The new face of full-time faculty

Researchers are taking a closer look at the expanding roles that full-time, non-tenure-track faculty members play in higher education.

These kinds of educators are becoming increasingly relied upon by the colleges and universities that employ them, Peter Schmidt reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education. Schmidt sat down with one of the researchers who has interviewed dozens of these people to take their pulse at a time when dramatic changes are underway in the academic labor workforce.

A full version of the interview with Baylor University’s Nathan F. Alleman can be found on the Chronicle’s web site. We pulled out a few of the tidbits we found most interesting:

It’s time to change perceptions about what non-tenured faculty do in their jobs

“They tend to be thought of as people who come in and teach a class and they leave. What we have seen is that many of them were heavily involved in a lot of the aspects of the faculty life that we tend to think about the tenure-track faculty as doing. They are involved in service, they are undergraduate-program directors, they are running summer outreach programs. This is important because when we think about the range of activities related to collegiality — sort of willingness to engage with departmental colleagues, willingness to serve, self-giving for the good of the department — we don’t usually think that that is the sort of thing that non-tenure-track faculty do.

A mixed bag on opportunities for workplace collaboration

“People in the performing arts, they saw a lot of one another, they worked together on projects, they socialized inside and outside the institution. Others were more isolated naturally, such as in some of the sciences and mathematics, and it really depended on the initiative of the tenured faculty. Often there was clumping around job status. People said, ‘Well, we go for lunch, but it is always the tenure-track people, they sit together, and the non-tenure-track people, we kind of have our own thing.’

Why university administrators should listen to the voices of the non-tenured

Collegiality is a thing that allows a group of autonomous professionals to find some common way to work together. It is the grease in the wheels. When we see this shrinking pool of tenure-track faculty, and growing pool of non-tenure-track faculty who are not part of this collegial system fully, what we see is a shrinking group of people who are responsible for a lot of governance, a lot of decision making. I think, ultimately, denying full collegiality to non-tenure-track faculty is bad for the institution and is bad for the tenure-track faculty themselves.

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