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Non-Tenure-Track Faculty in Higher Education: Theories and Tensions

Tomorrow's Academic Careers

Message Number: 
1117

One of the goals of this monograph is to advance the current dialogue about the role of non-tenure-track faculty in higher education and the next steps toward the future of this faculty. The authors compare empirical data with the preconceived notions, ideologies, and anecdotal evidence to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions that people may have of non-tenure-track faculty, their quality, and their experience.

 

Folks:

The posting below is the executive summary of the report, Non-Tenure-Track Faculty in Higher Education: Theories and Tensions by Adrianna Kezar and Cecile Sam. It is from the ASHE (Association for the Study of Higher Education ) Higher Education Report: Volume 36, Number 5 Kelly Ward, Lisa E. Wolf-Wendel, Series Editors. opyright (c) 2010 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., A Wiley Company. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: The Hiring Process for Community College Faculty

 

Tomorrow's Academic Careers

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Non-Tenure-Track Faculty in Higher Education: Theories and Tensions

 

 

Executive Summary

The American faculty is changing. Tenure-track appointments that were once the majority employment type are no longer the established norm of higher education; approximately 65 percent of all new faculty appointments are now non-tenure track. Part-time non-tenure-track faculty appointments now make up the bulk of that percentage. Despite these changes, many higher education institutions still operate as though non-tenure-track faculty are a supplementary workforce, while the percentage of non-tenure-track faculty continues to grow.

With the growing majority of non-tenure-track faculty, questions arise. Who are these faculty? What are their experiences? What does this faculty mean for undergraduate instruction and students? What is the role of tenure in higher education? How did higher education attain this majority of non-tenure-track faculty? Where does higher education go from here?

This monograph synthesizes and critiques the theoretical underpinnings used to understand non-tenure-track faculty. The authors analyze the dominant theories from four disciplines-economic, sociological, psychological and social-psychological, and organizational-and explore their applicability as well as limitations. These theoretical foundations from many studies often have their own set of assumptions made about non-tenure-track faculty such as determining their status as laborers or professionals, and these assumptions shape interpretations of the data. The authors argue that the topic of non-tenure-track faculty has been understudied and that theories applied are narrow in scope. They encourage the use of more interdisciplinary theories and the use of multiple theories or disciplines simultaneously in studies.

One of the goals of this monograph is to advance the current dialogue about the role of non-tenure-track faculty in higher education and the next steps toward the future of this faculty. The authors compare empirical data with the preconceived notions, ideologies, and anecdotal evidence to challenge stereotypes and misconceptions that people may have of non-tenure-track faculty, their quality, and their experience.

Some of the major themes and recommendations that form the foundation on which this monograph is based are as follows:

Non-tenure-track faculty are a heterogeneous mixture of people who differ greatly in terms of employment, experiences, job descriptions, and motivations. Reliable institutional, state, and national data are needed about non-tenure-track faculty. A systematic national dataset needs to be designed with all types of faculty in mind. With the ending of the National Studies of Post-secondary Faculty (NSOPF), it is important to have a continuing source of data that examine and categorize non-tenure-track faculty. Institutions need to establish more robust systems internally to collect information about non-tenure-track faculty, particularly differences by contract and discipline. Further studies on non-tenure-track faculty should also take into consideration the different functional typologies of non-tenure-track faculty and find ways of incorporating them into their samples as well as interpreting the data.

Non-tenure-track faculty currently account for a majority of the faculty in higher education. If the past thirty years are any indication of a trend, they will continue to play a large role in institutions of higher education. Nevertheless, most institutions have failed to incorporate long-term policies for non-tenure-track faculty. Stakeholders in institutions of higher education need to develop long-term strategies regarding non-tenure-track faculty, depending on the context of the institutions. Issues such as hiring practices, reappointment, compensation, benefits, work responsibilities, governance, and promotion should be addressed explicitly in an overall institutional faculty plan and carried out consistently.

The research on non-tenure-track faculty could be theorized in more meaningful ways to best capture the faculty experience as a hybrid of professional and laborer. Research can apply theories from other disciplines such as political science or organizational studies to further explore the role of non-tenure-track faculty and their effect on higher education. Researchers can better understand non-tenure-track faculty by using a multidisciplinary perspective that incorporates insights from economics, sociology, psychology, and labor relations.

Misconceptions and stereotypes about non-tenure-track faculty, whether positive or negative, do not serve the population well because they do not provide accurate information that is needed to inform policies and practices that benefit both the faculty and the institution. Studies that move away from a deficit perspective can provide us a new way of understanding non-tenure-track faculty and enhance our knowledge. Studies should examine the positive features of the non-tenure-track faculty experience such as love of teaching, program environment, appreciation for academia, work with students, service to society, and fulfillment of personal priorities. Instead of ideology, empirical data about non-tenure-track faculty should drive policy and practice. These data include evidence suggesting that they lack basic necessities to complete their work, are as committed as tenure-track faculty, and are not paid for office hours at most institutions.

Many recommendations for improving working conditions for non-tenure-track faculty have been highly generalized and have not examined site-specific changes needed in programs, departments, colleges, and universities. Although global plans and ideas for professionalizing non-tenure-track faculty have been extremely helpful, they also have masked important variations that leaders should take into consideration as they institutionalize change. To move forward, solutions need to take into account the institutional context and different typology of non-tenure-track faculty to provide solutions that better serve different groups in different institutions. It is necessary to inform other institutions through more case study research and examples of institutions that have altered their policies and practices. This monograph provides a needed synthesis of the existing literature and advice for practitioners trying to define policies and practices for non-tenure-track faculty, policymakers attempting to understand the empirical research available to inform their decisions, and researchers seeking to conduct research on non-tenure-track faculty.

Given the large amount of data that must be synthesized to develop an accurate portrait, the authors dedicated this monograph to expand on the topic of non-tenure-track faculty; building on their earlier work in volume 36, issue number 4 of ASHE Higher Education Report, Understanding the New Majority of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty in Higher Education: Demographics, Experiences, and Plans of Action (referenced in upcoming chapters).