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   Report on the Task Force on Two-Tiered Academic Labor

   By Gretchen Reevy


A number of national organizations concern themselves with improving the working conditions, professional statuses, and professional opportunities of contingent/adjunct faculty in higher education. The mission of the New Faculty Majority (NFM), according to its website (, is to “improv(e) the quality of higher education by advancing professional equity and securing academic freedom for all adjunct and contingent faculty.”  Anyone interested in this mission may join the NFM. The NFM is devoted to creating equity (to tenure-line faculty) for adjuncts in seven areas: compensation, job security, academic freedom, faculty governance, professional advancement, benefits, and unemployment insurance. A current initiative of the NFM is the “Program for Change: 2010-2030,” which identifies a succession of specific goals related to these seven areas. The Program for Change may serve as a guide to contingent faculty activists as they pursue their work.

The Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW), which I discussed in a newsletter article in November of 2010, conducted a large-scale survey (over 20,000 participants) of the salaries, benefits, and general working conditions of all categories of instructional faculty who are working in higher education off the tenure track. According to the website (, results of the survey will be available this spring. The website additionally provides policy statements endorsed by various organizations, statistics on contingent faculty, and other information.

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP;, the organization best known for defending the academic freedom of faculty, has published several policies or reports on contingent faculty. For instance, “Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession” (2003) discusses the importance of all faculty work, including teaching, of keeping faculty work properly “bundled,” (i.e., teaching, research, and service together), and of acknowledging the contributions of all colleagues, including those who are employed off the tenure track. “Tenure and Teaching-Intensive Appointments” (2010) argues for tenure, after a “probationary” period, for higher education faculty whose appointments primarily involve teaching. The report discusses models for “stabilization” of contingent/adjunct faculty that already exist at various U.S. and Canadian universities. Both reports are available at

The National Education Association (NEA) posts resources for contingent faculty at The resources include reports, policy statements, and data on contingent faculty.

Contingent faculty issues have been receiving more press as of late. I believe this has occurred (at least partly) because of the effect that shrinking financial support for the public sector has had on students—students are paying higher tuition, are amassing exorbitant student loan debt, and may be turned away from universities as universities are limiting enrollments. The spotlight that has been shining on higher education has created an opportunity to illuminate one of higher education’s (dirty little) secrets—sub-standard treatment of the numeric majority of higher education faculty—contingent faculty.

My fellow task force member, Grace Deason, and I are excited about the new opportunities that exist for improving working conditions and professional statuses of contingent faculty. If you would like to discuss any issues regarding contingent faculty, please feel free to contact me.

- Gretchen Reevy

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