How qualified are USF professors?

For the most part, USF students receive education from teachers who hold the University-mandated degree for their position.

But there are those who don’t, and USF officials say it’s the school’s high standards that make finding the right person for the job difficult.

To qualify to teach at USF, any instructors hired without the required degree for a position must have a terminal degree, said Senior Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Dwayne Smith.

However, about 20 percent of USF faculty do not have a terminal degree, the highest degree needed in a field, according to the University of South Florida System Facts 2009-10.

Because USF holds to its standards, Smith said hiring is difficult and visiting instructors suffice until a professor who fits alL requirements, including holding a terminal degree, is found.

Sometimes it can take six to nine months to find a qualified person, Smith said. About 10 percent of the job searches for professors are unsuccessful every academic year.

When departments don’t find a qualified person, they hire a visiting professor, who is temporary and doesn’t have a contract with USF, Smith said.

“Sometimes a search fails,” he said. “(The department) cannot find the right person for the position and so what they will do is hire the person who is full time, but they are temporary.”

Typically, the temporary person is hired full-time at the instructor level with minimum requirements, including past experience in a particular field or a terminal degree, he said.

Smith said there are four levels for professors: instructor, assistant professor, associate professor and full professor.

Last year, the USF School of Mass Communications lost five full professors to either resignation or retirement, dropping the total from 17 to 12. Now, the school is struggling to find professors, said Edward Jay Friedlander, director of mass communications.

“A lot of times the people with the expertise don’t have a doctorate and people with a doctorate don’t have the expertise,” he said.

Friedlander said that though the individuals may have lesser degrees, it doesn’t mean students are receiving a lower quality of education.

Two visiting instructors – one with a doctorate and one with a master’s – are in the process of being hired to teach in Telecommunications and Public Relations, he said.

In the spring, the School of Mass Communications will lack available professors to teach 20 courses, Friedlander said. With the help of adjuncts and the two visiting professors, the school hopes to fill those positions.

“These two can pick up five (classes), and adjuncts hopefully will pick up the other 15,” he said. “We would always rather have a full professor than a visiting instructor, and we’d rather have a visiting instructor than an adjunct.”

An adjunct is someone who comes to a university to teach one course, Friedlander said.

Usually, visiting instructors are paid less than what the required position calls for, Smith said.

“It depends on what level they are being hired in,” he said. “Let’s say they were trying to hire an assistant professor and they couldn’t. Then, if they hired a person as an instructor, they usually would be paid less.”

A “significant minority” of students’ tuition goes toward salaries, whether it is for a visiting instructor or full-time professor, he said.

Salaries depend on the discipline and the national salary averages for a position, Smith said.

“(Discipline) depends on the person’s particular area,” he said. “If you were a person in English, the salaries might be different for those in chemistry.”

In the past few years, USF has become more competitive as the pool of applicants increases every year, making the hiring process more rigorous, said Associate Vice President of Human Resources Sandy Lovins.

“This university is passionate about hiring and passionate about every single person that we add in whatever capacity,” Lovins said. “We are always in pursuit of the most qualified people and, in particular, our faculty.”