(Last Update: November 2017)
Founded in 1980, the American Association of University Supervisors and Coordinators (AAUSC) is the largest organization representing the intellectual and professional interests of scholars who oversee a staff of teaching assistants, teaching fellows, and other non-tenure track or temporary instructors. The AAUSC enjoys a large membership composed of professionals from all ranks affiliated with foreign language education at public and private institutions of higher education throughout North America.
This statement reflects nearly four decades of combined research and practice and is intended for several audiences. Deans and administrators will find below information that distinguishes foreign language programs from other university programs and can inform their hiring and budgetary decisions. Language departments heads will find important parameters for the creation, support, and maintenance of faculty positions that entail the supervision of teaching assistants and other teaching staff. Search committees will find important guidelines for drafting announcements for new language program directors. For job candidates, the statement provides a basic outline of reasonable expectations for the position of Language Program Director (LPD) or hybrid positions that include key descriptors such as “curriculum development,” “multi-course coordination,” or “TA supervision.”
In light of recent events in the field—including the creation, combining or closure of programs, rapid increases or decreases in enrollments, the formulation of part-time salary/benefits packages for full-time supervisory positions, the questionable stability of languages within the broader context of a liberal education, the notable decline or full-fledged removal of tenured or tenure-track LPD positions and, thus, the great majority of non-tenure track LPD positions—we urge the above mentioned audiences to consider carefully these parameters and guidelines when formulating position descriptions and policies.
Understanding the Work of Language Program Directors
Language Program Directors (LPDs, also called “language program coordinators” or “teaching assistant supervisors,” or other titles) are specialists in different fields. Some have expertise in applied linguistics, others in literature, film, or culture. The terms of their faculty appointment will determine to what extent LPDs conduct research, and also their teaching load, but by definition the LPD position requires a significant amount of invisible labor that often goes unrecognized or perceived as service. Many universities hire LPDs on a tenure track, but a large number of LPDs who hold PhD or MA degrees are hired in non-tenure-track or precarious contingent positions, with sub-par compensation and job security.
Regardless of differences in hiring category, LPDs carry out a number of crucial functions in departmental operations:
Research. Language program directors maintain active research profiles, by publishing in their academic disciplines and/or through in-class/applied research in pedagogy and curriculum development. Frequently, LPDs are the only faculty members who conduct research in the fields of applied linguistics or second language pedagogy; their scholarship accrues benefits to the LPD’s own program or department in addition to the scholarly literature in general. These fields have sophisticated theoretical foundations and are as intellectually rigorous as other scholarly disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. They also have diverse publishing venues, including prestigious, highly selective refereed journals and academic presses. LPDs may also draw on interdisciplinary expertise to create innovative pedagogical materials (textbooks, on-line learning resources, simulations, etc.); with the growing need for online and hybrid courses, LPDs often spearhead and guide the integration of technologies with course design, classroom teaching, assessments, and curricular innovation. The presence of one or more scholars in these areas within a department strengthens and broadens its reach and impact, its undergraduate and graduate programs, and the institution as a whole.
In some departments, LPDs are literary and cultural scholars whose primary research may be quite separate from the work they perform in the name of the language program. Working in this context may require an even more delicate balance of intellectual time and energy, but it allows LPDs to infuse undergraduate programs with innovative and synergistic approaches to language and literary/cultural studies.
Graduate student education. Another primary responsibility of the LPD is to prepare new graduate student instructors/teaching assistants and other teaching-track staff. At PhD granting institutions, graduate students typically staff lower-division language courses. Solid, ongoing preparation in both the theory and practice of language teaching is vital to the strength of the programs, as well as to the graduate students’ future success as teachers and scholars. Teacher education ideally takes place over the course of several semesters or years and involves intensive pre-service orientations, workshops, classroom observations, regular meetings, and substantial interpersonal interaction and support. This preparation and supervision makes possible the staffing of lower-division courses with teaching assistants, contingent faculty, and other teaching staff; without the LPD’s guidance and oversight, it would be impractical, indeed unethical, and potentially harmful to the success of a department to offer undergraduate courses taught by novice teachers.
Hiring/Staffing. In programs staffed by both graduate students and contingent faculty, the LPD often oversees or is heavily involved in the recruitment, hiring, supervisorial and professional development of contingent faculty.
Curriculum and assessment. LPDs are also charged with designing, evaluating, and maintaining lower-division curricula, which typically encompass at least four different sequenced courses with multiple sections. In some programs the LPD’s responsibilities extend into the advanced levels. In addition, LPDs define program goals, select and evaluate textbooks and other teaching materials, write syllabi for multi-section courses, oversee and often administer placement exams, conduct other sorts of program/student learning outcome assessments, and they design and implement co-curricular programs that foster creative thinking about languages and culture far beyond the classroom. The LPD’s work requires specialized, discipline-specific knowledge that takes into account recent research in second-language acquisition and pedagogy, often in addition to another research specialization.
AAUSC Policy Recommendation
It is the policy of the AAUSC that all junior faculty hired as LPDs to supervise graduate student teachers or other non-tenured instructors receive a tenure-track appointment at the assistant professor level. Because of their responsibilities for the curriculum, teaching staff, as well as their discipline-specific, research-based knowledge of the field, LPDs must be afforded the same visibility, acknowledgment, stability, rights, and institutional standing as other tenure-track colleagues. If an institution is unable to create a tenure-track position for the LPD , the AAUSC advocates a secure, long-term appointment equivalent in status to a tenure-track position in the hiring department (including such titles as “professor of the practice” or “senior lecturer”).
As key, highly visible faculty members, LPDs are entitled to the same rights and privileges as their colleagues of equal rank, particularly with respect to salaries, benefits, raises, promotions, sabbatical or professional development leaves, and tenure. In addition, in recognition of their extraordinary service and administrative workload, language program directors should benefit from a reduced teaching load commensurate either to 1) one course per semester for multi-course supervision and coordination or 2) a course reduction equal to that of the chair. Course reductions and salaries should also account for LPDs’ workload in preparing summer courses, revising curricula in the case of hybrid and online course development, organizing and conducting the department’s pre-semester teaching orientation, supervising and participating in a broad range of co-curricular activities for the undergraduate program, and participating in regular departmental and university-wide committee work.
It thus follows that for non-tenured or tenure-track LPD positions, departments should adhere to the MLA’s most recent recommendations (2017) for minimum compensation for English and Foreign Languages: “$10,700 for a standard 3-credit-hour semester course or $7,200 for a standard 3-credit-hour quarter or trimester course. These recommendations are based on the assumption of a full-time load of 3 courses per semester (6 per year) or 3 courses per quarter or trimester (9 per year); annual full-time equivalent is thus in the range of the MLA’s recommended full-time salary for entry-level instructors”.
Because of the extensive and critical responsibilities of the LPD, the AAUSC also strongly recommends that language departments involve other faculty members in language program coordination and TA supervision (through membership in the departmental curriculum committee, executive committee, or by other means). In addition to being integrated with a core of faculty from other departments with the same or similar responsibilities, the LPD requires informed and invested interlocutors from within the department and among the administration who can engage with their expertise to support departmental and institutional missions.
LPDs hold unique and specialized academic and administrative positions in language departments. Their contributions are vital not only to the successful operation of multi-sectioned language programs but also to the wellbeing and success of the department as a whole. It is incumbent upon institutions to support the LPD position with proper compensation and an appropriate workload, and to recognize the LPD’s critical voice in advancing the vision and goals of the department and the institution at large.
 In the U.S., the phrase “foreign language program” is often used to refer to curricula for the formal study of languages other than English (LOTE). However, the term is problematic because many of these languages are spoken in the U.S. and have a long history in this country (e.g., German, Spanish, Chinese); they are in no way “foreign”. In the remainder of this document, we will use the term “language program” for programs in which languages other than English are taught.
 The MLA’s recommendation for the minimum salary for an entry-level full-time instructor in English and languages other than English is calculated on the basis of averages of salaries reported annually for these fields by the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources (CUPA-HR) as well as on the CUPA-HR salary factor. MLA salary recommendations represent a national average and do not take into account regional differences in the cost of living. See: https://www.mla.org/Resources/Research/Surveys-Reports-and-Other-Documents/Staffing-Salaries-and-Other-Professional-Issues/MLA-Recommendation-on-Minimum-Per-Course-Compensation-for-Part-Time-Faculty-Members.