The Society for the
Study of Social Issues


Report on the Task Force on Two-Tiered Academic Labor

Gretchen Reevy
Task Force Chair

A new and very exciting development in the contingent faculty world is a large-scale survey of contingent faculty conducted by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW). The CAW is a coalition of disciplinary organizations, faculty organizations, and higher education organizations concerned with the decline of faculty working conditions and how this decline affects our students. The survey inquires about salaries, benefits, and general working conditions of all instructional faculty who are working in higher education off the tenure track. These faculty include lecturers, adjuncts, post docs, graduate students, and others. These faculty may have either part-time or full-time appointments, but all appointments are contingent. The majority of faculty appointments in higher education in the United States are now non-tenure-track.

As of early November, the CAW had received more than 20,000 responses. The survey was initiated in early fall 2010 and closed in late November 2010. Our task force hopes to be able to report on some of the results in the next newsletter. The CAW’s website, at, is worthy of a look. The CAW is a good resource for individuals who are interested in the contingent faculty situation. The website provides policy statements endorsed by various organizations, statistics on contingent faculty, and other information. As I mentioned in a previous newsletter, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and the National Education Association (NEA) are also excellent resources.

Our task force (Grace Deason, Angel Colon-Rivera, and myself), is engaged in work of our own. Each of us is working on research or writing projects about contingent. Grace and I will soon begin an on-line survey study on stress and coping among contingent faculty. Please be on the lookout----We will need research participants. Angel is writing a document that we hope to report on in our next newsletter as well.

Both Grace and Angel attended the SPSSI conference in June in New Orleans. Gretchen met a number of SPSSI members at APA in August in San Diego, and networked with other contingent faculty at the AAUP Summer Institute in San Diego in July.

As I mentioned in a prior newsletter, our task force remains concerned about the wide range of mistreatment that contingent faculty face. Besides the facts that contingent faculty typically receive very low pay, may not have health insurance, and may not even experience basic support for their work from their institution (e.g., no office, no access to a computer at work), they also, for an entire career, may be represented by their institution to the public in a dishonest way (for instance, labeled as “part time” when the hours they work are actually full time, or labeled as “lecturer,” which suggests teaching only, when they are publishing and presenting at conferences at the same rate as their tenure-line peers). As academics, we should be concerned with the quality of life that our colleagues are allowed through the pay and benefits they receive, and with the ethical implications of failing to appropriately credit our colleagues for the academic work that they produce.

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

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