NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ936565
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 8
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 21
ISSN: ISSN-0024-1822
Confronting Contingency: Faculty Equity and the Goals of Academic Democracy
Maisto, Maria; Street, Steve
Liberal Education, v97 n1 p6-13 Win 2011
Much has been written about higher education's increasing reliance on contingent academic labor over the last few decades. The narrative, which includes differing accounts of what, or who, is most to blame, has been well rehearsed: the increase came in slow and steady waves tied to significant political and economic events, including postwar enrollment surges, economic downturns, and the shift to a corporate management model; it came with the knowing or unknowing complicity of administrators; it was caused by the complacency of the tenured, the fear of the untenured, or is simply collateral damage in a war against tenure. It is not the authors' purpose to analyze the causes of contingency; in this essay they focus on the efforts of those who have worked to reform or eliminate it. However, because the decades-old struggle to mitigate or reverse the trend has, in spite of a variety of efforts, seen the percentage of postsecondary faculty on contingent appointments actually rise from 43 percent in 1975 to almost 75 percent in 2010, and because troubling new developments include brazen union busting by the administration at East-West University in Chicago and the proposals by two community colleges in Michigan to outsource the hiring and administration of contingent faculty to new "academic temporary agencies," it is impossible not to return to questions of cause--and effect. For whether one believes that the reliance on contingent employment is a positive development, a simple fact of life of contemporary higher education, or one of the biggest threats yet to its integrity, it is imperative that the implications for the health of the profession, for the future of institutional leadership, and for the state of liberal education be considered. Such consideration will allow one to (re)write the narrative going forward, rather than to allow the narrative simply to repeat in an endless and ever-expanding loop, as it seems to have done since the American Association of University Professors issued its first official policy statement on contingency in 1980. (Contains 1 note.)
Association of American Colleges and Universities. 1818 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20009. Tel: 800-297-3775; Tel: 202-387-3760; Fax: 202-265-9532; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Illinois; Michigan