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Univ. of Maryland contingent faculty task force

March 5, 2013

Today the Chronicle of Higher Education has a story on a groundbreaking task force report on contingent faculty at the University of Maryland. The report “proposes sweeping changes intended to give non-tenure-track faculty members more pay, job security, respect, and clout.”

Among other things, the Chronicle reports,

The task force’s survey of faculty members found substantial levels of dissatisfaction over compensation, workload, access to funds for professional development, and criteria used by their superiors in weighing promotions and merit-pay increases. Many have little knowledge of their department’s policies that affect them or of opportunities to participate in the university’s shared governance.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for creating a new career track, with benchmarks for evaluation and promotion, for non-tenure-track faculty members who primarily teach. Noting that many such faculty members do additional work, such as advising students, for which they are not paid, it says administrators should compensate them for tasks beyond those specified in their contracts.

With regard to the university governance issues I wrote about in my last post, the task force recommendations include:

Increase the representation of NTT [non-tenure-track] faculty in the University Senate.

Ensure that departments and colleges have written policies for including NTT faculty in unit level self-governance for matters that involve them.

The task force report draws on a survey of contingent faculty (available here) that includes questions on contracts, pay, working conditions, responsibilities, contributions, social recognition, political inclusion, and many other areas. (It’s far more detailed than the survey of department chairs I’ve been working on for my College at Sacramento State, which I’ll write about soon.)

It’s about time that we conduct a similar survey of the people who do far more than many realize to keep the lights on at Sacramento State.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Bob Friedman permalink
    March 5, 2013 2:54 PM

    Even though I am now part of the lumpenproletariat called “contingent faculty,” I have serious misgivings regarding the increasing use that universities now make of such faculty. I have no problem regarding the group that Mark discusses who have a job at some other agency and who are brought in to teach a course for their special expertise.

    When I started teaching 45 years ago, there really were no contingent faculty at the universities where I taught. College departments were self-governing and had the ability to make significant decisions about their department. It may surprise the younger faculty at Sacramento State but the concept of “core classes” in the major was not something that we freely chose in the Government Department but was imposed by University administration. Previously, students could cobble together whatever courses they wished to fulfill their unit requirement for the major and graduate with a degree in Government. The fact that we now have core classes means that a number of specialized classes that coincided with the interest and research of faculty could no longer be taught since enrollment in these specialized classes was problematic.

    The movement toward contingent faculty is part of a largescale movement in the corporate world towards using temporary employees rather than full-time employees. Management flexibility is enhanced, production costs are minimized along with employee control over their working conditions. If these employees ever decide to go on strike, then there exist a large pool of potential strikebreakers who are fully prepared to step in and do the job.

    Over the years, the percentage of full-time tenured positions around the nation has declined while the percentage of part-time untenured positions with second-class status has increased. As a result, it has become difficult for PhD’s to find tenured positions. Where in the old days I might have encouraged my best students to go to graduate school and try to join our profession, these days my advice would be to seek employment elsewhere. Seeking a full-time tenured position is almost like playing the lottery though, at least, if you win the lottery, you get rich.

    While it is certainly true, as Mark points out in his blog, that temporary faculty provide much of the teaching at the University, I think that this is the problem. Rather than trying to enhance and institutionalize the status of temporary faculty, I would like to see our union push for full-time positions. Temporary faculty should be employed only in the very limited capacity, mostly for providing expertise with regard to subjects that might not otherwise be taught.

  2. Bob Friedman permalink
    March 5, 2013 3:07 PM

    I should have made clear in my previous post that I have no problem with part-time positions as long as they are on the same track and have the same status as full-time positions. Not everyone wants or needs full-time employment. Flexibility is great when it meets the needs of employees, not when it is used to create a 2nd class citizenship.

    • March 5, 2013 4:03 PM

      Thanks for the comments. I agree with most everything you say, except I don’t see a need to choose between pushing for more tenure-track positions and trying to enhance the status of contingent faculty. Contingent faculty make up about half the CSU faculty, and that number won’t be going down anytime soon, if ever. In fact, it’s more likely to go up.

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