Contingent Faculty Task Force
[The following report was presented at the Senate meeting on February 4, 2002.]
CONTINGENT EMPLOYMENT AT UTK
To our surprise, we quickly learned after preliminary research that there is no university-wide definition, title, or policy concerning contingent employees. Forced to come up with our own definition, we defined "contingent employees" by exclusion, specifically by those (1) who are not tenure-track faculty, (2) graduate students, or (3) administrators. The resultant category thus includes a rather heterogeneous mix of part- and full-time employees, ones employed for a few classes or even a single term as well as those whose employment is regarded as ongoing or unofficially permanent; and ones whose pay varies widely. This heterogeneity must be kept in mind as we review our findings and their implications.The Utilization of Contingent Employees
The Office of Institutional Research is responsible for maintaining the records concerning the staffing of university classrooms. Provost Crabtree was very cooperative in forwarding our requests for data to the Office of Institutional Research. Unfortunately, when we met with representatives of the Office of Institutional Research, they explained that they did not have complete data about the staffing of classes. When we asked for the data which was available there was no response. Even our phone call messages have not been answered.Findings
Through other sources and utilizing one incomplete data set given to us last year through the Office of the (former) Provost, we have been able to fulfill the charge given to us to assess contingent employment at UT. Our findings are of such magnitude that even though one data set is only eighty percent complete, under no reasonable assumption would the remaining twenty percent contradict our results. Our report, then, is based on two limited data sets:
- From the Office of Institutional Research, in March of 1999, to Bob Glenn, the Student Credit Hour distribution for 1990 to 1998 by two- year intervals.
- From the Office of the Provost, Associate Marianne Moffett the contact, an Excel Spreadsheet of 80% of the sections taught Fall Semester 2000, by Employment and Faculty Status, Course Level, and Student Credit Hour. (No explanation has ever been found as to why Institutional Research is apparently without data on twenty percent of university classes. Constituting an estimated 65,000 credit hours, this fault is no small thing.)
All of the following figures are for Fall Semester Student Credit Hours.Discussion
- From 1990 to 2000, Student Credit Hours per semester increased from about 300,000 to 320,000, with almost all of the increase in the undergraduate program; a 6.25% increase.
- From 1990 to 2000, instruction of undergraduates by Contingent Faculty doubled, increasing from 11% in 1990 to 25% in 2000.
- From 1990 to 2000, instruction by Graduate Assistants went from 22% to 33%.
- Changes in Student Credit Hours per section from 1990 to 2000, a measure of the changes in the average number of students per section, remained relatively flat for Regular Faculty, declined 5% for Contingent Faculty, and increased for Graduate Assistants by about 5%.
- For Fall Semester, 2000, instruction of sections by Contingent Faculty and Graduate Assistants constituted slightly more than 40% of all sections taught.
- For Fall Semester, 2000, instruction by Contingent Faculty and Graduate Students constitutes 55% of the Student Credit Hours generated.
- For Fall Semester 2000, Regular Faculty taught 42% of undergraduate student credit hours, Contingent Faculty taught 25%, and Graduate Students taught 33% of undergraduate student credit hours.
- For Fall Semester 2000, Regular Faculty taught 22% of undergraduate student credit hours generated by Freshmen, Contingent Faculty taught 30%, and Graduate Students taught 48%.
- For Fall Semester 2000, Regular Faculty taught 34% of Sophomore student credit hours, Contingent Faculty taught 29%, and Graduate Students taught 37%.
First and foremost, it is evident that what began as a needed but short-term solution to an underfunding, namely the hiring of adjunct faculty and other non-tenure track employees to teach, has now become routine, widespread, and is on its way to becoming permanent.Policy Recommendations
This fundamental re-configuration of our higher education enterprise is being done without any discussion of any of the critical issues involved. One fundamental issue is: What is the UT educational philosophy which supports its educational delivery system? If freshmen and sophomore classes are to be taught by contingent faculty, as they increasingly are, would it be better to depend on community colleges to provide these lower division courses? Is UT somehow better able to provide such education than are the community colleges?
The need for contingent faculty in principle is not at issue. They are critical in meeting unanticipated increases in enrollment, temporarily filling unexpected faculty vacancies, providing expertise which would otherwise be unavailable, or helping develop a new academic program. The questions which must be raised and debated are what is the pedagogy for extensive routine staffing by contingent faculty, what is their best relationship to regular faculty, and how can the two be integrated to assure the consistent content and quality of what is taught?
Since contingent faculty are now a major component of university instruction, the purpose of this report is to initiate the discussions necessary to establish clear policies and guidelines regarding contingent faculty. In that endeavor we have asked seven related committees and councils for their input. For example, we asked the Faculty Affairs Committee to assess the consequences of the routine employment of contingent faculty on faculty governance. They responded that the faculty have always had the exclusive responsibility for determining who would teach. The hiring of contingent faculty, however, is frequently done by administrators without any faculty input. Although there are clear procedures for hiring, retention, and promotion of regular faculty, the lack of such procedures for contingent faculty has not been addressed.
The routine hiring of contingent faculty without discussion or faculty involvement poses a series of challenges to the maintenance of quality higher education. Academic programs require high levels of continuing and consistent faculty involvement. Increasingly higher proportions of contingent faculty increase the burdens on the declining proportions of tenure/tenure track faculty in research, advising, service, mentoring, and committee work. The overuse of contingent faculty not only negatively affects the educational enterprise, but it also undermines the tenure system itself, leaving academic freedom vulnerable to manipulation and suppression. Hiring contingent faculty without making long-term commitments to the faculty discounts the value community citizenship has to the academy. This in turn erodes shared governance which has well served higher education as one of its core values.
At our university, contingent faculty are not explicitly linked to our governance structure, leaving them isolated, without established rights and responsibilities, of uncertain position in the community. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many labor under conditions which hinder the professional quality of their work: including often unreasonably heavy teaching loads; a lack of office space to prepare for teaching and to meet, mentor, and advise students; ineligibility for professional development opportunities, including research and travel funds; and the lack of a consistent and reliable rewards system through which they could advance their careers. Job security, benefits, and opportunities for advancement divides regular faculty from contingent faculty, creating a fissure that seriously undermines the community so essential to quality education.
There are many different uses of contingent faculty. At one extreme some departments use highly qualified and visible professionals to provide skills not otherwise available, such as eminent scientists from Oak Ridge, highly specialized lawyers, or uniquely qualified business persons. At the other extreme departments grasp individuals who meet minimum qualifications when regular faculty are not available due to budget cutbacks. In the middle are many very conscientious, part-time faculty who teach on a regular basis much as they might at a local community college. In some cases, they are hired by semester but have been teaching for years.
Acknowledging the diversity in contingent faculty does not excuse the lack of policy regarding their employment. While there are elaborate policies involving regular faculty there are virtually none for contingent faculty. The use of contingent faculty is increasing and with it the need for the academic community to decide how University classes should be staffed. Should there be a distinction between community colleges and the University in the use of full-time faculty and contingent employees? Should policies be established to insure that University staffing with contingent faculty meets the same or higher standards than community colleges? These are the questions which must be raised and answered if the tradition of quality higher education is to be preserved. We hope we have helped to begin such discussion.
Samuel E. Wallace, Chair