Sunday, February 9, 2014

Who is Professor “Staff,” and how can this person teach so many classes? by Steve Street, Maria Maisto, Esther Merves and Gary Rhoades

Center for the Future of Higher Education August 2012

Executive Summary

“Most of the faculty on American college and university campuses are contingent employees, working in conditions very different from the image of academic professional life that informs contemporary discussions of higher education policy. This report describes the findings of a recent survey of contingent faculty in the United States, focusing on the working conditions imposed upon contingent faculty and the ways those conditions impact students and the quality of the education they receive.

“Two particular aspects of the working conditions of contingent faculty emerged as particularly significant: ‘just-in-time’ hiring practices and limited access to pedagogical resources.

“Many faculty who are contingent employees (listed in class schedules simply as Professor ‘Staff’) receive their course assignments only two or three weeks before the start of the academic term. Hired ‘just-in-time’ for the start of classes, these professors have little time to do the preparatory work necessary to teaching a high quality college-level course. As a result, they suffer the ‘double contingency’ of either using their own unpaid time to prepare for classes they may not be assigned or accepting the reality of teaching a course for which they have been unable to adequately prepare.

“In addition, most contingent faculty are not given full and effective access to the resources and technologies that define quality education in today’s colleges and universities. They are given, at best, inadequate access to sample course syllabi, curriculum guidelines, library resources, clerical support, and the like. They often have only limited, if any, access to personal offices, telephones, computers and associated software, and technological tools and training.

“Perhaps the most important result of these damaging working conditions is that the educational experience of students suffers, both inside and outside of the classroom. It is only the extraordinary effort, personal resources, and professional dedication of contingent faculty that allows them to overcome the obstacles to quality education that derive directly from their employment status.

“Existing explanations for the working conditions of contingent faculty do not suffice. Managerial flexibility and budgetary savings cannot justify administrative practices toward contingent faculty. Indeed, current practices amount to administrative inattention; correcting these practices would not reduce managerial flexibility or increase institutional costs in any significant way.

“The report concludes by recommending increased transparency regarding the working conditions of contingent faculty in American higher education. It recommends that institutions of higher education commit themselves to collecting the data necessary to a serious study of the situation of contingent faculty and its impact on student learning. The survey instrument used herein is one possible way for faculty groups and for institutions of higher education to begin their own processes of data collection and analysis.

“The new understanding produced by this process of description and analysis should then be used by college and university administrators to reform their employment practices. There can be no doubt that improving the working conditions of contingent faculty will also improve the education experiences of many, many college and university students.

“The reality of most college professors’ working lives diverges sharply from the dominant view articulated by policymakers and accepted by the general public. The new faculty majority, comprising over two-thirds of the faculty workforce nationally, are contingent employees (AAUP, 2010; AFT, 2009; Schuster and Finkelstein, 2006). Contingent faculty can be hired at a moment’s notice, with no review process, and their appointments can be ‘non-renewed’ with little or no justification, regardless of their performance.

“Nearly half of all contingent faculty work part-time jobs, many working in multiple such positions at a time. Large numbers are invisible, even to students, generically designated in class schedules as Professor ‘Staff.’ The deficiency and invisibility of contingent faculty members’ working conditions compromise students’ learning conditions, undermining students’ ability to engage with these professors out of class and over time in important ways that contribute to student success (Bettinger and Long, 2010; Community College Survey of Student Engagement, 2009; Eagan and Jaeger, 2008; Ehrenberg and Zhang, 2004; Jacoby, 2006; Jaeger and Eagan, 2009, 2010; Umbach, 2007, 2008; Umbach and Wawrzynski, 2005, Public Agenda and WestEd, 2012).

“The cumulative effect of these conditions devalues the work of students and faculty, and detracts from the promise of higher education. In this report, we share findings from our research about the realities of the contingent faculty experience. These results are based on data from an exploratory survey of 500 faculty members with contingent appointments, conducted by the New Faculty Majority Foundation in September 2011. The survey focused on ‘back-to-school’ hiring procedures and working conditions because these are key aspects of the contingent faculty experience that can profoundly affect a faculty member’s teaching and a student’s learning…”

For the Full Report, Click Here.

1 comment:

  1. Higher ed today is not the profession I entered in 1968. I stopped recommending the professoriate as a goal for my own doctoral students more than a decade ago. The handwriting was on the wall and very clear.