The Minnesota ACADEME Spring, 2002

The Minnesota A C A D E M E

Spring, 2002

The Minnesota Conference of the AAUP


In this issue:

Minnesota-AAUP Sloan Award Winners P. 1

Call for Nominations for the 2002 Robert E. Sloan Award P. 2

The Use and Abuse of Contingent Faculty, by Jane Buck P. 2

Directory of Current State Executive Committee Members P. 6



Minnesota-AAUP Sloan Award Winners

By Roxane Gudeman

The Minnesota Conference selected Macalester Professors Jack Rossmann and Wayne Wolsey to be joint recipients of the 2001 Robert E. Sloan Award, which is given to Minnesota AAUP members who have made significant personal contributions in support of academic freedom and shared governance. The two were honored at the 2001 annual meeting held in December at the University of Minnesota campus.

Jack Rossmann, a Professor of Psychology, has served as president of the Macalester AAUP chapter and as the state conference vice-president and president. Jack spoke on shared governance during the regional conference convened during the University of Minnesotaís tenure crisis and moderated a panel on issues of academic freedom. Jackís experience as an administrator as well as a faculty member enhanced his effectiveness when he and Craig Swan (University of Minnesota) consulted with St. Olaf faculty about curricular decisions being made by the St. Olaf administration without sufficient consultation with faculty. Jackís humane, concerned, and temperate leadership has often benefited faculty as he helps create the conditions for an effective resolution of controversies.

Wayne Wolsey, a Professor of Chemistry, served as an officer of the Macalester chapter of the AAUP for 15 years, 13 of them as president. He also served a term on the state conference executive committee. Wayne has been a quiet, forceful voice in support of faculty, serving as a respected advocate in a wide variety of contexts. Wayne courageously called for faculty review of administrators when it really counted. He also has devoted much time to insuring that all faculty, whether part-time, tenure track, or tenured, had a fair and just hearing whenever they had concerns about significant decisions that affected them or when they had had charges lodged against them.

Call for Nominations for the 2002 Robert E. Sloan Award

The Robert E. Sloan award for Outstanding Contributions to Academic Freedom is given annually to one or more current or former AAUP members who have made a significant personal contribution in support of academic freedom and shared governance. The contributions may have been made either recently or over a longer term. The award is named in recognition of Bob Sloanís sustained commitment to the goals of the AAUP and his important contributions in support of academic freedom and shared governance. The award is presented at the state conference annual meeting held in the late fall.

Please help us identify worthy recipients for this award! Send nominations to Dr. Anne Pick, c/o Institute of Child Development, University of Minnesota, 51 East River Rd., Minneapolis MN 55455 or via e-mail to All nominations should include your name, your institutional address and e-mail. Please provide a brief description of the contributions that you believe make your nominee an appropriate candidate for this award. ALL NOMINATIONS MUST BE RECEIVED BY JULY 1, 2002.

The Use and Abuse of Contingent Faculty

By Jane Buck, National President of the AAUP

The following address was given to the December 8th, 2001 Annual Meeting of the Minnesota State Conference of the AAUP. The meeting was held at the University of Minnesota. Minnesota Academe thanks Dr. Buck for permission to reprint her talk.

I am delighted to be here. Thank you for inviting me and for asking me to speak about a problem that is gaining increasing attention by the general public as well as the profession: the overuse and abuse of contingent academic labor.

Students have been led to believe that their status as "customers: and cash cows is to their advantage. In truth, they are victims of an egregious and unconscionable fraud. A large component of that fraud is the excessive employment of contingent academic labor, a term I prefer to "adjunct" or "part-time," because the real issue, in my view, is the provisional nature of the contracts under which so many of our non-tenurable colleagues are employed. In this respect they resemble our full-time non-tenurable colleagues, although other aspects of their working conditions are markedly inferior.

Data provided by the Department of Education indicates that 33% of the faculty was part-time in 1987. The figure rose to 43% in 1998. In framing discussions of this issue, however, two numbers are more important and more telling than the percentage of faculty employed part-time. The first is the percentage of courses taught by contingent faculty, because it is a more revealing measure of the phenomena. Not all part-timers teach the same number of courses. According to data recently released by the Modern Language Association, full-time tenured or tenure-track professors teach only 28% of the foreign language courses at doctoral institutions and 26% at institutions granting associate degrees. In other words, just over a quarter of all foreign language students at these institutions are taught by full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty.

The second important figure is the percentage of faculty on the tenure track. The real issue from the standpoint of both the individual faculty member and the profession is not oneís part-time or full-time status, but whether one is on the tenure track. Part-time faculty are almost never tenured or tenurable. Their numbers are a measure of the continuing, though sometimes covert, attacks on tenure. Department of Education figures indicate that in 1987 only 8% of the full-time faculty was working off the tenure track. Just over a decade later, that percentage was a disgraceful 18%.

Exploitation of contingent faculty is commonplace, and we must continue to be cognizant of the problem and to do what we can to ameliorate the plight of our colleagues. But many contingent activists are now urging that we concentrate on the harm that is done to the academic enterprise as a whole rather than on their situation. As one contingent faculty-organizing slogan puts it, "The professorís working conditions are the studentsí learning conditions." The integrity of the academy is at stake, and we must mount a credible campaign to eliminate the conditions that lead to the fraudulent claims by many of our institutions to academic excellence.

Iíll first outline some of the most troublesome aspects of the overuse of contingent faculty, then offer a number of suggestions for attacking the problem.

In is not uncommon for contingent faculty to teach as many as six courses per semester at several institutions in order to survive financially. They typically do not keep office hours, because they are not paid to do so, and seldom have offices assigned to them. Students who have reasonable access to contingent faculty outside the classroom are exceptionally fortunate. I emphasize that this is not a reflection on the dedication of the faculty but on the character of the institutions that exploit them.

A corollary problem of their inaccessibility and their employment at multiple institutions is the inability of contingent faculty to provide competent academic advisement. It is a difficult, if not impossible, task for a contingent faculty member to be well informed of an institutionís curricular requirements.

Contingent faculty are seldom invited to departmental meetings and are often unfamiliar with broad departmental objectives or the content of courses taught by others. In large universities that rely heavily on contingent faculty to teach large survey courses, there is often little, if any, discussion between regular faculty and their contingent colleagues concerning the articulation of various components of departmental offerings. Typically excluded from governance structures at every level, and economically exploited, contingent faculty have neither the opportunity nor the incentive to contribute their expertise to curriculum development.

It is common practice to hire contingent faculty at the last possible moment based on the latest enrollment figures or a personnel emergency, a practice that can lead to the assignment of faculty, who are otherwise well qualified, to courses for which they are only marginally prepared. A few years ago, a colleague was severely injured in an automobile accident during the first week of the semester. The faculty member assigned to one of his courses had never taught the course before and had never taken the course at even the undergraduate level. It is not an exaggeration to say that her students cheated. In this case, the department had little choice, but when such assignments become standard practice, one must question the institutionís integrity.

Contingent faculty tend not only to teach multiple courses, but also to teach large sections of lower level courses in disciplines that would ordinarily require frequent writing assignments and essay examinations. The mountains of paper that would be generated make it virtually certain that many-overburdened contingent faculty eliminate or reduce the number of such assignments. It is impossible for students to learn to write clearly and coherently without practice and without guidance. Although well-designed multiple-choice tests are superior to subjectively scored essay tests for many purposes, they cannot measure a studentís ability to write cogently and to synthesize a body of data into a coherent whole. But the time required to score essay tests with any degree of objectivity militates against their use in large classes.

Vulnerable to arbitrary hiring and firing decisions, the temptation to pander to their "customers" is, regrettably, understandable. In a Time magazine article, one creative writing professor at Columbia admitted to flattering his students in order to guarantee favorable evaluations. In his words, "Submitting students to the rigors of learning seemed only to incur the wrath of many of them, which entered the record as my teacherly dissatisfied customers would mean a better learning experience."

Grade inflation is another by-product of lowered standards. Contingent faculty are often evaluated only by their students, because their numbers preclude more thorough peer review. That we allow the opinions of adolescent undergraduates, many of whom perceive themselves as aggrieved customers, to substantially affect or even determine a faculty memberís chance for promotion, retention, and tenure is outrageous. I do not suggest that we eliminate student evaluation of teaching, but that we use student opinion cautiously, and primarily for the purpose of providing the faculty with valuable feedback. If my livelihood depends on arbitrary hiring decisions, and my competence is judged by anonymous student evaluations, I know how to guarantee my futureĖgive easy assignments and high grades.

In the words of AAUPís "1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure," "Freedom and economic security, hence, tenure, are indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligation to its students and to society." When almost half the members of the professorate are denied to opportunity to seek tenure, and 25% of that group earns less than $2000 per course, academic freedom is in mortal danger. When faculty are forced to self-censor in order not to offend their "customers," and to lower academic standards in order to survive, the real victims are students, their parents, higher education, and society. Students should receive an education that, at a minimum, will teach them to think, to participate fruitfully in the larger society, and provide a measure of personal satisfaction. Even those whose primary purpose in attending college is to obtain marketable professional skills will benefit from the rigorous application of reasonable standards. Employers value literacy, numeracy, disciplined thought, and hard work, qualities that are learned in an atmosphere where faculty are not penalized for demanding the best from their students.

The overuse of contingent faculty is not limited to community colleges and four-year institutions, however. As Cary Nelson, AAUP Second Vice President and M.L.A. activist, pointed out in a Chronicle article, "Öyou can go to Yale and basically get the same instruction youíd get at Long Island Community College cause higher education is relying on the same labor pool." Exploitation of contingent academic labor is an equal-opportunity phenomenon.

What is the solution? If colleges and universities insist on using the market metaphor, letís think about push it to its limit. If students are customers, let them demand a high-quality product, truth in advertising, a lost of ingredients, and warning labels. Colleges and universities, in order to achieve or maintain accreditation, should be required to disclose the percentage of courses taught by contingent faculty and others ineligible for tenure, the disparities between the CEOís compensation and that of junior faculty members, the proportion of the operating budget devoted to instruction, and compensation of support staff. Having said that, however, let us abandon the language of the marketplace, because our choice of metaphor ultimately determines reality. We should refuse to refer to our students as customers, presidents, CEOís, bursars as CFOís, professors as content providers, and the academy as a family. When college and university presidents refer to us as a family, they appear to be using the Roman model in which the paterfamilias held the power of life and death over other members of his family.

The struggle for professional and financial equity must be joined by the ranks of the tenured faculty, who are, I am pleased to report, increasingly aware of the plight of our contingent colleagues. We must abandon the relative security of writing only for other academics. We must inform the public, the ultimate beneficiaries of our work, by writing opinion pieces for our local newspapers and mainstream national journals. We must make every effort through collective action and lobbying our state legislature and governing boards to accomplish the following goals, which I have adapted from the AAUPís 1993 report, entitled "The Status of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty."

    1. All faculty, including contingent faculty, should have a description of the specific professional duties required or them.
    2. All faculty should be evaluated on a regular basis using criteria appropriate to their positions.
    3. Personnel decisions should be based on those criteria, not on criteria appropriate to another position.
    4. Compensation for contingent faculty should be a reasonable fraction of a comparable full-time position and should include fringe benefits.
    5. Timely notice of nonreappointment should be extended to all faculty. The AAUPís 1980 report on part-time faculty recommends that part-time faculty "who have been employed for six or more terms, or consecutively for three or more terms," should receive at least a full termís notice of nonreappointment. In no case should a faculty member receive notice of nonreappointment later than four weeks prior to the commencement of the next term.
    6. All faculty members should have reasonable advance notice of course assignments to allow adequate preparation.
    7. A faculty should receive appropriate support in the form of office space, supplies, equipment, and support staff.
    8. All faculty should be included in the governance structures of the department and the institution.
    9. Contingent faculty should be given consideration for full-time, tenure-track positions as they become available.
    10. Caps should be placed on the percentage of courses taught by contingent faculty and contingent positions converted to full-time tenure-track positions wherever reasonable.

All faculty must be included in the academic dialogue that develops and maintains our curriculum and program integrity, and as non-tenure track faculty are brought into the academic community as full professional colleagues, their compensation and institutional support must be commensurably enhanced.

The price of tenure is a continuing and life-long moral obligation to exercise the academic freedom that tenure affords. It is incumbent upon us to seek full academic citizenship for all our colleagues. We must die at our desks unless we have a written guarantee that we will be replaced with tenured or tenure-eligible full-time faculty. We are not always right when we speak out, but we are always wrong when we do not.

Directory of Current State Executive Committee Members

President: Marsha Blumenthal, University of St. Thomas

Vice President: Michael Livingston, St. Johnís University

Past President: Anne Pick, University of MN-TC

Treasurer: Dave Emery, St. Olaf College

Secretary: Karen Vogel, Hamline University

Director: Laurel Carrington, St. Olaf College

Director: Stephen Gudeman, University of MN, Twin Cities

Director: Cecilia Konchar Farr, College of St. Catherine

Director: Michael Mikolajczak, University of St. Thomas

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