The Society for the
Study of Social Issues


   Report on the Task Force on
   Two-Tiered Academic Labor

     By Gretchen Reevy, Task Force Chair

In my newsletter article from November 2011, I wrote about a large-scale survey of contingent faculty conducted by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW), a coalition of higher education organizations, faculty organizations, and disciplinary organizations devoted to reporting on the effects that the decline of faculty working conditions has on students, faculty, and society in general. The survey, involving close to 30,000 participants, began in fall of 2010. I am pleased to report that the CAW has analyzed much of the data and issued a report in June 2012.

About 75% of individuals teaching in higher education are “contingent,” which means (in short) that they are employed off the tenure track. Contingent instructors are full-time or part-time adjunct or non-tenure track faculty or graduate students employed as teaching assistants. “Higher education” includes degree-granting two-year and four-year institutions, and institutions that grant graduate degrees. The CAW report focuses primarily on contingent part-time faculty teaching in the United States. Part-time contingent faculty are 70% of people in contingent positions in higher education and are almost half of all faculty teaching in higher education.

The key findings included in the CAW report, for part-time faculty, are as follows:

•  The median pay per 3 unit course was $2700 in fall 2010.

•  Part-time faculty believed that there was little relationship between their credentials and their pay. Their pay was lower than the pay of others with similar credentials in other lines of work. There was little opportunity for increased pay over time.

•  Part-time faculty received very little support for work outside of the classroom and were generally not involved in academic decision-making in their institutions.

•  For many, their part-time position was not temporary, and many would prefer a full-time position. More than 80% reported teaching part time for more than three years and more than 50% reported teaching part-time for more than six years. More than 75% said that they had sought, are seeking, or intend to seek a full-time, tenure-track position and nearly 75% said they would definitely or probably accept a full-time, tenure track position at the institution where they currently teach.

As the report states, these data shed some light on the working conditions and experiences of this group of (often invisible) faculty. The CAW emphasizes that these data are only a beginning. They encourage interested researchers to continue to study the working conditions of contingent faculty. Some of the survey data remain unanalyzed and the CAW may make the dataset available to qualified researchers. If interested, you may email the CAW.

Fellow task force member Grace Deason and I have conducted a study on stress and coping among contingent faculty. We are beginning to analyze the data and hope to report some of the results in the next newsletter article.

Please contact me if you would like to discuss any issue regarding contingent faculty.

—Gretchen Reevy

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Research that produces nothing but books will not suffice.
                                                                                                                    - Kurt Lewin