Major Study Under Way on Contingent Academic Work

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The Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW)—of which AFT is a member—is kicking off a major survey to collect information about the working lives of contingent academics—nontenure-track, full- and part-time instructors and researchers; graduate employees; and postdoctoral fellows. It is the first national survey of its kind to gather in-depth data on the salaries, benefits, course assignments and general working conditions that contingent academic workers experience at the institutional level.

Through the AFT's Faculty and College Excellence campaign (FACE), the union has been tackling the higher education academic-staffing crisis through organizing, legislative action and public education. Now, the AFT is urging all members and others who work in higher education on a contingent basis to enrich our knowledge base about what is going on. Please go to the CAW website to learn more, or complete the survey—and spread the word to your part-time/adjunct and contingent colleagues.

Earlier this year, CAW released "One Faculty Serving All Students," an issue brief showing that nearly three-quarters of the instructional staff in higher education today are serving contingently. Despite being trained professionals responsible for a significant proportion of undergraduate education, many of these workers report earning very low wages, and having no benefits and little access to any type of career ladder.

"A vibrant debate about our higher education system is going on in this country," says Craig Smith, AFT deputy director of higher education. "Unfortunately, that debate often overlooks what we in CAW believe to be perhaps the most significant issue: the continuing lack of investment in the faculty and staff responsible for carrying out the core missions of our institutions." [Craig Smith, Barbara McKenna, CAW press release]

September 27, 2010