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Resolution Review

AAA Resolution on Contingent and Part-time Academic Labor

Whereas the number of faculty members teaching in the US in non-tenure track, contingent positions—defined as part-time or adjunct faculty, full-time non-tenure track, postdoctoral teachers, or graduate student teaching assistants—has more than doubled since 1970;

And today these colleagues teach more than 75% of classes nationwide;
And part-time faculty—who teach on a per-course basis, who are also called adjunct faculty—make up 70% of this contingent workforce and make up fully half of all higher education faculty in the United States;

And they are paid shamefully little in comparison to tenured or tenure-track counterparts, and most receive no medical or retirement benefits;

And they have little opportunity for advancement, their employment is insecure, and they have relatively little say in university or college governance;

And because compensation is so low, and because they are often bound by caps on employment that are unconnected to qualifications or enrollments, part-time faculty sometimes hold several positions to support themselves, making their workloads extremely difficult;

And because conditions of low pay, few or no benefits, and a paucity of opportunities for professional growth not only hurt currently employed contingent faculty, but are also a disincentive for students who wish to continue careers in academia;

And because according to a 2010 survey by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW, of which the AAA is an organizational member) compensation rates for adjunct faculty nationwide average just $2,700 per three-credit course ($2,235 at two-year colleges, $3,400 at four-year or doctoral institutions);

And while median pay for anthropology courses is somewhat higher at $3,000, it nonetheless remains extremely low;

And there is minimal pay increase based on credentials or seniority, and minimal support for work or professional development outside the classroom;

And the presence of a union on campus has a positive impact on wages–the data show that institutions where part-time faculty respondents were not represented by a union paid a median of $2,475 per course, as compared with $3,100 at institutions with union representation;

And the data suggest a disparity in the type of institution of employment (two-year or four-year, doctoral universities) and in pay, indicating that part-time faculty who identified themselves as Black (not of Hispanic origin) and those who identified as Hispanic or Latino or multiracial earn less than other racial and ethnic groups;

And the number of respondents to the CAW survey in these racial and ethnic categories is small, and CAW considers that it is important to undertake further analysis and collect more data focusing on this issue;

And the CAW survey shows that part-time/adjunct faculty are not in their positions only temporarily, rather over 80% of part-time faculty respondents have taught for at least three years, over 55% six or more years, and over 30% for ten or more years;

And 73.3% consider teaching in higher education their primary employment;

And more than three-fourths reported they were currently teaching at least one course for the third time or more at the same institution and more than half were teaching at least one course for the sixth time or more;

And given these conditions and circumstances, faculty unions have considered good practices for contingent employment, and organizations, such as Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor and New Faculty Majority, have formed to promote the interests of contingent faculty;

And scholarly associations also have a role to play—the Modern Language Association (MLA), Organization of American Historians (OAH), American Historical Association (AHA), and the American Sociology Association (ASA) have all produced recommendations, standards, and guidelines for the employment of contingent faculty;

And while these groups support the creation of more tenure-track positions in academia, they are also mindful of the urgent need to improve the conditions for part-time/adjunct and contingent work;

And the AAA believes that academic institutions should show respect for those who work day in and day out to ensure that students succeed and to give the highest priority to investment in the members of higher education’s academic workforce, across all segments and statuses;

And the AAA is concerned for fair and equitable treatment and respect for all academic faculty members, regardless of status;

Therefore be it resolved that the AAA membership commit to the following principles:
1.Fair and equitable compensation, including medical and retirement benefits, for all members of the academic workforce.
2.Job security for all members of the academic workforce.
3.Participation in faculty governance for all members of the academic workforce.
4.Academic freedom, including freedom from retaliation in all teaching and research across the academic workforce.
5.Opportunities for professional advancement, including progressive salary steps, and professional development and institution-based grants, across the academic workforce.
6.Access to secretarial and technological support services and to the library, and other campus privileges, across the academic workforce.
7.The right of contingent faculty to self-organize to improve their working conditions and pay, and to address other workplace matters.
8.Future efforts to collect more data related to questions of racial disparities in part-time pay and employment.
9.Further consideration of ways the AAA can be an effective advocate for contingent faculty.

7 Responses

  1. I am in favor of this resolution.

  2. This is a good resolution and I would vote in favor of it.

  3. The preamble is well-written but the principles are incredibly vague. What is the definition of “job security?” Who counts as the “academic workforce?” How do we define “academic freedom?” These concepts are too critical to be left un-defined. Leaving them undefined takes the force and importance out of this resolution.

    • I agree that the concept of the “academic workforce” needs to be clarified. Perhaps one could say, someone who has a higher degree and teaches at a college or university, whether part or full time. If the normal teaching load of a tenured or untenured professor is six courses per year, and the substitute teaches three courses in a year, the sub should receive half of what a full time tenured professor receives.
      “Job security” means all academic employees should be told clearly what they can be dismissed for, and what they must achieve to rise in rank. The criteria must be clear and transparent, and must apply equally to all teaching and/or research workers, regardless of rank or seniority. Compulsory student evaluations must be abolished. The tenure system must be abolished. Individual students may be allowed to submit evaluations, first to the teacher for in-person discussion, and next if necessary to a mediator. Constructive dismissal must be disallowed by policy and by law. All employees should know what constructive dismissal is, and all should have generous unemployment insurance.
      All employees should be provided with medical insurance and paid time off if they work full time. All employees should be provided with the same travel allowances for conference attendance and presentation, and for distant research.

  4. […] Resolution Review […]

  5. The problem of Adjunct and part-time employment in today’s academic world, in the United States, represents a sea change in the cultural and social commitment by the public and society to higher education. I founded a group on LinkedIn in 2009 entitled The Adjunct Network (https://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=1906855 } as a professional forum in which individuals in the United States who are or have held adjunct teaching positions could gather and share their experiences and questions about the life and career of adjunct teaching at the post-secondary level.. We are about to celebrate our 6th year and today number 9,226 members and three sub-groups.

    I am happy to see that the AAA has proposed a resolution on part-time and adjunct employment. However, as I’ve seen in our group, there are a number of issues which are far broader than anthropology here and certain actions which would be required by the institutions that control the access, certification, employment, and governance of post-secondary educations and the careers of the students who are the products of these institutions.

    A major element in all of this is the oversupply of cheap unregulated labor who are available to the institutions who hire as teachers. There is a real irony here in that the student who is trained to become an academic is asked to go into debt to earn a degree (MA, PhD) level and in return MAY be lucky enough to get an short term contract that will pay less than the debt interest they have incurred.

    I suggest that adjunct anthropologists join the Adjunct Network and see what their adjunct colleagues have been dealing with as well as tips on how to solve problems encountered in the classroom, online, and with their full time counterparts.

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