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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Saturday, August 25, 2012
Just in time for the fall rituals of orientation and enrollment, the Center for the Future of Higher Education in conjunction with the New Faculty Majority Foundation has issued a new report entitled "Who is Professor Staff, and How can this person teach so many classes?"  The report points again to the centrality of contingent labor for the present organization of higher education.  It details, in important ways, the impact of the present labor system not only on those who teach but on those who learn. The report is based on a survey of contingent faculty carried out by the Center.

As "Who is Professor Staff?" makes clear, the majority of teachers in higher education are not only contingent faculty but are part-time contingent faculty.  Moreover, a majority of those the Center surveyed taught at more than one college or university, some taught in several institutions.  This prevalence of part-time faculty is not simply an effect of the overwhelming predominance of two-year community colleges--over half of the respondents taught at a four-year institution (even if in addition to a two-year institution). (4)  Despite the common perception of higher education populated with tenured and tenure-track faculty it is the reality of contingent and part-time faculty that is the dominant fact in the labor system of higher education.  Reliance on contingent faculty is also the prime mechanism through which university and college managers have sought to cut instructional labor costs.  And, of course, this point does not even address the  importance of Graduate Student Instructors at the university level.