Research could affect faculty divisions

Mike Stunson

Gordon Baylis, vice president for Research, spoke to the University Senate last week about the expanding role of research at WKU.

He said he has been planning on a proposal to have three divisions among faculty: clinical, research and tenure.

Clinical professors would be the “normal” professors and would have a six-year probationary period before they could be a tenured employee, said Gordon Emslie, provost and vice president for Academic Affairs.

Research faculty would not be required to teach classes but could choose to do so.

“They will still be called research professors, but teaching will be an opportunity, not a requirement,” Emslie said.

Associate Journalism Professor Mac McKerral said he likes the idea of more research at WKU.

“Research connects to teaching and in the classroom by opening up new insights into a discipline,” McKerral said. “It allows for a better understanding of existing standards.”

Patricia Minter, history professor and faculty regent, said researchers’ pay will be funded by soft money, which are grants given to the university.

Though the researchers will be paid through grant money, Emslie said they could still be very successful in their field, depending on their work.

McKerral said he thinks many researchers would be interested in the job at WKU, even though their pay would be mainly commission-based.

“It is very possible for the university to attract researchers because they could control how much they get paid,” McKerral said.

Emslie said the significant issue may be how researchers will fit into WKU if Baylis’ plans go into effect.

“I think all three of the groups will work will together,” Emslie said. “They can all help each other, and the researchers can help take some burden off of the professors.”

Minter said Baylis has a lot of ideas, but nothing is set in stone yet.

“Whatever happens, the faculty has to be fully involved,” Minter said. “Where the research faculty will fit into the departments is still something we are not sure of.”

Emslie said at Tuesday’s Student Government Association meeting that the hiring of researchers would allow WKU to open more faculty positions.

“We want the professors to have more time to devote to their classes, rather than other matters not to do with their courses,” Emslie said.