Non Tenure Track Faculty: New Book On This Emerging Majority
reviewed by Iván F. Pacheco — For Teachers College Record
ISBN: 0415891140, Pages: 256, Year: 2012
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It is well known that non-tenure track faculty are a majority in most universities and colleges around the United States today, and that the trend is likely to continue. As Adrianna Kezar, the editor of Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty, explains, most college presidents now prefer to hire non-tenure track faculty. Two-thirds of the faculty across all institutional types and three out of every four new hires are now off the tenure track (pp. x, 30). Despite these figures, higher education researchers and the literature in general pay very little attention to this phenomenon.
Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty tackles that research gap with a set of strategies that seek to include this “new majority” in the day-to-day life of universities and colleges. Previous works have addressed this problem and recommended policies and practices for institutions to improve the working conditions of adjuncts and contingent faculty (see, for example, Baldwin & Chronister, 2001, and Gappa & Leslie, 1993). Recommendations include: regularizing hiring procedures, creating a systematic socialization process and mentoring, providing multi-year renewable contracts, and defining promotion and evaluation processes for non-tenure track faculty, among others. However, the book goes beyond merely suggesting strategies by providing qualitative empirical research about how some of these suggestions have been implemented in various higher education institutions.
The book consists of three parts. Part I presents historical background illustrating why adjunct positions were created and how the use of contingent, adjunct and non-tenure track faculty became so popular. Based on institutionalization theory and drawing on Curry’s (1992) three-stage model of institutionalization, this section provides the conceptual framework that anchors the subsequent chapters in Part II that describe the change process at eight case study institutions. Finally, Part III consists of two chapters that present general conclusions.
Among the contributors to the book are associate professors, an assistant researcher and doctoral candidate, the Director of the New Majority Foundation, a former Associate Provost, and non-tenure track faculty members, most of whom are also members of teacher unions, teacher associations, or belong to their institution’s teachers’ senate. Such variety provides insight from different perspectives and is a strength of the book.
Although the book is “based on a national study of campuses implementing policies to include non-tenure-track faculty on campus” (p. xv), the case studies in Part II (Chapters Three to Ten), are a somewhat narrow selection. Half of the cases are concentrated in California and six out of eight cases are unionized institutions. However, the institutions are diverse in type, ranging from a two-year technical college to public and private research universities. Perhaps more important than the variety of case studies, the book presents a wide spectrum of situations and stages of contingent faculty institutionalization. From this broad sampling of conditions and stages, activists and administrators can learn to improve the working conditions for, and make institutions more responsive to the needs and expectations of, adjunct and contingent faculty.