Contingent Faculty

Organizing for Advocacy

Santa Fe College is a diverse and in many ways atypical campus. The comprehensive course offerings are tailored to students’ needs in a way that surpasses what occurs at some research universities, especially in the fine arts, the trades, and technology.

Making a Tangible Difference in Campus Culture in One Year

Marylhurst University’s AAUP advocacy chapter is not even one year old, yet it has already made a tangible difference in campus culture. Most important, faculty have reversed five years of systematic disenfranchisement, which extended to such traditional areas of faculty purview as policies that affect students and curricula, with faculty often hearing about changes only after they had been enacted. The improvement is still fragile, and much remains to be done.

Turning Back the Tide on Contingency

Non-tenure-track. Adjuncts. Contingent. Part-time. Call them what you will, the faculty in these ranks share the same struggles across the country. No job security. Low pay. Few if any benefits. Limited voice. Tenuous futures. Increasing workloads. 

The Professoriate Reconsidered

What will the work of the faculty look like in 2050? We suspect it may be quite different from both of the models that currently predominate: research-oriented faculty members with tenure or on the tenure track, on the one hand, and, on the other, non-tenure-track, mostly part-time faculty members, who typically carry out little research. Neither of these models, in our view, is adequate to today’s enterprise—one that is increasingly focused on teaching first-generation and low-income students, often online.

From One Bargaining Unit to One Faculty

In fall 2009, representatives of the AAUP, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, and the American Federation of Teachers contacted a few faculty members at the University of Illinois at Chicago to set up a meeting about the possibility of organizing a faculty union. Ten or fifteen professors attended, most of them senior, all of them tenured. One of the first questions they asked was who would actually be in the union—was it for tenure-track and tenured faculty only or would it also include non-tenure-track faculty? The answer was that Illinois law made no distinction between the groups.

Academic Freedom from Below: Toward an Adjunct-Centered Struggle

This essay affirms that today the adjunct reality is the new norm, and that reframing conceptions of academic freedom to reflect this reality is key to any strategy to defend and expand this freedom. What we hope to offer here, however, goes beyond a litany of the fears and restrictions under which adjuncts labor, or an enumeration of the ways increasing reliance on adjuncts undermines the freedoms of the entire academy, for our contrapuntal analysis considers the various important strengths that adjuncts bring to the fight for academic freedom. In a world where contingent faculty now comprise the majority of college and university teachers, effectively defending academic freedom requires that we locate and amplify the strengths specific to this large group.

The Eroding Foundations of Academic Freedom and Professional Integrity: Implications of the Diminishing Proportion of Tenured Faculty for Organizational Effectiveness in Higher Education

The tenure system is the predominant faculty personnel system in the vast majority of universities and colleges, but a declining proportion of faculty actually hold tenure-track appointments. The full significance of this decline is often underestimated because an appreciation of the tenure system requires an understanding not only of its contribution to academic freedom, but also of how tenure contributes to effective academic organizations.

Paranoia and Professionalization: The Importance of Graduate Student Academic Freedom

As one faculty member in my department often reminds me, graduate students are in an inherently paranoid position. The balancing act of teaching and coursework, the inscrutable whims of a dissertation director, and the heartless machinations of “the University” can all portend our demise. We imagine ourselves tenuously holding on, one unfinished chapter or poorly taught class from being unceremoniously dumped into the overeducated, underqualified mass of jobless failed scholars (perhaps an even worse fate than that of those unemployed academics who have finished their PhDs). In short, the pressures of graduate school turn us into the self-conscious subjects for whom there need be no watchful eye manning the panopticon: Chimerical scrutiny leads many graduate students to unwarranted stress.

Academic Freedom and the Digital Revolution

In spring 2009, the University of Michigan Press sent out a letter by e-mail to its authors announcing the end of business as usual at the press. Having entered into an agreement with the university library at Michigan, UM Press, the letter stated, had initiated “a transformative scholarly publishing model” in which all publications are to be made available primarily in digital format, with print-on-demand versions of texts available to bookstores, institutions, and individuals (Pochoda, letter). Long-term plans outlined by editor Philip Pochoda call for books to be “digitized and available to libraries and customers world-wide through an affordable sitelicense program,” as most academic journals currently are. The announcement stressed the revolutionary potential inherent in the shift online by suggesting that digital publications will be “candidates for a wide range of audio and visual digital enhancements—including hot links, graphics, interactive tables, sound files, 3D animation, and video.” This is not, in other words, simply a change in models of distribution, but also potentially a radical metamorphosis in modes of scholarship in the humanities.

Can the Adjunct Speak?

In an article my colleague Jan Clausen and I wrote in 2013 for the AAUP’s Journal of Academic Freedom, we outlined a series of academic “unfreedoms” that cascade from the core reality of academia today: that faculties almost everywhere are largely composed of workers serving on contingent and thus precarious appointments. We pointed out the potential for direct censorship of adjunct faculty speech in the classroom through faculty hiring and firing decisions made by individual department chairs.


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