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Task Force on Two-Tiered Academic Labor Activities Update
By Gretchen Reevy, California State University East Bay

Our Task Force on Two-Tiered Academic Labor began discussions by way of conference call in April of this year. We (Grace Deason, LaNsyha Adams, I, and other task members) quickly identified a number of important issues that concern contingent/adjunct faculty. Some issues relate to formal working conditions and others have to do with subtle and not-so-subtle differential treatment by administrators and even tenure-line peers. Matters of concern range from lack of access to work supplies and necessary work equipment (e.g., no office, no computer in office, and no office supplies) to very low pay and lack of benefits, to lack of opportunities for professional development and discrimination in tenure-track hiring.

We agreed that all of the concerns mentioned above, and many others, are legitimate. However, within about two conference calls we narrowed our focus to discussions of professional ethics----ways contingent faculty are treated in the workplace, including lack of recognition and lack of opportunity. We chose for the time being to de-emphasize basic labor issues such as low pay and access to health insurance. A number of groups nationally devote most of their energy to them. However, at least in Psychology, we hear little about the importance of treating contingent faculty colleagues in a collegial fashion, about treating contingent faculty as individuals rather than stereotyping them as part of a group (the group who never found a real job?) or that contingents may, or should, have rights of their own, as faculty.

In colleges and universities, contingents are now the faculty majority. At least in psychology many or most have PhDs. In psychology, many with or without PhDs. teach full loads, sometimes in a single department, “place holding” for a tenure line position for ten years or more. These faculty may be dismissed from their positions with no warning and/or may be presented to the public in a fashion that is dishonest, for instance, with the label “part time.” These circumstances----tenuous appointments and work that is never acknowledged either publicly or by peers----alienate these faculty members from their work; they are unable to “own” their work.
A number of resources exist nationally for those who are concerned about contingent issues. The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has long recognized that mistreatment of contingent faculty is a threat to the integrity of academia. They published a policy, “Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession” (available online at the AAUP website), which 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 colleagues’ contributions. The National Education Association also posts resources for contingent faculty at

Our task force has been discussing specific actions to take that may help contingent faculty. SPSSI’s online member forum is now up and running, with a forum devoted specifically to two-tiered academic labor. Also, if you are interested, you may contact me at


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