Second in Series of Higher Education Reports Documents Painful Impact of “Contingency Faculty Hiring”on Students and on Faculty’s Ability to Deliver Quality Education

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Growing Trend to Hire Faculty on Contingent Basis Just Days Before Start of School is Hurting Quality of Education for Students Finds Report by the Center for for the Future of HIgher Education

Who is 'Professor Staff,' and how can this person teach so many classes?

The Center for the Future of Higher Education, a think tank associated with the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, released the second in a series of reports highlighting some of the major challenges in the way of providing students with access to an affordable and quality higher education.

The new report—“Who is Professor ‘Staff,’ and how can this person teach so many classes?”—offers an in-depth analysis of a recent nationwide survey of “contingent” faculty—teachers hired strictly on temporary contracts. The survey was developed and administered by the New Faculty Majority Foundation.

University hiring on a contingent basis is a rapidly growing trend in every category of college and university in the U.S.; contingent faculty now comprise the majority of all college and university faculty members.

The report focuses on the working conditions imposed on contingent faculty and the impact of those conditions on students and the quality of the education they receive.

In contrast to practices for most full-time faculty, contingent faculty often receive their course assignments shortly before the start of an academic term, sometimes two or three weeks or less, just in time for the start of classes and with little time to prepare a high-quality college-level course.

The problem is exacerbated when university managers fail to provide contingent faculty with full and effective access to the resources and technologies that define quality education in today’s colleges and universities.

“College and university administrators are relying more and more on faculty members who are hired on a short-term, so-called ‘temporary’ basis even though these faculty are often rehired term after term. Our study documents ways in which this unnecessary mismanagement of valuable human resources results in inadequate working conditions that shortchange students and quality education,” said Esther Merves, a co-author of the report and Director of Research & Special Programs for the New Faculty Majority Foundation.

Maria Maisto, a report co-author and Executive Director of the New Faculty Majority Foundation, said, “Dedicated faculty members are able to overcome many of the obstacles, but the point is they should not be encountering such obstacles at all. Students and faculty should not be required to compensate for what colleges refuse to provide. That is unfair to students and not in the best interest of America’s future.”

The report recommends increased transparency regarding the working conditions of contingent faculty. Such transparency could lead to a commitment by higher ed institutions to analyze the impact of contingent hiring on student learning and to reform employment practices.

Gary Rhoades, a report co-author and Director of the Center for the Future of Higher Education, added, “There is no doubt that improving the working conditions of contingent faculty will also improve the educational experiences and success of college students. There is no financial or managerial justification of this situation, which could be markedly improved at little or no new costs. It is not just the right thing to do, it is the way to secure a strong future for our country."

The Campaign for the Future of Higher Education is a project supported by 59 local and national organizations, including allies of higher education as well as college and university faculty organizations in states from Massachusetts to Florida to the Midwest and California. Its “virtual” think tank brings together faculty experts from across the nation to speak out on issues challenging our nation’s system of post-secondary education. CFHE injects the faculty voice into the national discussion over the country’s higher education policies — a discussion that has been dominated by executives and consultants, with far too little participation by the people who are in the classrooms with the millions of students whose success will determine the future of America. For a complete version of CFHE’s Principles for Quality Higher Education in the 21st Century, see http://www.futureofhighered.org/Principles.html

The NFM Foundation supports the goals of New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct and Contingent Equity with complementary programming including research and community outreach. Its mission is to educate the public about the impact of the contingent faculty crisis on educational quality and the public good, and to mobilize a broad coalition of constituencies to support ethical reform. NFM and NFMF participate in many coalitions including the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education and the Coalition on the Academic Workforce.

Interviews are available with the report’s authors as well as with college and university faculty in many states.

Please contact Maria Maisto, 216-262-4375 or Gary Rhoades, 520-258-8684.

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Maria Maisto