First, what’s contingency? For AAUP, “contingent faculty” is an umbrella term encompassing all non-tenure-system faculty — that is, faculty who, to different degrees, experience precarity. If you’re not clear on why, say, lecturers and VAPs at Miami count as “precarious,” please see this post.
Contingency matters to tenure-line faculty. Why?
- Shared governance (faculty’s ability to affect decisions) is threatened when fewer & fewer faculty are enfranchised.
- Reduction in TT numbers leads to increased service loads & reduced time for research.
- Market/efficiency oriented thinking provides ready argument for using the cheapest labor available, & availability of cheap labor means tenure-line numbers will continue to decrease whenever there is a “crisis.”
- Academic freedom is diminished and threatened. (For more on academic freedom at Miami, see here.)
What are the end results of contingency?
An insecure labor force, lack of opportunities for research, and lack of academic freedom in academia is harmful to students, faculty, and citizens. The university’s educational mission is increasingly restricted from free inquiry and reduced to career training, resulting in less informed citizens. Citizens become increasingly less capable of critical thought and creative solutions to the problems the world faces.
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 movement by joining AAUP and becoming active in Miami’s AAUP Advocacy Chapter.
Our chapter has begun commissioning a series of working papers on the state of Miami. The first, on Miami University Economic and Financial Trends, is by economics professor James Brock. The trends are worth noting.
As a comparison, bear in mind that the Consumer Price Index rose by 48% in the last ten years. Meanwhile, at Miami:
- Total costs in the President’s, CAS Dean’s, and FSB Dean’s offices were rising much faster: 100%, 367%, and 300% respectively.
- Total faculty numbers increased by 10% over 10 years, but administrative employees grew by 68%.
- Over the same period, tenure-track faculty as a percentage of total faculty declined by 10%.
- Intercollegiate Athletics spending went up by 73%.
- Miami is paying 600% more interest on its debts than it was ten years ago.
How can Miami stay stable and sustainable if these trends continue? There’s much more at the link.
Many thanks to Professor Brock for gathering the data.
*Note: The original version of this post said that “salary costs” in several upper administrative offices were rising much faster than the Consumer Price Index. We have corrected the error at the request of Professor Brock.