AAA to hear resolution on contingent and part-time academic labor

At the AAA business meeting, the Committeee on Labor Relations (Sharry Kasmir, chair) will bring forward a resolution on adjunct rights. If you are attending the meeting on Thursday and care about adjunct rights please come to show your support. For this resolution to go forward there has to be a quorum met, so it is vital that we have enough warm bodies in the room.

That’s Thursday, 11/21 at 6:15pm.


Whereas the number of faculty members teaching in the US in non-tenure track, contingent positions—defined as part-time or adjunct faculty, full-time non-tenure track, postdoctoral teachers, or graduate student teaching assistants—has more than doubled since 1970;

And today these colleagues teach more than 75% of classes nationwide;

And part-time faculty—who teach on a per-course basis, who are also called adjunct faculty—make up 70% of this contingent workforce and make up fully half of all higher education faculty in the United States;

And they are paid shamefully little in comparison to tenured or tenure-track counterparts, and most receive no medical or retirement benefits;

And they have little opportunity for advancement, their employment is insecure, and they have relatively little say in university or college governance.

And because compensation is so low, and because they are often bound by caps on employment that are unconnected to qualifications or enrollments, part-time faculty sometimes hold several positions to support themselves, making their workloads extremely difficult;

And because conditions of low pay, few or no benefits, and a paucity of opportunities for professional growth not only hurt not currently employed contingent faculty, but are also a disincentive for students who wish to continue careers in academia;

And because according to the results of a 2010 survey by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW, of which the AAA is an organizational member) compensation rates for adjunct faculty nationwide average just $2,700 per three-credit course ($2,235 at two-year colleges, $3,400 at four-year or doctoral institutions;)
And while the data show that median pay for anthropology courses is somewhat higher at $3,000, it nonetheless remains extremely low;

And there is minimal pay increase based on credentials or seniority, and minimal support for work or professional development outside the classroom;

And the presence of a union on campus has a positive impact on wages–the data show that institutions where part-time faculty respondents were not represented by a union paid a median of $2,475 per course, as compared with $3,100 at institutions with union representation;

And the data suggest a disparity in the type of institution of employment (two-year or four-year, doctoral universities) and in pay, indicating that part-time faculty who identified themselves as Black (not of Hispanic origin) and those who identified as Hispanic or Latino or multiracial earn less than other racial and ethnic groups;

And the number of respondents to the CAW survey in these racial and ethnic categories is small, and CAW considers that it is important to undertake further analysis and collect more data focusing on this issue;
And the CAW survey shows that part-time/adjunct faculty are not in their positions only temporarily, rather over 80% of part-time faculty respondents have taught for at least three years, over 55% six or more years, and over 30% for ten or more years.

And 73.3% consider teaching in higher education their primary employment;

And more than three-fourths reported they were currently teaching at least one course for the third time or more at the same institution and more than half were teaching at least one course for the sixth time or more;

And given these conditions and circumstances, faculty unions have considered good practices for contingent employment, and organizations, such as Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor and New Faculty Majority, have formed to promote the interests of contingent faculty.

And scholarly associations also have a role to play—the Modern Language Association (MLA), Organization of American Historians (OAH), American Historical Association (AHA), and the American Sociology Association (ASA), have all produced recommendations, standards, and guidelines for the employment of contingent faculty;

And while these groups support the creation of more tenure-track positions in academia, they are also mindful of the urgent need to improve the conditions for part-time, adjunct and contingent work;

And the AAA believes that academic institutions should show respect for those who work day in and day out to ensure that students succeed, and that they should therefore give the highest priority to investment in higher education’s academic workforce, across all segments and statuses;

And the AAA is concerned for fair and equitable treatment and respect for all academic faculty members, regardless of status;

Therefore be it resolved,

That the AAA membership commits to the following principles:

Fair and equitable compensation, including medical and retirement benefits, for all members of the academic workforce.

Job security for all members of the academic workforce.

Participation in faculty governance for all members of the academic workforce.

Academic freedom, including freedom from retaliation in all teaching and research across the academic workforce.

Opportunities for professional advancement, including progressive salary steps, and professional development and institution-based grants, across the academic workforce.

Access to secretarial and technological support services, to the library, and other campus privileges across the academic workforce.

The right of contingent faculty to self-organize to improve their working conditions and pay, and to address other workplace matters.

Future efforts to collect more data related to questions of racial disparities in part-time pay and employment.

Further consideration of ways the AAA can be an effective advocate for contingent faculty.

Matt Thompson

Matt Thompson is Project Cataloger at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia, and currently working on a CLIR ‘hidden collections’ grant to describe the museum’s collection of early 20th Century photography. He has a doctorate in anthropology from the University of North Carolina and a Masters in information science from the University of Tennessee.

One thought on “AAA to hear resolution on contingent and part-time academic labor

  1. Thanks, Matt. In addition to this, the CLR is sponsoring a workshop on contingent labor, “The AAA and Labor Issues: Initiatives, Goals and Dialogue,” at which they invite people to share their experiences at concerns. It is also on Thursday, November 21, from 12:15-1:30 in the Waldorf Room at the Chicago Hilton. The CLR now has a labor issues listserv, which can be joined here:

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