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The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers (review)

Tomorrow's Academic Careers

Message Number: 
823

Although Schuster and Finkelstein are quite conservative in their statements, they begin their work with "a bold and unqualified assertion: American higher education and the academic profession that serve it are on the edge of an unprecedented restructuring that is changing the face- indeed, even the very meaning-of higher learning" (p. 3).

Folks:

The posting below is a review by Mark Oromaner of the book, The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers, by Jack H. Schuster and Martin J. Finkelstein. It appeared in the July - September, 2007 issue of Planning for Higher Education. 35(4): 55-57. http://www1.scup.org/PHE/ ?2007 Society for College and University Planning. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

Regards,

Rick Reis

reis@stanford.edu

UP NEXT: Eleven Things You Could Start Doing Today

Tomorrow's Academic Careers

 

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The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers

 

The American Faculty is a major contribution by two of the most prolific and well-regarded researchers on that profession. Schuster is professor of education and public policy at Claremont Graduate University in Claremont, California and Finkelstein is professor of higher education at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey.

In both structure and content, this is a big book. In terms of structure, the 569 pages comprise four parts ("Overview of the American Faculty," "The Faculty at Work," "The Academic Career," and "Assessing Contemporary Academic Life"); 10 appendixes; 65 appendix tables; a 17-page bibliography; and an index. In addition, there are 56 tables and 77 figures throughout the text. I know of no other book in which the authors integrate this volume of material in a more user-friendly manner. Nonresearchers (e.g., policymakers, administrators, and, particularly, graduate students) will find the appendixes quite valuable, as they present nontechnical discussions of research challenges and limitations (e.g., comparability both within and across surveys), an overview of national faculty surveys (by Jesus Francisco Galaz-Fontes), and a discussion of the interpretation of faculty surveys.

However, as well-structured as this book is, it must be judged primarily on its content. The brief discussion of structure suggests that The American Faculty is a data-based study. The modern era of national surveys begun in 1969 and includes studies by the Carnegie Commission on Higher Education, the National Center for Education Statistics, and the University of California, Los Angeles Higher Education Research Institute, all of which are referenced in this book. In addition, data from other sources, e.g., the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and its earlier version, the Higher Education General Information Survey (HEGIS), are included. Through their masterful meta-analysis or integrative research of these and other databases, Schuster and Finkelstein correct what they accurately see as the underutilization of this "extraordinary lode" (p. 393). They stay close to the data in their analysis and, for the most part, leave speculation to others. A number of the appendixes provide a comprehensive exploration, including sources, of these databases for anyone who would like to continue their work. Many of the trend analyses, particularly those based on surveys, end in the late 1990s. It is not too soon to expect that these will be brought up to date.

Although Schuster and Finkelstein are quite conservative in their statements, they begin their work with "a bold and unqualified assertion: American higher education and the academic profession that serve it are on the edge of an unprecedented restructuring that is changing the face- indeed, even the very meaning-of higher learning" (p. 3). They accept the consensus view that the history of American higher education stresses tradition, continuity, and gradual change. They also take a functional position in their argument that "higher education has evolved through successive stages as society's needs have changed" (p. 4). Societal megatrends such as the increase in the pace of change; technological changes; economic changes toward

globalization and service/knowledge-based systems; greater stress on organizational efficiency, flexibility, and nimbleness; and greater reliance on the marketplace have resulted in an academic revolution. They argue that the 1968 work by Christopher Jencks and David Riesman, The Academic Revolution, would have been more accurately titled The Academic Evolution. To support this view they cite Riesman's 1981 disavowal of his and Jencks' "premature assertion" (p. 8). This suggestion is well taken; however, with statements concerning current "unprecedented" (p. 3) change or the emergence of a "new order" (p. 5), Schuster and Finkelstein may fall into the trap of what the late sociolologist Robert Bierstedt (1970) has labeled "temporocentrism." This is the temporal equivalent of ethnocentrism. As a result of this tendency we assume that "the crisis of our age is some how more 'critical' than the crises of other ages" and we "place what must, in the long course of history, seem to be an exaggerated emphasis upon our own period" (Bierstedt 1970, p. 178).

Although Schuster and Finkelstein concentrate on developments during the past 30 to 40 years as their basis for projections in the near future, their story begins with the establishment of Harvard College and the Charter of 1650. By 1800 the majority of college teachers were young tutors, with a minority of experienced professionals who continued the faculty role as a second and/or secondary career.

In spite of the emphasis on evolutionary change, Schuster and Finkelstein refer to three precedents that qualify as revolutions. The first refers to the professionalization of the faculty and the emergence of the discipline as the central organizing principle of the academy during the early nineteenth century. The second began with the emergence of the research university during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. By the end of World War II, the "modern era" (p. 33) of faculty roles had begun. At the core of this role was the trinity of teaching, research, and service. As an aside, they suggest that the "massification" (p. xvii) of higher education since the war could also count as a revolution.

Finally, we are on the edge of another revolution. In the preface they state that this may be the third, fifth, or nineteenth; however, later when the authors discuss the current period they refer to "the seeds of a third revolution" (p. 34). One of my few criticisms is the inconsistent and nonspecific manner in which the term "revolution" is used.

Whether one uses the term "revolution" or "transformative" to describe changes among the American faculty during the last few decades, it is clear that the faculty has not been exempt from current societal and global changes.

>From 1969 to 2003, the number of institutions has increased by 65 percent, enrollments by 99 percent, and faculty by 161 percent. If earlier expansions of the faculty amounted to an exercise in "cloning" (i.e., male whites in the liberal arts), the recent period is much more an exercise in "biodiversity." This is reflected in demographic characteristics (e.g., gender, race, ethnicity, age); in social background (e.g., socioeconomic status, religion); and in family structure (e.g., marital status). In addition, work status characteristics have changed dramatically. For instance, from 1970 to 2003, part-time faculty increased by 422 percent while full-time faculty increased by only 71 percent. In contrast to the post-World War II dominance of the research university, "the last quarter century or so has thus seen the center of gravity shift, at least in numerical terms, from the university sector to the two-year institutions and to public comprehensive institutions" (p. 42). In addition, we have recently seen the emergence of proprietary institutions, distance learning arrangements, courseware providers, and corporate universities.

Although much of this is well known, the analysis of "The Revolution in Academic Appointments" (chapter seven) will be enlightening to most readers. The "remarkable" (p. 195) or "astonishing" (p. 195) development is that in as early as 1993, a majority of full-time appointments were to nontenure eligible positions. These term-limited, full-time appointments (contingent appointments) now account for almost 60 percent of full-time appointments. Among the largest number of institutions (four-year and community colleges), the use of contingent and part-time faculty is now the chief mode of instruction. While research universities, other doctoral universities, and elite liberal arts colleges increasingly resort to contingent staffing, they retain a majority of full-time permanent faculty. These changes are accompanied by a separation within the core trinity (research, teaching, and service). Indeed, part-time and contingent appointments are usually exclusively or predominately teaching appointments; some of the contingent appointments are research-only appointments. There is an associated decrease in expectations concerning institutional service and governance participation.

Schuster and Finkelstein have provided a platform for all discussions, critiques, and research on the American faculty. They are realistic enough to know that the implications of their work are unknowable at this point. At the same time, they suggest that at this period of change, "each campus, each group of faculty, each student body, and each academic field will need to undertake thoroughgoing assessments?.There is no substitute for such sober and tough-minded assessment" (p. 344).

Reference

Bierstedt, R. 1970. The Social Order. 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

The following are some additional, related resources which you may find useful.

The American Faculty: The Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers by Jack H. Shuster and Martin J. Finkelstein - Reviewed by Mark Oromaner