Faculty in Chicago and Illinois
By Joe Berry
Like most of US higher education, the majority of teaching faculty
working in post-secondary education in Illinois are now working
off the tenure track. This means that they have virtually no security
of employment and most have no health or other benefits. This
“new majority faculty” work part or full time, but
their common factor is their lack of assurance of continuing employment,
having neither protection of a tenure system nor a union contract
with just cause dismissal protection. The consequences of these
changes in the faculty workforce over the last 30 years are numerous
and overwhelmingly negative for students, faculty, and the portion
of society as a whole that depends on higher education to produce
broadly educated critical thinkers as workers and citizens.
While no one has ever fully counted the contingent faculty in
all the relevant subsectors, I estimate that there are a minimum
of 16,000 contingent faculty working in the Chicago area alone.
These figures, drawn from my recent Ph.D. dissertation Contingent
Faculty in Higher Education: A Organizing Strategy and Chicago
Area Proposal (Union Institute and University, 2002) are based
upon a combination of existing data sets and some extrapolation.
In actuality the real total figure might well be twice as high
(30,000), while the total tenure and tenure track faculty probably
number no more than 10,000. The lower contingent figure omits
grad employees and others not considered faculty by their institutions,
grossly undercounts the large formal and informal for-profit sector
of higher education, and it also leaves out the teachers of non-credit
classes, both remedial and adult education, taught through many
higher education institutions. Finally, the figure also omits
the branches of out-of-state institutions which conduct classes
here. What this means is that there are at least 1.5 to 3 contingent
teachers for every full-time tenure track (FTTT) faculty member.
Though the demographics vary, I would suggest that the lower figure
would hold for the rest of Illinois as well.
Illinois, and the Chicago area, are in the middle of the national
spectrum in terms of types of institutions. It is neither like
California, where the public sector dominates, nor like Massachusetts
where the private sector is the vast majority. In addition to
traditional institutions, both public and private non-profit,
Illinois is a national center of for-profit higher education,
with one of the major national institutions, Devry, headquartered
here and others entering the market. These accredited degree granting
for-profits are joined by a large number of non-degree-granting
certificate programs in a wide range of specialties. Finally,
there is a very large, and diffuse, adult education infrastructure
that offers free classes in English as a second language, adult
basic education and GED prep, among other subjects. There are
also numerous teachers working in tuition based non-credit adult
education which ranges from private language schools through corporate
education and training, unaccredited trade schools, and private
teaching to groups and individuals. Many contingent faculty work
at the same time in various places in this complex system and
move from one to another in their effort to make a living. Our
colleagues have become a flow-though, just-in-time faculty.
In general, contingent faculty are approximately half, or more,
female compared to only about a third of the FTTT ranks. They
are about the same age and a bit more likely to be African American
than FTTT. I also believe the undercounted subsectors would significantly
raise the numbers and percentages of female and people of color
contingents. In other words, college faculty internally reflect
the historic patterns of privilege and discrimination of the society
as a whole.
Talking only about credit instruction, these faculty work for
wages ranging as low as $1,200 for a three semester credit class,
ranging up as high a $5,000 in special cases, with the average
probably under $2,000. Outside the Chicago area the figures are
generally lower, with some rates well under $1,000 per class.
According to IBHE figures, the median full-time equivalent salary
for Illinois contingents is $14,200 for part-timers, compared
to $62,200 for their FTTT colleagues. The growing number of full-time
non-tenure track faculty are paid better ($49,800) though still
well below the FTTT faculty. The large majority of contingents
have no employer provided health insurance or other benefits.
Most part-time contingents have other paid work, in academia and
elsewhere, and those who do not often have substantial unpaid
responsibilities, such a child or elder care. Nearly all contingent
faculty now report that their income is a needed for their family.
The old pattern of contingents being community professional specialists
who taught a specialized course occasionally is now a small percentage
to the total. Most contingents report that if offered a FTTT position
in the department in which they are now teaching, they would accept
it. Even those working full-time outside academia often see themselves
as underemployed teachers.
This is not the place for a full recitation of the impact of these
conditions upon contingent faculty themselves, their FTTT colleagues,
their students and the educational mission in society generally.
In summary, contingent faculty themselves sustain the instability
of their lives, both economically and psychologically, that results
from the employers’ desire for greater flexibility. This
impact upon them and their families is in addition to the much
lower pay and absence of benefits. They also must absorb the impact
of the lack of respect symbolized at every turn in their employment
relationship. The lack of academic freedom inherent in teaching
without any job security is really too obvious to need explanation
to an audience of faculty.
For FTTT faculty, the growth of the contingent sector means fewer
full colleagues among whom to share the non teaching collective
work of the department, since most contingent appointments are
paid for teaching only. This has occurred just at the time that
requirements for research and publishing are being raised in many
institutions while teaching loads remain the same. An even more
insidious impact is the collective disempowerment of the faculty
a whole. With the majority now contingent, the power of faculty
to impact administrative decisions is greatly reduced. This is
not accidental. It is part of a conscious administrative strategy
with the abolition of tenure as a major part. To a large extent,
it has already been done. All those FTTT faculty who care about
the future of the profession and are not just counting their days
until retirement should share this concern.
The casualization of college teaching work is not just a faculty
issue. Most students are now being taught by faculty with no freedom
to speak the truth as they see it. More prosaically, they often
cannot even find their teachers outside of class, and often cannot
know before a class starts who their teacher will be. Longer term
projects and clearing incompletes become problematic with the
employment instability of contingents. Everything dependent on
easy faculty-student contact, from letters of recommendation to
in formal spontaneous conversations suffers. We are in danger
of creating a generation of college educated adults who have never
really experienced the full range of what a college education
should be, as opposed to mere credit accumulation and job training.
For the society as a whole, we are in danger of losing the positive
aspects of the traditional mission of higher education. This casualization
of the faculty workforce, its progressive disempowerment within
the institutions and its increasing need to struggle to piece
together a living constitutes a wider opening of the door to the
progressive corporatization and commercialization of higher education.
With faculty as a group less able to play their watchdog role
of over the tendency of administrators to focus all attention
upon the bottom line, as if they were corporate CEO’s, the
actual influence of capital, in the form of large corporations,
grows daily. While higher education has never been the undiluted
community of equal scholars that legend describes, those very
real elements of higher education not subject to the capitalist
market (free inquiry, academic freedom, a substantial degree of
faculty control, and the value of critical thought) are directly
under attack. The transition to a majority contingent faculty
is the leading edge of this assault. If it succeeds, our whole
society will be the poorer for it.
is a member of the Roosevelt University Adjunct Faculty and Chair
of Chicago Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor. He will speak
about contingent faculty at the Illinois AAUP Annual Meeting on
April 17, 2004 in Chicago.
Conference on Contingent Academic Labor
one expression of the movement for a different
Not all those adversely impacted by the casualization of academic
labor have remained totally inert and silent. Students, FTTT faculty,
and especially contingent faculty themselves are increasingly
speaking out and organizing for a different future. From grad
employees to the full-time non tenure track, and thousands in
between, contingent teachers have built a movement, both inside
and outside the traditional faculty organizations and unions.
This movement, supported by national AAUP, AFT, and NEA, has sparked
national, and international, coordinated actions like Campus Equity
Week in 2001 and 2003, and has sustained a series of conferences
since 1995 that bring together across organizational lines many
of those trying to help shape and build contingent faculty power.
The next of these conferences, COCAL VI) will be in Chicago, August
6-8, 2004 at Roosevelt University and Columbia College, sponsored
by the Chicago Chapter of the Coalition of Contingent Academic
Labor. 300 activists from all over the US, Canada and Mexico are
expected to exchange experiences, assess the past work and plan
strategy for the future of this growing movement. There will also
be social events and a march (a “progressive report card”)
through downtown Chicago, For further information and registration
materials, see www.chicagococal.org, call 312-341-3294, or email
firstname.lastname@example.org. All contingent faculty and our friends and
supporters are invited.