Monday, April 02, 2007

Adjunct Freedom

Excellent! Here's an article from Inside Higher Ed on the American Federation of Teachers, academic freedom, and the use and abuse of adjunct faculty.

... the AFT is acknowledging that relying on the tenure system to protect professors’ academic freedom doesn’t work when more and more faculty members don’t have, and may never have, tenure.

“The greatest threat to academic freedom today is the subtle removal of many faculty positions from the tenure track and from engagement with institutional power through shared governance structures like faculty senates,” says a background paper the AFT produced to explain the idea of drafting a new statement of principles on academic freedom. “The mechanisms of tenure (or similar protections against arbitrary treatment), peer review and shared governance are vital to the maintenance of academic freedom.”
I posted recently on another Inside Higher Ed article about the increasing use of adjunct faculty as an attack on tenure and, having spent many years as an adjunct myself, I am in complete agreement with the argument that this constitutes "the greatest threat to academic freedom today." In addition to seeking to curb this alarming trend and increase the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty positions, the AFT is also seeking to increase the faculty governance role of adjunct faculty as well.

As is also the case with untenured Assistant Professors, though, simply including adjunct faculty on university committees does not necessarily translate into institutional power. It is a mistake to think that one can engage robustly in arguing for changes in personnel or curriculum policy when one's own job next semester depends on the continuing good will of the other faculty and administrators also serving on that committee. The problem is not simply the lack of adjunct faculty representation on university committees. The problem is that their status as adjunct faculty makes them too vulnerable for the task. Along with this, adjunct salaries are already so poor that adding yet more time consuming duties on top of their already overworked and underpaid positions is not the most progressive stance to take.

Faculty governance depends on tenure. There is no substitute for it. Adjunct faculty do not, and cannot, have the same academic freedoms and the same roles in shared governance as tenured faculty. This is not because they don't do committee work, but because they are not tenured. The only way to fix this fundamental inequality is to stop using adjunct faculty. I'm convinced that the best way to do this is to raise adjunct salaries dramatically. If there are no cost savings to the institution, there will be much less incentive to hire off the tenure-track.

1 comment:

  1. "Faculty governance depends on tenure. There is no substitute for it."

    That is the issue.