Cover Story

Of the nearly 1.2 million faculty positions at all U.S. institutions, about 65 percent are contingent faculty--those who work either part time or hold full-time, nontenure-track positions.

That growth could be detrimental to academe, according to a new report by the American Association of University Professors, "Consequences: An Increasingly Contingent Faculty." Among the authors' concerns: Contingent faculty often lack institutional supports that facilitate good teaching--including office space, campus e-mail and a say in curriculum development. They don't have the time to mentor and advise students. And they are less likely to academically challenge their students because student evaluations often predict whether they'll be employed again.

But students aren't the only ones getting a short shrift, the report says.

"The central ramification of increasing contingent faculty appointments in higher education is the diminution of the faculty voice," authors John W. Curtis, PhD, and Monica F. Jacobe write. Indeed, the nature of contingent work prevents these faculty members from shaping the larger world of academe--leaving the shrinking ranks of tenured and tenure-track faculty to bear the weight of institutional service and speak with a weaker collective voice, they say.

Contingent faculty also suffer, the report notes: Those off the tenure track often have little hope for tenure-track jobs at their current institution, and the pay can be poor (see "Off the tenure track" for salary data and more on contingent work). Moreover, they usually have little time or support for research.

The "Consequences" report is part of AAUP's Contingent Faculty Index, released in November for the first time. The 2006 index also includes data on the faculty of more than 2,600 institutions. To view the numbers of contingent versus tenure-track faculty at your institution, visit research/conind2006.htm.

-S. Martin and D. Smith Bailey

Source: U.S. Department of Education, IPEDS Fall Staff Survey. Compiled by AAUP Research Office, Washington, D.C.; John W. Curtis, Director of Research. Note: The 2003 percentages add up to 100.1% because of rounding.