Junior Prof’s Resources for Contemplating Contingent Labor in the Academy

It’s no secret that the last several decades in higher education have witnessed a large-sweeping, administrative turn toward divesting in human labor. As the consequences of these administrative decisions make themselves more and more clear, the subject of contingency in the academy has come to the attention of authors, institutions, and academic news venues.

At this particular moment, I don’t know nearly as much on the subject as I should, and I recognize that fact is attributable (at least in part) to my status as non-contingent faculty. I know in my core that tenured and tenure-track faculty can be powerful accomplices in the fight against increased contingency, so this term I’m dedicating my spare reading time to getting educated on the topic.

The following is a preliminary list of readings I’ll be working through. Please join me in my reading, comment on Twitter, or suggest additional readings we can add to the list. Reading about contingency in the academy won’t change it, but my hope is that it’s a powerful step toward getting informed. Contingent faculty often feel silenced because their employment relies on that silence — here’s to hoping these readings help me find a voice so that I can speak up when the university president addresses a crowd, when a policy is BS, when my contingent colleagues are being abused, or when the administration dodges questions about contingency on campus.

“Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession” on The American Association of University Professors website (report updated in 2014)

This report does the following:

  • Defines contingent faculty
  • Shows statistics that contingent faculty are the majority of instructional labor on our campuses
  • Partially explains institutional divestment in human labor on campuses
  • Underscores the negative consequences of increasingly contingent instructional labor
  • Provides recommendations for faculty work
  • Details how to transition back toward best practices

Professors in the Gig Economy: Unionizing Adjunct Faculty in America — Edited by Kim Tolley

The Gig Academy: Mapping Labor in the Neoliberal University — by Adrianna Kezar, Tom DePaola, and Daniel T. Scott

The Adjunct Underclass: How America’s Colleges Betrayed Their Faculty, Their Students, and Their Mission — by Herb Childress

“The Professor and The Adjunct” in the New Yorker — by Hua Hsu

This book review looks at both Childress’s book (above) and John Sexton’s Standing For Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age.


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