The Beginning of the Beginning of the End

Today, more than 70 percent of all faculty members responsible for instruction at not-for-profit institutions serve in non-tenure-track (NTT) positions. The numbers are startling, but numbers alone do not capture the essence of this problem. Many of our colleagues among this growing category of non-tenure-track faculty experience poor working conditions and a lack of support. Not only is it difficult for them to provide for themselves and their families, but their working conditions also interfere with their ability to offer the best educational experience for their students.

A New Faculty Path,” Adrianna Kezar, Susan Albertine and Dan Maxey

I’d like to say that this ongoing research project, housed at the University of Southern California’s Pullias Center for Higher Education, and dubbed, “The Changing Faculty and Student Success,” is very good news. After all, the project is founded on the recognition of the basic problem in higher education, which isn’t for-profits or new communication technologies, but the end of tenure and the loss of most full-time teaching positions.

It is good news insofar as it might signal at least the beginning of the beginning of the end. It also lays the groundwork for what might happen once the U.S. economy emerges out the recession. It could be a while before economic growth allows universities to have realistic budgets, bu there are some signs that full-time teachers could become a selling point in the emerging post for profits market. This might nudge that process in the right direction.

I hesitate only because the article, and the research project, is so chock-full of corporate speak or corporate-academic speak. I’ve gotten too many emails about my “customers” (my students) to be very comfortable with a rhetoric of “stakeholders” and “student success” and the like. The problem, of course, is that real change will involve as much conflict as consensus and a university should be about faculty and staff as much as students.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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