Starting with the article by Michael Berube and Jennifer Ruth proposing a teaching intensive tenure track to provide adjunct faculty with real job security, there's been quite an interesting conversation. (The article refers to their book, The Humanities, Higher Education, and Academic Freedom [Palgrave Macmillon, 2015]), which I admit, I haven't read. (I feel like I should read it, but I have three big projects this summer that are higher on my priority list.)
Fie Upon This Quiet Life responded here ("Teaching Track Solves Nothing"), arguing that teaching intensive schools already have teaching intensive tenure tracks, and that "research creep" means these schools also require research (and service, of course).
I responded here ("Teaching Track"), and Berube and Ruth commented. In the comments, Ruth responded to Contingent Cassandra and said that she and Berube envisioned a 3/3/3 load for the teaching intensive TT. In Contingent Cassandra's comments, though, she referred to a 3/3 load, so I'm not sure if Ruth meant a 3/3 on a semester system, or actually a 3/3/3 on a quarter system, which is more like a 4/5 on a semester system. Ruth also argued that
We are asking our colleagues ramp up the pressure already on administrators from collective bargaining to refuse the creation of new adjunct appointments (forcing administrators to invest in good jobs if they want to expand) and using the many channels of shared governance to force change.
Fie responded, arguing that faculty in her school don't have power, and citing large cuts to eliminate majors at her school without faculty governance and participation.
Fie further added a blog post ("How do you solve a problem like the bottom line?") thinking about cutting general education to solve budget problems.
The Good Enough Professor also responded to Berube and Ruth's article ("These Deck Chairs Aren't Going to Rearrange Themselves") explaining that
As public support for the liberal arts diminishes, tenure comes under attack, online teaching is valorized as a cost-saving measure, and institutions increasingly replace tenured lines with contingent faculty, the issue of extending tenure seems, well, academic. In fact, the question is not, "are better conditions for teaching faculty a good thing?" but "how can we ensure that the people tasked with providing instruction in higher education are qualified to do it, afforded the protections they need to do it well (including academic freedom, grievance procedures, and long-term contracts), and compensated appropriately?" A re-tooled tenure process would be a lovely answer to that question, but it's hard to see how the political will (much less leverage) to bring it about is likely to emerge.
She also explained that her department has been working with administration to develop "the conditions under which contingent faculty could be granted long-term contracts and the creation of a system of annual review where there had been none before."
The Good Enough Professor noted that the process happened in the context of a unionization, and that while there's better salary and working conditions,
I will only note that although the provost holds out the possibility of a specifically tenured teaching position, it seems increasingly likely that this chimera will only be available to superstars who are otherwise of value to the university.So, it looks like there's been progress made in giving contingent faculty more long term job security (and living wage salaries), it's not quite what Berube and Ruth are arguing for. (Go read Good Enough's post!)
Meanwhile, slightly separately, Historiann recently wrote ("Goosey, goosey gander") to point us to the Chancery Hill Books blog post ("Mearcstapa: Boundary Patrollers") where Tom argues that
In short, the normalization, over the last few decades, of using (and increasing the numbers of) adjunct and non-tenure-track instructors, at practically every college and university in the land, has had the effect of suggesting to outside observers—indeed, I’d say it suggests to anyone who thinks clearly about the issues—that collegiate education can be accomplished more cheaply and without tenuring the teachers.
He goes on to argue that
And yet, in my experience, tenure-track faculty often seem to work harder to justify their higher position in a two-tier system of instruction than they do to work for the benefit of those caught in the lower (non-tenure-track) tier. It has sometimes felt as if they are concerned to police and patrol that border that separates tenure-track from non-tenure-track with particular diligence.
His main argument is that
people in tenure-track positions accept the existence or necessity of non-tenure-eligible faculty lines, then they have already accepted that tenure is not really necessary, and they risk reducing the effect of their own arguments to “But tenure is really necessary for me, and for those like me”. Likewise with salary, and with teaching load: “Oh, I’m in a tenure line, I need to teach fewer classes and get paid more because my teaching is linked to my research.” As if some teaching need not be linked to research, as if teaching twice as many courses a term should not be expected to affect the quality of instruction. But if reasonable pay and teaching loads are good for some, why not for all?There's been more response to his argument in the comments to Historiann's post where she's taken a look at her own department's practice of not hiring adjuncts to tenure track positions in national searches; she notes that the adjuncts apply, and make it to the finalist stage, but then aren't ranked as highly as someone else who's offered the job.
Edited to add (with apologies for not seeing it earlier): Undine over at Not of General Interest has also posted ("The Economics of Wishful Thinking About Campus Funding") with a scenario about what might happen if faculty in one department at one school decided not to hire contingent faculty to staff sections and taught fewer sections; she posits that the administration would do an end run, covering the sections with MOOC type courses, for example.
As I read over these, I see a lot of complications.
R1s, regionals, SLACs, and community colleges provide very different experiences for faculty, contingent and otherwise): teaching load, research expectations (creep?), support, resources for research and teaching.
Private and public also matters.
Unionization seems important, perhaps the most important issue in many ways.
I wonder how important it is to us whether contingent faculty are hired via national searches or local availability.
I think that some folks in this conversation think of contingent faculty as having terminal degrees (PhD or MFA), while others think in terms of MAs.
Are contingent faculty required to do service some places and not others?
Most of the voices I'm seeing are tenured folks.
Tom (of Chancery Hill Books) talks about leaving his tenured position to follow his wife to her tenure track position ("Post Academic: You Must Change Your Life"). While that's admirable, it raises issues of how marriage affects decisions. Single people may have different considerations, as may partnered people without privilege of marriage.
I also wonder how race works in these conversations, urban vs rural, too.