The Chronicle of Higher Education
July 31, 2012
By Audrey Williams June
Academe needs a new model for the professoriate that better supports the
growing number of instructors who are off the tenure track, the
participants in a national project about the changing faculty have
The participants, who represent a cross-section of academe and its
stakeholders, also said in a report being released this week that they
need to align to gather data that will paint a clearer picture of higher
education’s increasing reliance on contingent faculty.
A key reason for those two strategies to improve the jobs of contingent
faculty members is that their poor working conditions may harm student
learning, says the report, a “working document” produced by the Delphi
Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success.
The 49-page document, in part, details the challenges linked to the
rising number of contingent faculty, who now make up about 70 percent of
all instructors at the nation’s colleges and universities. But data that
quantify the effects of this shift in the make-up of the faculty and the
issues it creates aren’t readily available, the report says. Without
hard numbers, campus policy makers may be unaware of the extent of the
challenges they face.
“Everybody agreed that we lack good data tools to help inform policy
making at various levels as it relates to non-tenure-track faculty,”
says Adrianna Kezar, director of the project and an associate professor
of higher education at the University of Southern California.
“What we’re doing now is creating all of these data tools and resources
so that we can make people aware of the extent of the issue and then
have a series of best practices that have been put in place at various
institutions that we can point to that we know work.”
Participants in the Delphi project also agreed that the current
system—with tenure-stream faculty on the one hand, and full-timers and
part-timers who work off the tenure track on the other— “isn’t working,”
Ms. Kezar says. “We all thought, What is the new model of the faculty
that we need to have?”
The document reflects a year’s worth of work by more than 40 people,
including college presidents, higher-education researchers, leaders of
scholarly associations, faculty union leaders, and representatives of
organizations that represent faculty who are off the tenure track. The
report and the strategies it proposes emerged from discussions at a
recent meeting where most of the project’s participants gathered.
The participants will be pared down into two task forces to work on
advancing the project’s strategies in various ways.
For instance, they will need to develop a conceptual paper that details
what the future faculty should look like and how it could be adopted by
all types of institutions. And eventually, the project will need some
grant money to make pieces of both strategies a reality—such as setting
up models at individual institutions or university systems of how to
best support non-tenure-track faculty.
Ms. Kezar says she expects to post the document at the project’s Web
site [http://tinyurl.com/cw9ec9p] later this week. Other documents
related to the project’s current efforts will be posted over the next