AAC&U News: December 2015
Facts & Figures

Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty

The New Faculty Majority “Back to School Survey”

The New Faculty Majority has released preliminary results from its second “Back to School Survey,” which examines the working conditions of contingent faculty around the country. The results, based on the answers of 400 contingent faculty members from thirty-three states, offer little to celebrate. The minimal campus resources available to contingent faculty reported in the original 2011 survey remain just as scarce in 2015, and today even fewer faculty have full-time ( temporary) appointments or collective-bargaining agreements.  

New data collected in the 2015 survey also suggest that the lack of information and resources available to contingent faculty members could have ramifications for student safety. Three-quarters of respondents said they’d been approached by students who sought nonacademic counseling or who showed signs of depression or other mental illnesses; but almost half of those respondents said they didn’t know where to direct students for assistance or what to do in an emergency on campus. These results, along with other new studies showing that directing more funds toward instruction results in better student learning outcomes, may be cause for concern at institutions of higher learning.


Resources and Support for Teaching

  • More than half of respondents reported having three weeks’ notice or less to prepare for classes on at least one occasion; 23 percent reported experiences in which they never received curriculum guidelines for a course.
  • More than half of respondents reported teaching appointments for which they never received access to an office phone, and two-thirds had held appointments for which they either had no computer access (24 percent), or gained access less than two weeks before the start of classes (38 percent).
  • Twenty-eight percent of respondents said they had held teaching appointments at institutions that provided them with no office space at all.


Orientation and Student Services

  • Seventy percent of respondents said they received no departmental or institutional orientations; among those who did receive orientation, 86 percent said they were not compensated for their time.
  • Forty-four percent of respondents said they would not know what to do in the case of an emergency on campus; similar percentages of respondents said they would not know where to direct students who came to them with signs of mental health issues or who had experienced harassment or discrimination.
  • Instructors’ lack of knowledge about campus resources can have real effects: 83 percent of respondents said students had come to them for nonacademic advice or support, and 73 percent said they’d had students come to them with signs of depression or other mental illness.


Institutional Treatment of Contingent Faculty

  • Forty-five percent of respondents said their teaching contributed less than $20,000 to their annual income, but more than two-thirds had been asked by the institution for which they worked to contribute to a fundraising campaign.
  • One third of respondents said that a department they’d worked for included scholarship, publications, and grants they’d received in reports on faculty productivity, despite that fact that 94 percent of these respondents received no compensation for this work.
  • Despite the common perception that many adjuncts choose to work part-time, or as a supplement to another career, two-thirds of respondents had actively sought tenure-track teaching positions; 73 percent derive most of their income from adjunct teaching positions.


Did You Know?

  • Seventy percent of adjuncts received no departmental or institutional orientation.
  • A third of adjuncts see their scholarship and publications counted in their departments’ productivity reports, but almost none are compensated for this work.
  • About half of adjuncts earn less than $20,000 a year from their teaching.


Full results will be linked from this page as soon as they are available.

About AAC&U News

AAC&U News is written and edited by Ben Dedman. If you have questions or comments about the newsletter's contents, please e-mail dedman@aacu.org.


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