Caucus for Contingent Faculty Concerns

The Caucus for Contingent Faculty Concerns exists to advocate for non-tenure-track faculty within the SCE and in the academy more broadly. We seek to enhance the status of non-tenure-track faculty and independent scholars within the profession and to strengthen ties between tenured and non-tenured faculty. As part of its activities within the Society, the Caucus hosts speakers, panels, and moderated discussions; facilitates networking; gathers data; increases the visibility of contingent faculty; shares strategies; and sponsors concurrent sessions at the annual meeting. Caucus membership is open to all SCE members, regardless of employment or student status.

Background

Over the past 40 years, Colleges and universities across the country have become increasingly more reliant upon contingent faculty members to teach their undergraduate students. The latest figures indicate that 70-75% of college and university faculty are off the tenure track. As a result, many academics find that they must improvise in order to find employment, sometimes working at more than one institution for a small wage and no benefits.; Contingent faculty often cannot make ends meet, have no health insurance coverage, and work without many of the same institutional resources as tenure-track faculty. In many cases, the employment situation is exploitative, and it has deleterious effects on the profession, students, institutions, and most of all on the contingent faculty themselves. We acknowledge that some faculty may be contingent by choice; however, that is not a justification for unjust treatment.

The Society of Christian Ethics has in the past provided space to discuss the plight of contingent faculty through paper presentations on the topic.  However, given the long-term nature of the problem, it is our view that a more permanent structure be set in place as an arena in which contingent faculty, as well as tenure-track and tenured faculty, can address these issues.  

Purpose

The contingent faculty caucus will serve three main functions, namely awareness, accountability, and advocacy. 

1.  Awareness and visibility:  Tenured faculty members are often unaware of the extent of the problem, despite the extensive coverage the issue has received in mainstream and academic media.  Contingent faculty members often feel inferior to tenured and tenure-track faculty, a feeling that compounds over time as their CVs continue to diverge from their full-time peers This makes some contingent faculty reluctant to advocate for themselves. A permanent caucus would be a validation of the contributions of contingent faculty, while making their numbers more evident.

2.   Accountability: Such a group could examine the link between doctoral program admissions and the job market; highlight the role of tenured and tenure-track faculty in ameliorating the working conditions of contingent faculty; and call administrators to rethink—or at least justify—exploitative employment practices. This could also include lobbying accrediting bodies to consider ratios of full-time to part-time faculty. 

3.  Advocacy:  The caucus can also identify and implement strategies to improve the position of contingent faculty, both within the SCE and in academia as a whole, and also serve as a link between SCE’s members and advocates in other parts of the academy.  This would include sharing strategies for contingent faculty themselves to cope with or improve conditions, to locate sources of funding for research (often closed if you do not have a permanent institutional affiliation), and to know when to call it quits and seek a more sustainable livelihood. Advocacy should not be seen as limited to contingent faculty, but as inclusive of tenured faculty and administrators.

Group description: 
This group represents non-tenure-track faculty.