For many years, I believed a common story about part-time laborers in the university system. I believed that administrators had slowly cut back on full time tenure track jobs and replaced them with an army of low paid part timers.Tenure was under attack and it will soon disappear. That story isn’t right.
Writing in Liberal Education, the academic journal of the Association of American Colleges & Universities, Phil Magness argues that there is no evidence of a cut back in tenure track lines and that adjunctification is mainly about the growth of for-profit colleges. Magness uses data from the Digest of Education Statistics to make the following arguments:
- Aside from graduate students, there are three types of academic laborers: tenure track faculty, full time contingent faculty, and part time contingent faculty. Most people lump the part-timers and full-timers together but they are very different. Full timers make a lot more money, they have job stability, and benefits. When people think of the term “low paid adjunct,” what they mean is part-time contingent laborers.
- It is actually true that the % of faculty who are full timers of any type has dropped from 80% to about 50% (Figure 1) but…
- Part timers are not the majority of laborers in most types of institutions, with two massive exceptions: 2 year institutions (65%) and for-profits (93%). That is not a mistake, almost all for-profit teaching staff are part timers. (Table 1)
- There has been a tremendous increase in the number of for-profit colleges.
- The ratio of full time faculty (tenured and permanent lecturers) to students has not decreased over time. It’s been about 25 to 1 for about 40 years. (Figure 7)
- Tenure is relatively stable. The proportion of schools by category that award tenure to their faculty changes moderately over time. For example, 90% of public 4-year schools award tenure as do about 60% of privates and junior colleges. These numbers fluctuate a little over time. For-profits have tenure systems less than 10% of the time and that number is decreasing. (Figures 5 and 6)
- Being an adjunct is mainly about having an MA degree (40%). Only 30% have completed the PhD. (Table 2). In unpublished work, Magness also notes that adjuncts are disproportionately concentrated in the language arts and other humanities.
To put it bluntly, the “tenure is under attack” story is completely wrong. There is literally no evidence to support it. Instead, adjunctification is about two processes. First, for-profit colleges have expanded greatly and they need armies of cheap labor. Second, cheap labor is supplied by humanities scholars with MA degrees and, to a lesser extent, doctoral degrees. Otherwise, there is a very stable core of full time lecturers and tenure track faculty. This is true across time and most institutional types. Thus, adjunctification is about the over-production of humanities graduate degrees driving down labor costs in for-profit colleges. Savor the irony.
So what happens after #brexit: Scotland will leave the UK. Ireland will reunify into a single country. France and the Netherlands will be forced out of the EU as well. Russia will invade Ukraine and Finland. President Trump will accede to this, thus ending NATO. Northern and Southern Italy will split. Pope Francis will declare Rome a Papal State. What is left of Spain will claim the Netherlands and Sicily by right as descendants of the Hapsburgs. Turkey will invade Cyprus. The Papal States will gain greater territory. First in Southern Italy, then in Poland. Then Austria. Pope Francis will be declared the new Holy Roman Emperor. Spain will break into pieces with Andalucia joining the New Roman Empire. Eventually Ireland will join as well. Germany and Northern Italy will begin disintegrating into city-states which will form a loose alliance based on the Swiss model. Flanders, Netherlands and Scotland–having joined forces to defeat the Spanish Armada–will join a new economic union. Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania will join in a military pact to retake Finland as well as that little part of Russia on the Baltic. Eventually Russia will nuke all of them and begin a march west to retake all of the lands of the former Soviet bloc including East Germany. Pope Francis’s forces will grow stronger creating a split between the Russian controlled east, the Roman controlled Catholic league. The divided, leaderless and backward city-states of West Germany and France will be caught in the middle of this geopolitical tussel. French refugees will begin migrating en masse to Morocco where a rump state will be declared. By this time a prosperous independent England will have rebuilt its Victorian Era economy with textile factories humming in Manchester and more coal than you can shake a stick at popping out of mines in Wales. They will sell these goods to their colonies in South Asia and Africa. Finally, rumors of a warrior Princess in the east with Dragons and a dwarf will arrive. She will land gallantly atop the Eiffel Tower uniting France with the city-states of the former Germany and Northern Italy. She will reinstate the EU with the Free City of Paris as her capital. She will defeat Pope Francis’s forces at the Battle of the Dragon and the Scepter, taking place off the coast of Monaco. Then she will turn and cross the narrow sea to take back the Throne of England. After crowning herself as the one true Chancellor at a really big Westminster Abbey coronation she will settle into a wary truce between the new EU and the Russian controlled east because if we’ve learned anything in the last 200 years, its that there’s no point in Western Europe invading Russia.
Or, things will go on pretty much as they have been for the last ten years in the EU except that British people will now have to pay more for their claret, their champagne and their plumbers. And maybe, just maybe, the EU will take this as a wake-up call and figure out a way to be more useful (banking union, patent union, communications union, common foreign policy, rationalized military spending and coordination, border control) and more democratic.
Wow. There’s a lot here for sociologists (or anyone else to think about). A few things.
Britain voted to leave the EU by a slim margin – but not as slim as one would expect. The headlines are already blaring with words such as surprising, shocking, earthquake.
Should we be surprised?
Only if we look at Britain without comparing it to its European neighbors.
Three. It remains a complicated question how much the UK will actually be able to leave Europe. For example, Switzerland, a sort of ideal version of autonomy to some, is actually not that autonomous from Europe.
Why is this happening? Trump and his counterpart in Britain, the U.K. Independence Party (ukip) leader Nigel Farage, didn’t emerge from nowhere. Both are wealthy men who affect an affinity with the common people, and who have skillfully exploited a deep well of resentment among working-class and middle-class voters, some of whom have traditionally supported left-of-center parties. Certainly, a parallel factor in both men’s rise is racism, or, more specifically, nativism. Trump has presented a nightmarish vision of America overrun by Mexican felons and Muslim terrorists. ukip printed up campaign posters that showed thousands of dark-colored refugees lining up to enter Slovenia, which is part of the E.U., next to the words “breaking point: The EU has failed us all.” But racism and nationalism have both been around for a long time, as have demagogues who try to exploit them. In healthy democracies, these troublemakers are confined to the fringes.
See also PPST’s wonderful symposium on Trumpery, with stuff from Ruth Braunstein, Alexander Barder, Cedric de Leon, and Andrew J. Perrin. The Brexit comparisons are clear.
Seven. The age differences in support for Brexit are striking, and also parallel Trumpism.
Eight. All of this raises complicated questions about the role of experts in a democracy, something sociologists ought to think about both because those are our kinds of questions and because we like to think of ourselves as experts. These are longstanding debates in science studies as well. Nonetheless, it’s worth thinking about the relative anti-democratic benefits of things like bureaucracies and technocrats. Sometimes life’s a lot easier if boring people run the show.
Nine. The show Hamilton got some heat for extolling a guy who was in many ways anti-democratic. That’s an important critique, and Hamilton was deeply flawed in ways a musical might well forget. Yet it’s also worth remembering that Hamilton et al. recognized problems not unlike the ones we face here in writing The Federalist Papers.
Ten. It’s not just about race and xenophobia. But it is about race and xenophobia.
The Virginia Historical Society has a website that brings together many documents from the antebellum period of American history so that you can search for the names of African Americans who might otherwise be lost to history. From the website:
This database is the latest step by the Virginia Historical Society to increase access to its varied collections relating to Virginians of African descent. Since its founding in 1831, the VHS has collected unpublished manuscripts, a collection that now numbers more than 8 million processed items.
Within these documents are numerous accounts that collectively help tell the stories of African Americans who have lived in the state over the centuries. Our first effort to improve access to these stories came in 1995 with publication of our Guide to African American Manuscripts. A second edition appeared in 2002, and the online version is continually updated as new sources enter our catalog (http://www.vahistorical.org/aamcvhs/guide_intro.htm).
The next step we envisioned would be to create a database of the names of all the enslaved Virginians that appear in our unpublished documents. Thanks to a generous grant from Dominion Resources and the Dominion Foundation in January 2011, we launched the project that has resulted in this online resource. Named Unknown No Longer, the database seeks to lift from the obscurity of unpublished historical records as much biographical detail as remains of the enslaved Virginians named in those documents. In some cases there may only be a name on a list; in others more details survive, including family relationships, occupations, and life dates.
Check it out.
From time to time, you’ll have a discussion about someone who did not get promoted but had a strong record. This raises the question of what a strong record is and, ultimately, what tenure is all about. When talking to people about tenure, I try to distinguish between three situations: the scholarly department; the bean counter department; and the crazy department.
Let’s first dispense with the crazy department. There are some programs that simply have difficult people or unreasonable standards that few people can satisfy. In that case, tenure has nothing to do with quality of record. It’s mainly about kowtowing to crazies or leaving town before dusk.