the new norm

In 2007, the AAUP finished a study on adjuncts and contingent faculty.  In it, they determined that some 70% of all faculty in US institutions were not only not tenured, but were not even on the tenure track!  If 70% of all faculty are in this position, tenure is no longer the norm, but the exception.

And then the thought hit me…wait, if we’re 70% of the faculty, why is it that we are treated as second-class citizens?  With few exceptions, we have no job security, no benefits, and, sadly, most of us have little respect from our places of employment (I am lucky to have an exceptionally fabulous dean who really does endeavour to make her adjuncts feel like a part of the school.  Probably because there are so many of us).  If we are the majority, then why do we allow this?

In classrooms, we deplore the third world conditions of sweatshops, explain the dangers of outsourcing, and talk a fine game of social justice and equitable pay for all.  Yet we allow ourselves to be taken advantage of in ways that would strike us as beyond the pale if they were happening to someone else.  Two recent developments have jumped into the debate.  The AAUP’s new statement on tenure suggests that the over reliance on contingent faculty can damage campus engagement, and offers up several alternatives for the conversion of contingent faculty to something approaching tenure.  They cite such schools as Vancouver, Western Michigan, and the Cal States, and discuss the advantages and pitfalls of these various schemes.

While their solution — that contingent faculty be moved to tenure — is a laudable one, as the blogger Dean Dad notes, salaries are a huge chunk of campus budgets.  He’s right…it’s a bit of a conundrum.  While the goal of tenuring everyone is a lovely thought, there’s just not enough money to do it.  But in my last post, I talked about how Wisconsin is paying their tenure faculty overload pay to reach their goal of 75% full-time faculty teaching.  How is that any more economical than giving adjuncts tenure?

Well, gosh, the people behind New Faculty Majority have thought about that, and about a lot of other things surrounding the issue of how to get adjuncts off what they call the “perpetual probationary period” and into stable positions.  Their ‘Program for Change‘ is up on their website, just waiting for your comments and suggestions.  So how about it?  If we are going to own our own power, we need to do something beyond just bitching.  We are the majority of faculty…let’s start acting like it!

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Published in: on August 16, 2010 at 8:25 am  Comments (4)  

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4 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Part of the problem and one that is not really talked about and therefore not addressed is a problem of culture. Like most problems of class and power the answer to the question of why the larger group continues to stay in a subordinate postition can be answered (in true marxist fasion)in this way- because they think they belong there. Most academics are trained for a particular academic lifestyle. That of research where teaching is secondary and the career is publish or perish. Throughout graduate shcool most of us a given the impression (or directly told) that there is no other option. Anything else is considered a failure.
    So the reason that adjuncts don’t stand up for themselves is that in some way they feel they have failed and therefore deserve the lack of job security or lesser pay that they get. I don’t think this is alway concious but I do think it is prevelant.
    Perhaps at one point of time this was a valid system- that there were enough jobs for qualified researchers and enough publication opportunities to make tenure possible for talented academics. (I am not sure I believe this world ever really existed but it was the world we were told existed when we entered graduate school. Work hard, do good research and there will be a place fore you in academia)
    The problem with this model in the current academic climate is twofold first there are not enough tenure track positions for all of the qualified academics. In and age of budet cuts and funding issues. Graduate schools are taking in more students in order to cover their costs but not generating more reseach and academic positions. The last few conversations I had with recruiters resulted in numbers estimating something like a tenfold increase in qualified applicants for every position over the last decade.
    problem two- the academic life is not all it is cracked up to be. some very reasonanable very talented academics that could do well in research jobs chose to leave (or not get on ) the tenure track. There are many reasons for this- prefering to teach rather than research (believe it or not students actually matter to many academics), or prefering a more balanced work-family life. But the reason is rarely lack of qualifications. For many it is a choice to not go the tenure track route. However this results in sub-par pay and less job stability.
    This is particularly the case for women, who find it harder to balance the tenure track and family. I don’t have number on the percentace of adjuncts that are women but I would take a guess that most adjunct positons are filled by females rather than males.
    To overcome the problems of adjunct teaching we have many hurdles but the problem of culture has to be addressed befoe we can band together to solve the problems

  2. I think your point is a good one. There is a culture, promoted by old school academics and the administrations in most schools, of having failed if we don’t snag those TT jobs. And indeed, I would rather teach than do research any day. The reason I went to get a PhD was to teach, not to spend my time writing books and going to conferences…not that they aren’t fun/interesting, but teaching is what I love to do.

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