Non-Tenure-Track Faculty & Shared Governance
Non-tenure-track faculty (NTTF) are the new norm — the “new faculty majority” (Kezar, 2012) — of higher education. Nationally, NTTF now outnumber tenure-track faculty (TTF): a 2016 AAUP report indicates that less than one-third of faculty have tenure or are on the tenure track. This national ratio differs somewhat from here at The University of Mississippi, where about half of the faculty are tenured or are on the tenure track. However, national hiring practices also indicate that NTTF will continue to outnumber TTF, since three out of four new hires are off the tenure track (Kezar, 2012). Our hiring trend hovers around that same percentage: 65% in 2005-2006, 84% in 2010-2011, and 70% in 2016-2017.
Across the country, campus policies and practices are not yet reflective of these shifts. Scholars are now highlighting the opportunities that campus communities have to purposefully redesign faculty roles and functions (Maxey & Kezar, 2016). The redesigned possibilities rest on recognizing the differences between current institutional policies/practices and actual faculty capabilities/willingness (Kezar, 2013). The Non-Tenure Track Faculty Governance Exploratory Committee was formed here to explore and address how contingent faculty on our campus could have a voice in shared governance, from which we are currently excluded by both policy and practice. Jones, Hutchens, Hulbert, Lewis, and Brown (2017) note that 88% of public R1 universities (Doctoral Universities, Highest Research Activity) include full-time NTTF in shared governance in some way, and 12% of those same universities include part-time NTTF. In order to situate our current work around adding The University of Mississippi to those percentages, this very brief literature review summarizes some of the current scholarship that exists around the benefits of—and, indeed, the need to—incorporate NTTF into shared governance.
In some notable ways, contingent faculty have been shown to have high job satisfaction. Waltman, Bergom, Hollenshead, Miller, and August (2012) point to both the focus that NTTF have on teaching and working with students and the career flexibility afforded by these positions as factors that positively influence their job satisfaction levels. In other aspects, though, universities’ campus policies and practices are excluding contingent faculty from too much of the central work of the university. Waltman et al. (2012) highlight both terms of employment (the lack of job security and advancement opportunities) and general respect and inclusion (the lack of shared governance and a welcoming climate) as sources of dissatisfaction. More narrowly, numerous scholars have identified the exclusion of NTTF from shared governance as an unwelcome fortification of their second-class status on campuses (Maxey & Kezar, 2016; Morrison, 2008; Palmquist et al., 2011). Importantly, this class distinction is not based solely on an exclusion from academic decision making; rather, as Kezar and Sam (2014) note, “faculty governance is much more than a decision-making body and…has served to foster collegiality, relationship-building, social capital, trust, cooperation and collaboration, and other important functions that help create institutional well-being” (p. 430). The exclusion of contingent faculty from shared governance, then, reduces the opportunities for real partnerships and understanding to form across faculty class lines.
This issue of shared governance thus influences the working conditions of all faculty members on a campus. For NTTF in particular, though, a lack of shared governance at the university level permeates almost every aspect of their employment. Studies have demonstrated how contingent faculty’s poor working conditions negatively affect student retention and completion rates (Maxey & Kezar, 2016), and those conditions often have no space within shared governance to be addressed. One of the first steps, then, to take to address this significant issue is to mobilize awareness on campus in order to break the invisibility that often blankets contingent faculty in their working lives (Kezar & Sam, 2013). In so doing, NTTF can begin to benefit from social-contact theory, “a well-established sociological theory used to explain how people overcome discrimination and improve intergroup relations. The most basic premise of social contact theory is that increased contact between social groups will reduce prejudicial attitudes and behaviors. The underlying assumption is that lack of contact, especially meaningful interactions such as problem solving, leads to stereotypes and misinformation. Contact allows groups to learn about each other and dispel misinformation” (Kezar & Sam, 2014, p. 432). Having contingent and non-contingent faculty serve on committees and subcommittees together for the purposes of shared governance helps create the contact through which true cooperation and collaboration can flourish on a campus.
Ultimately, this discussion about including NTTF in shared governance centers on developing and supporting the well-being of the institution as a whole. As Maxey and Kezar (2016) identify, TTF across the country are currently fulfilling service responsibilities at what is probably an unsustainable rate. With the shrinking numbers of non-contingent faculty on campuses serving in positions restricted to TTF, their three-fold efforts of teaching, research, and service are becoming stretched rather thin. Simultaneously, NTTF not only lack a voice in their campus governance but also often find their years of service unacknowledged and their expertise untapped. In the endeavor of higher education, as Gappa, Austin, and Trice (2007) observe, “the faculty’s intellectual capital, taken collectively, is the institution’s foremost asset” (p. 4). Inclusion of contingent and non-contingent faculty in shared governance could therefore release strain from the latter group while engaging the former group in a much-needed fashion.
 Kezar (2012) wisely notes that there are both voluntary and involuntary NTTF and that their experiences may be very different.
AAUP. (2016). Higher Education at a Crossroads: The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015-16. Retrieved from https://www.aaup.org/report/higher-education-crossroads-annual-report-economic-status-profession-2015-16
Gappa, J. M., Austin, A. E., & Trice, A. G. (2007). Rethinking faculty work: Higher education’s strategic imperative. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Jones, W. A., Hutchens, N. H., Hulbert, A., Lewis, W. D., & Brown, D. M. (2017). Shared governance among the new majority: Non-tenure track faculty eligibility for election to university faculty senates. Innovative Higher Education. Advance online publication. doi:10.1007/s10755-017-9402-2
Kezar, A. (2012). Preface. In A. Kezar (Ed.), Embracing non-tenure track faculty: Changing campuses for the new faculty majority (pp. xx-xxiv). New York, NY: Routledge.
Kezar, A. (2013). Examining non-tenure track faculty perceptions of how departmental policies and practices shape their performance and ability to create student learning at four-year institutions. Research in Higher Education, 54, 571-598. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11162-013-9288-5
Kezar, A., & Sam, C. (2013). Institutionalizing equitable policies and practices for contingent faculty. The Journal of Higher Education, 84(1), 56-87. https://doi.org/10.1353/jhe.2013.0002
Kezar, A., & Sam, C. (2014). Governance as a catalyst for policy change: Creating a contingent faculty friendly academy. Educational Policy, 28(3), 425-462. https://doi.org/10.1177/0895904812465112
Maxey, D., & Kezar, A. (2016). The current context for faculty work in higher education: Understanding the forces affecting higher education and the changing faculty. In A. Kezar & D. Maxey (Eds.), Envisioning the faculty for the twenty-first century: Moving to a mission-oriented and learner-centered model (pp. 3-22). New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Morrison, J. D. (2008). Faculty governance and nontenure-track appointments. New Directions for Higher Education, 143, 21-27. doi:10.1002/he.309
Palmquist, M., Doe, S., McDonald, J., Mendez Newman, B., Samuels R., & Schell E. (2011). Statement on the status and working conditions of contingent faculty: NCTE College Section Working Group on the Status and Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty. College English, 73(4), 356-359.
Waltman, J., Bergom, I., Hollenshead, C., Miller, J., & August, L. (2012). Factors contributing to job satisfaction and dissatisfaction among non-tenure track faculty. The Journal of Higher Education, 83(3), 411-434. doi:10.1353/jhe.2012.0014