Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Adjuncts, Adjuncts Everywhere

A report was released today by the American Federation of Teachers (see also the Inside Higher Ed article) which details the large numbers of adjunct teachers who now teach a large percentage of courses at all types of colleges in all disciplines. (Note that this includes graduate students who have full control for a class, but does not include TAs in classes run by a tenure-track faculty member.)

Across public colleges and universities, the report finds that full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty members make up only 41 percent of instructional staff, while full-time non-tenure-track make up 20 percent, part-time faculty members off the tenure track make up 20 percent, and graduate employees are another 19 percent.

This has been flying under the radar for awhile now, and I'm glad that it's getting some press due to this report. It's clearly a problem for students and faculty alike, yet I doubt that this trend will change anytime soon, especially given the economy.

The Inside Higher Ed article also gives a table showing the breakdown by discipline. Computer Science/Engineering fares well - we have some of the lowest numbers of contingent instructors. In fact, the numbers seem to mirror the discipline gender breakdowns I discussed recently, with "male" disciplines having lower numbers of contingent instructors. My guess is that this is due to money - "male" disciplines are more highly valued -> get more money -> can afford to hire tenure-track faculty -> have fewer contingent instructors. So, for example, 54% of undergraduate courses in Human services at research universities are taught by contingent instructors while in Engineering/Computer Science that number is 29.6%.

More to the point, at 29.6% it's amazing we're at the low end of the spectrum. The high end is for undergraduate Education classes at community colleges - 77% of classes are taught by contingent instructors. I can only imagine what a mess that creates of department community and resources.


D. Eppstein said...

My impression, at least from my own institution, is that the number of adjuncts and lecturers and other kinds of non-tenure-track faculty is going down, due to our budget woes — basically, we can cut them, and we can't cut our tenure track faculty, so we do cut the lecturers and make the tenure track faculty teach more of the less-popular-to-teach courses.

sorelle said...

But what happens when a tenured faculty member retires? Is the line renewed, or is it divided into adjunct slots? I imagine it as a gradual process...