What does it mean to be a faculty? The word can refer to the inherent aptitudes, talents, or powers of a person, whether intellectual, physical, or otherwise– in terms of “mental faculties” that a person has. But in academia, the word refers to the teaching or research staff of a college or university.
It may be useful to think of the university in terms of a body when addressing what it means to be a faculty. Like the body, the university has many parts. Each of those parts has a precise function in fulfilling the mission that guides the university. The library collects, houses, and provides access to information useful to and produced by the university. Academic departments instruct students in preparation for the academy’s future. Administrative offices support university operations.
Within each of these faculties is another faculty structure. Libraries have archivists and college librarians, governed by a separate mission and administration. Academic departments have a variety of instructors and scholars, with research interests that vary as much as the departments themselves.
This framework of a body metaphor can be useful to talking about what, exactly, it means to be a faculty.
- carries with a responsibility to fulfill the missions of the department, college, and university. Scholarly integrity is paramount, and should not fall outside these parameters. However, adherence to the mission of the university, &c., includes specific responsibilities associated with the foundational documents of the university, and to the requirements of the discipline affiliated with the department.
- invests in the continued existence– or future– of the discipline and university. More clearly, this means an investment in the intellectual lives of the students. They are the future of the discipline, and it is the faculty’s responsibility to instruct in a way that allows freedom of thought and an understanding of the historical roots of the discipline. Publishing also falls under this category, demonstrating a desire to continue academic conversations into the future.
- mandates concern for the greater body. The faculty does not exist on its own. Yes, some universities do not have, for example, an anthropology department, and they can function without it, just as some human bodies can function with the loss of a kidney or sight. Faculty must use other members to the fullest capability of the body, in its present iteration.
- requires active engagement within the university (especially students), discipline, and other faculties. Teaching, publishing, and other responsibilities as assigned, are integral to the function of a faculty and the greater body. Volunteering to a rescue squad, serving on faculty senate, attending lectures, and, perhaps most simply, having an open office door demonstrate some active engagement beyond an individual’s interests, field, discipline, and college.
In short, to be faculty is to be stretched to all corners of the academy.