that is conducted by the best and brightest faculty, the State College of Florida Board of Trustees needs to reconsider its decision to eliminate continuing contracts.
The institution, the faculty, and most importantly the students will surely benefit.
Jennifer Proffitt, Ph.D., is the president of the United Faculty of Florida and an associate professor of communication at Florida State University.