Earlier today I wrote about tenure, but many of the philosophers working today do not have tenure, and a good number of these philosophers may never get tenure. In this post, I’ll be talking about the situation for non-tenure track (NTT) faculty. Note that here I’m including not just visiting assistant professors and other similar short-term appointments but—importantly and perhaps primarily—adjunct faculty. There are arguments to be made about discussing these separately, but for the purposes of this conversation, I’m going to set those aside.
There is, unfortunately, a real lack of tenure track jobs for philosophers right now. In light of that fact and the changing face of the academic workforce, what can we do to support NTT faculty in philosophy and throughout academia?
Of the nearly 1.8 million faculty members and instructors who made up the 2009 instructional workforce in degree-granting two- and four-year institutions of higher education in the United States, more than 1.3 million (75.5%) were employed in contingent positions off the tenure track, either as part-time or adjunct faculty members, full-time non-tenure-track faculty members, or graduate student teaching assistants.
The median pay per course, standardized to a three-credit course, was $2,700 in fall 2010 and ranged in the aggregate from a low of $2,235 at two-year colleges to a high of $3,400 at four-year doctoral or research universities. While compensation levels varied most consistently by type of institution, part-time faculty respondents report low compensation rates per course across all institutional categories.
Further, “Over 80% of respondents reported teaching part-time for more than three years, and over half for more than six years,” so non-tenure track positions are not, by and large, temporary employment. Whether NTT faculty think of their employment as temporary—or whether they realize upon taking NTT positions that the arrangement will end up being a long term one—is another question.
(Members of the coalition are now conducting a survey on online teaching working conditions. And the Academic Workforce Data Center has a survey on workforce conditions along with data on NTT faculty at individual institutions. I strongly encourage readers to participate in these data-gathering efforts.)
Some CAW member organizations have issued recommendations on standards for contingent faculty, and the APA teaching statement includes a bit on the non-tenure track faculty as well. The MLA, for example,
recommends minimum compensation for 2012–13 of $6,920 for a standard 3-credit-hour semester course or $4,610 for a standard 3-credit-hour quarter or trimester course. These recommendations are based on a full-time load of 3 courses per semester (6 per year) or 3 courses per quarter or trimester (9 per year); annual full-time equivalent thus falls in a range of $41,490 to $41,520.
These recommended compensation levels are virtually unheard of, which means that most tenure track faculty are being underpaid, sometimes below a living wage.
But perhaps even worse than the pay rate is the lack of job security for non-tenure track faculty. When faculty can’t plan more than a few months ahead because their employers can simply decline to renew their contracts each semester without notice, how can they be expected to put their energy into educating students rather than worrying about how they’ll pay their bills?
It’s also important, in light of all this data, for the philosophical community to consider whether, if the majority of college classes are going to be taught by people without tenure, we want those classes taught by struggling young professionals without resources or support, or whether it’s time to consider solutions for sustainable non-tenure track teaching careers.
The APA, as part of CAW, advocates for contingent faculty rights and improved working conditions, including longer term contracts, more professional support and resources, and better compensation. And our Committee on the Defense of Professional Rights of Philosophers can also provide assistance in individual cases where professional rights are at stake. But beyond this, we want to do more for our NTT members directly. What do you think needs to change to support NTT faculty, and what would you like to see the APA do in that regard?
And there’s yet another issue for those not on the tenure track: what are the opportunities outside academia? We know, anecdotally, that many with philosophy degrees—from baccalaureate to doctoral—end up in non-academic careers, whether by actively choosing an alternate path or as a result of the lack of opportunities within academia. There is little data on this demographic (we are exploring ways to get such data), but there is certainly more the APA can do to offer support—whether by providing resources to those exploring non-academic career options or providing those already working outside academia with avenues to maintain a connection to the philosophical community. The APA, and in particular our committee on non-academic careers, is eager to know what kinds of resources might be helpful to those philosophers considering leaving academia and those who have already left.Please share your thoughts in the comments. As is standard practice on this blog, signed comments only: valid e-mail address required, full name preferred.