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Equality for Contingent Faculty: Overcoming the Two-Tier System

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Vice President Joseph Biden has blamed tuition increases on the high salaries of college professors, seemingly unaware of the fact that there are now over one million faculty who earn poverty-level wages teaching off the tenure track. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story entitled From Graduate School to Welfare: The PhD Now Comes with Food Stamps. Today three-four Vice President Joseph Biden has blamed tuition increases on the high salaries of college professors, seemingly unaware of the fact that there are now over one million faculty who earn poverty-level wages teaching off the tenure track. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story entitled From Graduate School to Welfare: The PhD Now Comes with Food Stamps. Today three-fourths of all faculty are characterized as contingent instructional staff, a nearly tenfold increase from 1975. Equality for Contingent Faculty brings together eleven activists from the United States and Canada to describe the problem, share case histories, and offer concrete solutions. The book begins with three accounts of successful organizing efforts within the two-track system. The second part describes how the two-track system divides the faculty into haves and have-nots and leaves the majority without the benefit of academic freedom or the support of their institutions. The third part offers roadmaps for overcoming the deficiencies of the two-track system and providing equality for all professors, regardless of status or rank.


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Vice President Joseph Biden has blamed tuition increases on the high salaries of college professors, seemingly unaware of the fact that there are now over one million faculty who earn poverty-level wages teaching off the tenure track. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story entitled From Graduate School to Welfare: The PhD Now Comes with Food Stamps. Today three-four Vice President Joseph Biden has blamed tuition increases on the high salaries of college professors, seemingly unaware of the fact that there are now over one million faculty who earn poverty-level wages teaching off the tenure track. The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a story entitled From Graduate School to Welfare: The PhD Now Comes with Food Stamps. Today three-fourths of all faculty are characterized as contingent instructional staff, a nearly tenfold increase from 1975. Equality for Contingent Faculty brings together eleven activists from the United States and Canada to describe the problem, share case histories, and offer concrete solutions. The book begins with three accounts of successful organizing efforts within the two-track system. The second part describes how the two-track system divides the faculty into haves and have-nots and leaves the majority without the benefit of academic freedom or the support of their institutions. The third part offers roadmaps for overcoming the deficiencies of the two-track system and providing equality for all professors, regardless of status or rank.

15 review for Equality for Contingent Faculty: Overcoming the Two-Tier System

  1. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Friscia

    A decent review of the state of affairs for contingent faculty (i.e., adjuncts, lecturers, part-timers, etc.), although there aren't many solutions offered for this dual-class system which has sprung up in academia (75% of faculty are now contingent - a fact which is repeated in nearly every chapter of this book). The few solutions that are offered are from community colleges, where the problem seems more tractable since they rely most heavily on contingency. Not much in there for large research A decent review of the state of affairs for contingent faculty (i.e., adjuncts, lecturers, part-timers, etc.), although there aren't many solutions offered for this dual-class system which has sprung up in academia (75% of faculty are now contingent - a fact which is repeated in nearly every chapter of this book). The few solutions that are offered are from community colleges, where the problem seems more tractable since they rely most heavily on contingency. Not much in there for large research universities (like mine) where this is a growing issue (of which I am part of...)

  2. 4 out of 5

    Marks54

    This is a book about one of the major problems currently facing post-secondary education - the rise of contingent faculty -- which specifically refers to faculty not on the traditional tenure line but also includes distinctions like part-time vs full time, adjuncts versus clinicals versus other instructors, doctoral students and ABD (all but dissertation), and others. At its base, most classes in academia today are taught by individuals with little job security, poor working conditions, and very This is a book about one of the major problems currently facing post-secondary education - the rise of contingent faculty -- which specifically refers to faculty not on the traditional tenure line but also includes distinctions like part-time vs full time, adjuncts versus clinicals versus other instructors, doctoral students and ABD (all but dissertation), and others. At its base, most classes in academia today are taught by individuals with little job security, poor working conditions, and very low pay -- akin to working a Wal-Mart, some other big box retailer, or at a fast food restaurant. The book involves several chapters, which appear to have been invited, which are authored by individuals who are involved in the movement to improve the lot of contingent faculty. The book is helpful and raises clear issues, fleshes out the details of how this problem actually works in academic, and provides clear perspectives about what is troubling about the current state of affairs. This is a big problem that affects hundreds of thousands of faculty, even more students, and is not highly visible to many who have been through college and grad school and have moved on to careers elsewhere. It will even seem strange to many readers, due to the sheer complexity and bureaucracy that characterizes most academic settings as a matteer of course - even when things are working well. Having said this on the positive side, there were also issues that I had with the chapters. To start with, many of the chapters went to some lengths to flesh out the problem (or some of its dimensions) and show how difficult things were for contingent faculty. This was done with a tone that was frequently dissmissive of those in administration or of tenure line faculty. Things are seldom so black and white. Not all administrators are manipulative, not all tenured faculty are exploitative, not all working arrangements for non tenure track faculty are poor and exploitative. Besides that, mapping out the problem and show that it is intolerable does not provide a ready prescription for what to do to fix things. Work relations in universities are complex and institutional structures are difficult to change at all, much less quickly. More thought on the issue of how to change would be helpful. To the credit of the editor, some of the later chapters do this, but it seldom rises above the level of "this is what I did at my home institution X". The general POV of the chapters could also stand some work. I suspect that relatively few contingent faculty are fired as a breach of academic freedom. While that can be an issue, I doubt it is driving this dynamic. Similarly, the assumption throughout is that tenure line faculty and non tenure line faculty are actually does the same types of jobs and tasks. While there are areas where that is an issue, powerful arguments could be made that these positions and their differences in pay and condditions involve a comparison of apples and oranges and that the reality here may be a bit more involved that the book lets on. Most importantly for me, the different classes of faculty are inherently liinked in the way research universities work these days (I cannot speak as much to the state of junior colleges or proprietary institutions). For example, if a college decides to hire a very high quality tenure track faculty member, it will have to pay for him/here. That implies that unless there are no hard budget lines involved, schools and departments will need to craft ways of mixing different classes of faculty. This involves addressing issues of pay, fairness, protections, etc., but not in an inherently conflictual way. That type of administration will be necesssary if the situation is to ever improve. Another problem of perspective in the book is that not all educational institutions are the same. A Carnegie Research I universisty is different from a small prestigious liberal arts college, which is different from a junior college, which is different from a proprietary school. The terms faculty, research, and tenure, along with considerations of pay and working conditions, will differ sharply across those categories. A book treating all of them together as this one does will havee some problems avoiding questions of conceptual muddle. Overall, this was worth reading but the limitations are also quite real.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Chris Nagel

    If you want to know what contingent (non-tenure-track) faculty work is like, and what challenges there are for us, read this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Tonya

  5. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  6. 4 out of 5

    Shaunew

  7. 4 out of 5

    Siobhan

  8. 5 out of 5

    Allison

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jessica

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

  11. 4 out of 5

    Claudia

  12. 5 out of 5

    yo

  13. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Wilson

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard Kearney

  15. 5 out of 5

    Peggy

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