Seeking to standardize university joint appointments, Provost Robert Groves proposed revised standards to the Joint Appointment Guidelines for Tenure Track Faculty, released Jan. 8. The provost’s revised guidelines were then endorsed by the Executive Faculty.
Georgetown’s joint appointment program began during the 1990s and has grown to the point where approximately 10 percent of the university’s main campus faculty is jointly appointed.

“There was an existing document. It was just a question of having to update it a little bit because the kinds of cases that needed to be dealt with in, say, 1996 were different from the cases in 2013 just because of how interdisciplinary work is increased,” Main Campus Executive Faculty Chair Ian Gale, an economics professor, said.
Before the recent changes, the university’s joint appointments were made in an ad hoc manner. The revised guidelines seek to standardize the appointments by creating three tiers of joint appointments, the lowest of which is called an affiliate status where a faculty member in one unit may teach one course in another or conduct some research, but it remains only a mild, secondary interest.

“The second [tier] is a so-called courtesy appointment which has more defined duties. And the third [tier] is fully shared joint appointment where the salary of the faculty member lies in two different departments. There are agreed-upon duties and rights and responsibilities,” Groves said.

The revisions also clarify payment policy. In particular, the new guidelines standardize how jointly appointed professors are treated when one of the departments that they are a part of supports their tenure, while the other department does not.

“The resolution was that the individual would now be 100 percent in the unit that supported tenure. The question is where does the salary come from and the resolution here was that the amount of the budget would be taken from the one and given to the other,” Gale said.

Professors and administrators praised the joint appointments program as a means for improving the quality of Georgetown’s academics.

A strength of the joint appointments program is that it encourages greater cooperation between departments.

“It works very well. I mean I used to teach at Brown and there were very few joint appointments and the turf battles between various units and centers were pretty vicious, whereas here everyone is kind of sitting on the opposite side of the table in a way and so it actually serves to bind the units together in a very productive way,” joint SFS and government department appointee professor Jeff Anderson said.

The program’s revisions also address one of the primary drawbacks of joint appointments, which arises when professors are overwhelmed by the responsibilities of teaching in multiple units.

“One of the big concerns [is] that people are being stretched too thin, demands are being made on their time because they are in some sense being treated as if they are fully in two different groups. That was one of the things that was also made clear here that there has to be limits on the amount of service that is required [of] people. The amount of service should be proportional to the percentage of your appointment that is in one or the other [department],”  Gale said.

All professors in joint appointment agreements will continue those agreements as before, although possibly under different titles due to their tier level of involvement. Enhanced standardization for future joint appointments is likely to be the largest effect of the revised procedure.

“What has happened is the provost has kind of formalized the system with these new guidelines, but in reality it will have very little or no effect on the existing system of joint appointments,” SFS Acting Dean James Reardon-Anderson said.

Joint appointments are an important part of the plan for the future of Georgetown academics.

“We’re building the future Georgetown, and we think interdisciplinary work is being demanded by the students and the world is presenting us problems that interdisciplinary work can solve, and we want to be right there at the forefront,” Groves said.

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