Why should contingency matter to tenure-line faculty?

First, what’s contingency? As defined by the GAO* and AAUP, “contingent faculty” is an umbrella term encompassing all non-tenure-system faculty — that is, faculty who, to different degrees, experience precarity. Contingent faculty teach about 60% of the credit hours taught at Miami. 

Contingency matters a LOT to tenure-line faculty. Why?

  • Reduction in TT numbers leads to increased service loads. Feeling run off your feet? So are most of your tenured colleagues. More service means less time for research and teaching.
  • Contingents have no voice or vote on campus. As their numbers increase, faculty influence on the management of the university dwindles. More and more top-down decisions are made (if you have been at Miami for awhile, you will recognize the trend). Faculty know-how is essential to the design and protection of Miami’s educational mission—and when shared governance declines, so does that mission.
  • Reductions in state funding and market-driven, efficiency-oriented thinking mean that administrative decisions are driven almost entirely by revenue.  Tenure-line numbers decrease — and lower-paid contingent faculty numbers increase — with each budget crunch, whether it’s real or rumored. Afterward, the new ratio becomes the new normal.
  • Academic freedom is diminished and threatened when, as is the case at Miami, a majority of faculty don’t have employment due-process protections. (For more on academic freedom at Miami, see here.)

What are the end results of contingency?

An insecure labor force, fewer opportunities for research, and lack of academic freedom in academia is harmful to students, faculty, and citizens. Universities’ educational mission is increasingly restricted. Free inquiry declines. When we emphasize career preparation at the expense of critical thinking, we deprive citizens of the tools they need to understand and solve the world’s problems.

What to do?

Tenure-line faculty can try to improve their conditions without seeking solidarity with contingents. But unless TT and non-TT faculty join together and organize, budget pressures and reduced faculty power mean that TT numbers could continue to erode until almost all faculty (if not all faculty) are contingent.

AAUP’s One Faculty movement explains that “the best way to halt the erosion of tenure and to extend economic security and other rights to contingent faculty is by organizing and using our collective strength—working together in solidarity across faculty ranks…The participation of all faculty in shared governance strengthens the faculty’s voice.”

We can fight contingency and win. Become part of AAUP’s One Faculty Miami movement by joining AAUP and becoming active in Miami’s AAUP Advocacy Chapter. And get to know your local VAPs and adjuncts!


*The GAO (United States Government Accountability Office) did a report for Congress on contingency in higher education in October of 2017—read highlights or the full report.

 

Do NTT faculty at Miami have academic freedom?

Do NTT faculty at Miami have academic freedom? What about due process in case of non-renewal?*

Fact: The answer to both questions is no.

  • Miami’s policy manual, MUPIM, specifically associates academic freedom with tenure. (If you aren’t totally sure what academic freedom is or why it’s important, please read this.)
  • MUPIM is silent on academic freedom for NTT faculty—LCPL, visiting, part-time faculty, and graduate students—who teach ~60% of the credit hours at Miami.**
  • MUPIM provides for a very loose version of due process in cases of nonrenewal only for lecturers and clinical faculty, and only at department or program level. Due process procedures for these faculty are not required and their nature is not specified.

Here are the relevant passages.

From MUPIM 7.3: Tenure & Promotion:

“Tenure is a means of assuring academic freedom: that is, the freedom to teach, to inquire, to create, to debate, to question, and to dissent (see Section 5.1). Such activity is the essence of the search for truth and knowledge, and is primary to the University. This atmosphere is necessary as the University seeks to attract, maintain, and nurture a diverse and exceptional faculty.

From MUPIM 5.1: Principles of Academic Freedom:

“The following statement of principles of academic freedom adopted by the American Association of University Professors in 1940 was approved by the Board of Trustees, June of 1950:

Institutions of higher education are conducted for the common good and not to further the interest of either the individual teacher or the institution as a whole. The common good depends upon the free search for truth and its free exposition. (The word “teacher” as used in this document is understood to include the investigator who is attached to an academic institution without teaching duties.)

Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research.  Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. It carries with it duties correlative with rights.

Tenure is a means to certain ends, specifically: (1) freedom of teaching and research and of extramural activities, and (2) a sufficient degree of economic security to make the profession attractive to men and women of ability. Freedom and economic security, hence tenure, are indispensable to the success of an institution in fulfilling its obligations to its students and to society.

No faculty member shall be obliged to make her or his nonpublic work available for inspection by a second party in the absence of compulsory legal process.

From MUPIM 7.11: Nontenured-Eligible Faculty Positions

“Appointments to nontenure-eligible faculty positions are made on an academic year basis. A person in a nontenure-eligible faculty position is eligible to receive, but not entitled to expect, renewal of appointment. No person shall serve more than five (5) years in a fulltime, nontenure-eligible instructional staff position except for those appointed as Lecturers or as Clinical/Professionally Licensed Faculty. Appointments to nontenure-eligible instructional staff positions are subject to renewal at the will of Miami University. Persons whose appointments are not being renewed are entitled to notice of nonrenewal on or before February 1.”

From MUPIM 7.11 C & D: Nonrenewal Process for Lecturers & Clinical Faculty:

In the event the nonrenewal of a Lecturer [or Clinical/Professionally Licensed Faculty] is under consideration, the department chair or program director (when appropriate) must first consult formally with the faculty consistent with the governance procedures of the department or program (when appropriate).

[No language about academic freedom; no language about cause or due process above department/program level in cases of nonrenewal; no language specifying that governance procedures governing nonrenewal exist at department program level, or what they should consist of if they exist.]

From MUPIM 7.1 1A & B: Renewal/Nonrenewal of Visiting Instructors and Visiting Faculty:

Visitors [& Instructors] are eligible to receive, but not entitled to expect, annual reappointment not to exceed five (5) years.

[No language about due process protections in cases of nonrenewal or about academic freedom.]

From MUPIM on per-credit-hour/part-time faculty:

[No language we could locate on either academic freedom or any due process protections for part-time/per-credit-hour faculty.]

The point here is not so much that Miami faculty don’t, in practice, have academic freedom most of the time. Most LCPL we’ve spoken with do feel they have freedom in the classroom. The point is that NTT faculty do not have express protections of academic freedom in the form of due process. That means that their academic freedom depends not on policy, but on the will of the people who hire them. And that means that when someone decides not to renew someone and it’s for the wrong reasons — let’s hope that doesn’t happen, but it could and does happen sometimes — then suddenly their academic freedom is a mirage. And if NTT academic freedom could become a mirage at any time, that means that actually NTT faculty don’t really have it at all.

 

*This piece focuses on nonrenewal, not abrupt termination. With nonrenewal, due process is not required and no cause for termination need be offered.

**See Miami University Budget Symposium 2017 presentation, p. 26.