Flagship Cause

INEQUALITY IN THE LECTURE HALL: THE PERILS OF CONTINGENT FACULTY ON UNIVERSITY CAMPUSES

Depending on the institution, they can be known as adjuncts, postdocs, TAs, non-tenure-track faculty, clinical faculty, part-timers, lecturers, instructors, or nonsenate faculty. What they all have in common: they serve in insecure, unsupported positions with little job security and few protections for academic freedom. And they are the vast majority of U.S. faculty today.

-American Association of University Professors

Contingent faculty now make up 2/3 of college and university faculty, teaching the majority of courses offered in U.S. colleges and universities. The surprising thing about contingent faculty is that many of them do not even make a living wage and it is likely that a majority of our doctoral colleagues will end up in these positions, if they stay in academia.  The PSA is focusing on this cause for the year in alignment with a national movement that is ramping up and calling for educational reform.  This reform starts with addressing why universities are depending so heavily on adjunct and other contingent labor.

In the DC metro area, the word about this hidden inequity is getting out and students and their parents are starting to question how institutions who continue to raise tuition can pay those who are teaching their students so little.  Students at both George Washington University and American University have led movements that successfully helped their contingent faculty unionize and the movement is continuing into other parts of the DC metro area. This year at George Mason, the PSA has positioned ourselves with the help of research, advocacy, and social movement organizations such as the New Faculty Majority Foundation, the Service Employees International Union, and the Center for the Future of Higher Education to lead an awareness campaign on our campus that we hope will result in substantial changes for contingent faculty on our campus.

[UPDATE] Public Sociology PhD student Marisa Allison was invited in January, 2014 to sit on a Congressional Briefing panel for House Democrats to discuss the working conditions of part-time and contingent faculty in colleges and universities as part of her work with the New Faculty Majority Foundation.

Additional articles on the subject can be found here:

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