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ERIC Number: EJ1072083
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015
Pages: 16
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0748-8475
The Old Normal: Casualization and Contingency in Historical Perspective
Cain, Timothy Reese
Thought & Action, p23-38 Sum 2015
American higher education is in the midst of a staffing crisis. More than three quarters of faculty members work off the tenure track, often with no job security, low wages, and few prospects for advancement. While the contingent labor force is diversified--including highly qualified but part-time laborers piecing together positions at multiple institutions, working professionals teaching a single class, and full-time instructors on short- and longer-term contracts--many struggle to make a living wage, work without benefits, and lack the means and support that would enable them to fully serve the needs of their students or otherwise pursue a successful scholarly career. Additionally, graduate students are a key source of academic labor, though one that has too often been mistreated and ill supported. The current academic labor market offers many of them little chance to pursue the careers for which they think they are preparing. This situation is starting to receive the scholarly and public attention that it deserves, but the challenges are daunting with real effects on higher education and its many constituents. This article points to the larger structural issues in the staffing of American colleges and argues that the professionalization of the faculty was also the stratification of the faculty. While that professionalization provided great benefits to some, it simultaneously created a "sub-faculty" or an "academic underclass," with few rights, low pay, onerous loads, little respect, and little realistic hope to ascend. As stakeholders in higher education consider, and hopefully address, the current version of this condition, it's important to remember its long history. The author argues that temporary surges in funds, short-term efforts around an immediate crisis, or locally based solutions are unlikely to change the fundamental and longstanding problems of academic staffing. Rather, something more systemic, and perhaps more radical, is needed.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Grant or Contract Numbers: N/A