Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Post-tenure academia

Article in the Chronicle via Brooks Blog.

The highlight: The % of faculty with full-time tenured positions has gone from around 56% in 1975 to 31% in lovely pre-recession 2007.

The less emphasized number: the % of faculty with part-time positions has gone from 30% in 1975 to 50% in 2007.

This is nothing particularly new, though it does give us a few things the think about: the importance of newer faculty members on job market committees with first hand experience of the less-tenured job landscape or giving an accurate picture of market expectations (read: future life expectations) to new graduate students. Blah, blah blah.

I wanted to toss something else out there. Tenure's on the decline and part-time jobs are on the rise, but almost all the jobs I've applied to are tenure-track or one year positions. If tenure is realistically becoming less and less the goal, fine. The benefits of tenure aside, I don't really mind being subject to the same level of job security as most of America. That said, part-time contracts and one year gigs won't cut it. The bad part about not having tenure isn't not having tenure, it's not knowing what's coming next. Solving that problem doesn't depend on solving the tenure situation. If we're not going to have tenure, we need more multi-year and continuing positions. At a minimum a lot of part-time and one year spots that are de facto continuing positions should be formalized. You know, so that we can think about quality of life issues like houses and families, things where it helps to know that money's coming in and where you're going to live. I know that all this is easy to say when I'm not begging for my university to fund a one year position, but we're smart people (with the degrees to prove it!). Certainly we can look at the reality of academia today and work to help the system make sense.

-- Second Suitor

24 comments:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

I agree -- we need to figure out how to have a system that doesn't pretend adjuncts are simply folks who love the discipline and have a partner who pays the bills etc.

A system of multi-year, renewable appointments is probably the way to go. Universities resist tenure-track positions for a variety of reasons, and primary among those reasons is the permanence of the hire. We've all known the RWT (retired while tenured) folks who get tenure and then barely pull their own weight. We've also seen the rise and fall of demand in particular disciplines -- so, maybe permanent jobs don't make sense.

What does seem to make sense is to attract faculty members who are interested in making an investment in their workplace AND giving them a reasonable assurance that their investment will pay off -- both for them and the college as a whole. Something like 3 year, renewable positions seem to do that.

Tim O'Keefe said...

Actually, at my school (Georgia State) we have such slots--they're called "lecturers." Basic deal: higher teaching load (4/4, instead of the usual 2/2 for TT folks) and no research expectations. Somewhat lower pay than TT, but a lot better than adjuncting, and it comes with the usual health and retirement benefits. After 5 years, you go up for promotion to 'senior lecturer,' which isn't tenure, but carries the presumption of continued long-term employment. GSU has moved to having a lot of its teaching done by these lecturers, while cutting down on the number of adjuncts.

Inside Higher Ed had an article on it several years ago.

Anonymous said...

I agree. I don't really care whether tenure is preserved or declines, but I do care about having a modicum of job security and a living wage--especially since we don't have much choice about where we end up living.

I'm happy to be an itinerant but, as a PhD student, I must confess that the prospect of balancing a teaching load of 10+ courses a year (for survival) in addition to research (so that I can get hired again the year after) is not that I'm relishing. In fact, it's terrifying.

Usually, that kind of work has some sort of reward, or gives you a measure of control; the absence of either one is a hard pill to swallow.

What makes it slightly worse is the common assumption that university faculty earn enormous salaries--just the other day, my stepsister said--in all seriousness--that I couldn't forget my family (i.e. taking care of them financially) when I finally got those three hallowed letters added to the end of my name. When I explained the reality, she was unable to believe me. I can only imagine that the general public perception is about the same, and thus the public will to change the situation won't ever be there.

Anonymous said...

Part-time academic work isn't too bad if you can get a gig that is regular and very flexible. That kind of part-time academic work can be a great source of extra income to supplement income from somewhere else.

With the recession and the collapse of the academic job market, my view of academia has changed.

I used to think of getting my PhD as giving me a way to get a nice, full-time tenure track job. Even though I am at a good Leiter school, I don't think that that is going to happen. The job market is just too horrible, and I don't see it recovering any time soon.

As such, with the increasing trend towards part-time and adjunct work, I now view academia as a place to get easy part-time contract work to boast whatever income I get from another non-academic job.

Right now, I teach part-time on a regular basis while I am finishing up my PhD, and its a great source of extra income. The school I teach for is super flexible and lets me teach online and at night, so that I can do other things during the day. Once I finish my PhD I plan on changing careers and going to school for something else (in particular nursing school, since the medical field is the only area with job growth), but continuing my part-time teach on the side while I change careers.

Once I switch careers, I'll try to continue my part-time teaching to have a nice source of extra income in addition to my non-academic job.

The key to the part-time/adjunct trend is to find a way to make it work for you. In my case, my view is just to accept the fact that I probably won't get a tenure track job and to start making plans right now to change careers when I finish my PhD, and then to teach part-time on the side for a while to have a flexible and easy way to make extra money.

Anonymous said...

I was a lecturer at a pretty well funded private school. The idea was that I'd teach 4/4. There were no research expectations (which means, of course, no money for things like travel, no computer, actually ended up bringing in my own desk so I wouldn't have to share the crappy computerless computer stand another lecturer was using). When my fifth year rolled around and I was supposed to get the senior lecturer position with raise, I didn't get any raise or promotion. Turned out that this was at the discretion of the dean and the dean decided that they didn't need to give me the promotion or the raise, but I could stay on without a raise if I wanted. So, after four years, I was able to land a TT position at the last minute. Started at 32,000 and left at 32,500 after four years. It was better than being an adjunct and it still sucked.

Anonymous said...

Here's the problem as I see it. The only reason schools are able to rely on so much part-time (slave) labor is that the people working those jobs are chasing the tenure carrot. They all hold out hope that one day they'll get that tenure track job, so they put up with adjuncting/one-years/etc. This is the way it will be as long as tenure still exists, even if only 10-20 % of faculty is tenured. But if tenure was actually abolished entirely, there is no way people would still put up with that part time work.

So I see two possible ways for this to play out:

1) Tenure is effectively abolished. In order to incentivize people to go into and remain in the professoriate, some other form of job security (e.g. renewable long term contracts) will be instituted.

2) Tenure never becomes effectively abolished, but remains as scarce as it is. Nothing changes because those doing the temp. thing still have the (unrealistic) hope of tenure.

I would welcome 1), frankly. But I'm afraid we are stuck with 2), at least for a very long time.

Then there is always the possibility of 3), in which tenure actually becomes a real thing again. But that's sort of a pipe-dream at this point I think.

Anonymous said...

Look, I am a lecturer somewhere nice. I get some benefits, and I could keep my job forever. But I also only get 24k a year. My problem is making ends meet, even before finding time for research. Let's not delude ourselves that if only our contracts were defined upfront as non-TT and for x-amount-of-time all our problems would have been solved. Non-TT also means very little money. (Yeah, I know TT is not millions, but it is better than 24k in a big city).

Anonymous said...

4:48, it's 1:34 here.

Sounds like a good plan to me--I like it. I've been contemplating trying to find a similar solution for myself, but have run into the problem that the other options I think of are also hard-put for jobs. The healthcare industry does seem like a good idea, and I've always contemplated being a doctor, like everyone else in the family. Nursing isn't all that far off. I'll give it a look!

Tim O'Keefe said...

Whether a lecturer position is decent, or still-sucks-but-is-better-than-adjuncting, will depends on the particulars of the position--just as with TT jobs. Most obviously, there is the pay--pretty much any lecturer position will pay less than TT at the same place, but there is a huge difference between 24K and 42K. But also, does the department treat you with respect as a long-term colleague, by giving you your own office and a computer, allowing you a say in departmental decisions, etc.?

Anonymous said...

Hey 1:34, 4:48 here:

Let me quick lay out some of my reasons why nursing is my back-up plan I am exploring more at this point.

First, the job market for nurses is great for the foreseable future. I read an article on CNN the other day that said that if EVERY school cranked out nurses at full-capacity in the United States, by 2020 there is STILL going to be a shortage of nurses in the USA.

Second, the entry level salary for a nurse is 50-60k. If you go on to get your MA in nursing to become a nurse practitioner, you can make over 100k.

Third, there are many accelerated 18 month second degree BSN in nursing programs out there. If you already have a BA in a non-nursing field, you can enroll in one of these programs and, after you get your pre-reqs out of the way, in 18 months you have your BSN in nursing.

To get your RN at say a community college only takes 2 years as well.

Fourth, getting your RN in nursing is very cheap. At the community college near me, for $6k you can get your RN and after 2 years start off making that 50-60k as an entry level nurse. Even those accelerated 18month second degree BSN programs aren't too bad when compared to say law school. Right now at many private schools they are around 50k-60k. That's more pricey, but way cheaper than law school, and, plus, you are guaranteed a job in nursing. The law market sucks right now just as bad as the academic market, which while I am scared about using law as a back up.

Fifth, I think it's important to realize nursing isn't all glory. You are wipping people's butts, dealing with blood and vomit, etc.. So the career does have drawbacks. But I am getting to the point where I just want to get into a field with stable job security and good pay and nursing seems to be it, so I am willing to put up with those costs.

Also, many people want to go to nursing school. So sometimes you get waitlisted and have to wait say a year or two before you get into the program. So during that time you typically take pre-reqs to get them out of the way. Thus, it's important you have some income coming in during that time you are waiting to get into your program. That's why I am setting up part-time teaching gigs now, so I can have that income in the event I need to wait to get into nursing school after I finish my PhD. Also, in just 3 weeks you can get your Certified-Nursing-Assistant degree and do very entry level nursing stuff. It's not glorious, but it can be a source of income while you are waiting to get into a nursing program, and, plus, having that experience many people say helps getting a job as a nurse.

Mr. Zero said...

Tim O'Keefe's second comment mentions what I think is a key factor: people in temporary positions typically play no role in departmental decision-making processes. People complain about faculty meetings and stuff, but those meetings are important in their own right, and serve to distinguish the main permanent faculty from the secondary, temporary, adjunct, auxiliary faculty who have no voting rights.

If there were some non-tenure career track that involved departmental voting rights, a level of job security that would protect my academic freedom, and which represented a long-term mutual investment by both the employee and the university, I'd be all for it. But that's pretty close to tenure.

Anonymous said...

Lots of good comments here so far; I agree with most. There are non-sustainable and exploitative aspects of adjunct positions; those positions have serious problems, certainly. But then, just how bad they are depends on context and position.

There's an aspect of this issue that remains unclear to me, but which is still important. There are many non-tenure/tenure-track positions that are out there, but which are every bit as fulfilling, remunerative, autonomy-respecting, and valuable as tenure-line positions at the same schools. Some of these are quasi-administrative. At my PhD institution, two faculty positions were non-tenure line, but involved moderate teaching loads (inc. graduate), research, and good pay. These were a grad program coordinator and undergrad advisor.

Likewise, there was one position I considered this year that was permanent, but not tenure-line, largely b/c of the type of work necessary. I considered it a better position than other tenure-line positions for which I interviewed and/or received offers. There are lots of these kinds of things popping up at centers/institutes, etc.

Another institution where I interviewed had several teaching-line positions that were permanent, had promotions, etc., but research was pedagogical and they weren't tenured. Again, given the seriously onerous tenure requirements at that school, those positions looked great.

Now, these positions decrease the percentage of jobs that count as tenure-line, but they increase the percentage of good jobs. I'd like to have a more nuanced breakdown of the positions out there. That would be more meaningful that merely tenure-line vs. non-tenure-line.

PS. Re: nursing. Good for you--seriously, that's a really cool and often rewarding path. Kudos too if you're male, b/c the ridiculous cultural bias that nursing is feminine ends up harming nurses (in terms of pay/prestige) and patients (by downplaying nurses' expertise). Also, if you have any inclination to do applied ethics, there's a great deal of work to be done around nursing-related stuff.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:58 hits it on the head. So long as we have tenure, we'll have people who come to graduate school believing that tenure-track positions are the only option, because they will have faculty and advisors who believe that anything less is for suckers. If the future - hell, if the present - of academic work is contract, then we need to work for *better contracts*. While I can see that it's highly likely that those in short-term contracts or lecturer positions would be marginalized and treated similarly to adjuncts, there are some places in which lecturers play an active role in the department if they wish to, and they actually make more money than tenured faculty (not that we're in it for the money, Thales and the olive-press, blah blah). At any rate, tenure does not play a neutral role in this, it is actively not helping.

R. Kevin Hill said...

I continue to hear from non-academics that there is something unreasonable about obsession with tenure. I repeatedly have to explain that (1) failure to receive tenure from a TT also means being fired, with stigma, and more often than not means that you will never work in academia again (thus it is functionally closer to being disbarred than merely let go), and (2) most one year jobs are nonrenewable where most non-academic white collar work is at-will and continuing. When you consider that not even tenure protects you from an institution's financial meltdown, and that in the non-academic world, if you are doing your job for a few years without incident, firing for minor lapses is pretty rare, it becomes clear that academics merely want the same level of job security that most white collar professionals already have. But non-academics will never believe you.

Anonymous said...

I strongly suspect that tenure will be out the door soon. It will come first in the state systems, where legislatures have the purse strings and no love for theoria. The big research schools will hold out longer than the smaller ones. Eventually it will become the norm. Also, I suspect, the 1/1 and 2/2 positions will be phased out of the state schools (3/3 or 3/2 might stay). Liberal Arts will lose research jobs first, because most people don't think research in philosophy is real research -- we don't build stuff.

It might be better for us, if this leads to more full time at-will jobs. I think it might, again starting with the states, I don't think they will want their flagship schools or local college filled with part-timers. But that is probably too optimistic

Anonymous said...

Speaking of TT positions, does anyone plan to apply for the Kalamazoo College position? Currently it is a 2-person department in....well...Kalamazoo, Michigan. I predict a pool of 500 applications given the current state of the job market.

Polacrilex said...

This year I landed a non-TT faculty full-time faculty position in a department that has both TT and non-TT positions. To be honest, I do not envy the TT faculty. My salary is equivalent if not more than the average starting TT assistant professor (just about 60k a year when I work in the summer; upper 40's when I am only here for fall and spring; the cost of living here is reasonable too), my research expectation is almost nothing, and I teach a 2/2. I get full medical, vacation and retirement benefits also.

So, what is the big difference between TT and non-TT faculty here? The TT people have to focus on research while the non-TT are to focus on teaching. From what I have experienced thus far, it is a model that works extremely well, and I think more departments might go in this direction. Those departments that opt to hire adjuncts are basically abusive. I was an adjunct for years, and it was a heinous gauntlet to run. Any department in which there were a lot of us who were adjuncts was a department without much positive identity that suffered. I think the students suffered also because they could never do independent studies or directed readings with us (who often were younger and much more specialized than the older, tenured faculty members).

If tenure not only wanes, but dies, my hope is that departments opt for full-time faculty positions that are year-to-year, but with the stipulation that when a person is hired, she is being granted full benefits with the expectation that her position is a permanent one (not dependent on the whim of knee-jerk decision-making).

Xenophon said...

This thread is a real downer. Remember that some of you will end up landing TT positions.

I always try to discourage undergrads from going to grad school, and early-stage folks to consider whether they want to stay in academia. But if you're well into it and plan on finishing the degree, you've got to stay optimistic. Giving up too early or giving up hope is a sure way not to end up TT.

And I'll agree, kudos if you want to go into nursing.

Anonymous said...

In response to Xenohphon's comment:

"But if you're well into it and plan on finishing the degree, you've got to stay optimistic."

My reply is that this is being dishonest.

I am in a good Leiter rated programs, and I have friends with good dissertations, strong committees, good letters of recommendation, and multiple publications in good journals and they were on the market for several years and have not landed a TT position, or, in fact, any good position at all.

I, myself, am finishing up my dissertation and its hard to see those facts and remain optimistic. I feel like that is just being dishonest with reality. I feel like it's a better strategy just to bite the bullet, give up hope, and make plans to change careers as soon as I finish my PhD.

If you have any advice on how to remain optimistic, however, I would be open to hear it. But when you are surrounded by negative facts, constant reports in places like the Chronicle of Higher Ed and Leiter's blog with the horrible nature of the academic job market, as well as constant reports about the overall bad status of the American job market, I just can't bring myself to feel optimistic.

Again, I would love to feel optimistic, but I just don't know how to do it in the face of all of the negative data.

Xenophon said...

Anon 6:32,

Here's one reason to remain optimistic: there will be jobs every year. And the people who get them are the ones who appear upbeat and excited during job interviews. If you want to be one of those people, you can either try to fake being upbeat or you can try to actually be upbeat. Interviewers are like dogs, they can smell fear. Be optimistic and you'll appear that way, and then you've got the best chance of landing one of the positions. So it's self-fulfilling.

Maybe that's not what you want to hear, but it's the best I've got. I don't think it's dishonest to be optimistic; it might be dishonest to be wildly optimistic, but that's not the situation we're in. No one knows the statistics, but let's say half of all recent grads will get a full-time (not necessarily TT) position in academia. That sucks, because half won't, but 1 in 2 is pretty good odds in a lot of contexts.

As for giving up, everyone needs to know when they need to go to plan B. It seems to me that if you've gone through the five or ten years to get a PhD, you should give it at least two years after that before you give up. Some people might only give it one year, some might go four or five, but giving up right away seems too early.

That's not to say you shouldn't start thinking about alternatives, and using your time to position yourself to go another direction. It's also reasonable to start pursuing other avenues, for example applying for alternate jobs (publishing or whatever) or interning rather than doing nothing but waiting for the phone to ring. If something else works out that you're happy with, fine, but it doesn't hurt to continue applying for jobs for a couple of years, and continuing to write on the side.

Don't get me wrong, if you drop out then there's less competition for me. But without knowing your personal circumstances, I'd discourage you from giving up as soon as you've got the diploma in hand. It just seems like a waste.

Anonymous said...

I just left the academic market after being lucky enough to get a job in software engineering. (The difference between the job markets was shocking--I got a job in 3 weeks after trying academia and non-profits for 2 years). Believe me, I thought about nursing.

Part of the reason I left is personal--I've been living apart from my partner four 4 years, and we need to settle down / make a living.

But a big part is just what this thread raises: the gap between tenured and non-tenured faculty. It's truly ridiculous, especially when some senior profs are making 300k. I see no reason for tenure besides academic freedom. This is valuable, but in today's market, I don't see how it can be sustained. The problem is that once you set these systems up, they're hard to change (like social security).

I really like the suggestion by Tim O'Keefe, but I see few schools implementing it in the short term. If they can't pay adjuncts, how will they pay lecturers?

This is a long-term problem that has reached a moment of crisis. I'm glad to have gotten out while I could. My PhD was a huge factor in getting my job, and I can't say I regret it. But I would definitely disagree with Leiter and advise prospectives: just don't go.

Anonymous said...

7:06AM - can you elaborate more on how your PhD helped you in getting a software engineering job. Did you have undergrad experience in the computer industry or previous work experience in that field?

Part of what is depressing with a philosophy PhD is that it's just hard to see what else outside of academia you can do with it in terms of aiding in getting a job. So I'd be interested in hearing more about your experience using your philospohy PhD to get a non-academic job.

Dan said...

Maybe it would be useful to have a system where pay was related to research performance and teaching. So a Full Prof who did not publish anything for a few years would have to take a pay cut and/or do more teaching.

The danger of change though is that if we head to a system more like that of the regular labour market , the laws of supply and demand are against us. There are so many PhD's chasing so few jobs, that wages etc may get driven down even further.

Anonymous said...

CFO/Vp of HR lurker here.
Question: How many of you that read this blog would take this job?

Tenure Track at a SLAC in the Mid-west, close to a city of 3 Million, small department in a small college, 4-4 load with extra for summer, great health care, very small retirement match (2%), 26K a year.
Curious