That’s the latest AAUP data on the percentage of faculty jobs that are contingent. It’s a trend that over the past forty years has only gone in one direction: up.
Related to contingency are a host of issues — a lack of due process that protects academic freedom, exploitative pay and working conditions, and, frequently, no provisions for participation in the governance of institutions of higher education.
This week, the AAUP released a report on the investigation of the case of Nathanial Bork, an adjunct faculty member dismissed from the Community College of Aurora (CCA) in the fall semester of 2016.
Bork’s case offers unvarnished insight into the conditions of contingency. He was summarily dismissed after six years of teaching philosophy and related courses–with positive reviews. The administration alleged that he was dismissed because he had failed to adequately implement a curriculum redesign mandated by CCA. But Bork, an active advocate for adjunct rights, alerted the AAUP, because he believed his dismissal was in fact due to his having written a report to the Higher Learning Commission about what he saw as CCA’s efforts to raise course completion rates by lowering standards. Specifically, he asserted that CCA had modified certain entry-level liberal arts courses, like the courses he taught, in an effort to improve their pass rates.
Our investigation found strong evidence to suggest that by dismissing Bork the administration “violated basic tenets of academic freedom, as set forth in the 1940 Statement of Principles and derivative AAUP policy documents.” The report further noted that at CCA, the academic freedom of adjunct faculty members “is not universally guaranteed as a matter of institutional policy but selectively bestowed as a function of administrative benevolence.”
The result? The loss of true academic freedom: As the proportion of the faculty employed in adjunct and other contingent positions grows, protections for academic freedom dwindle. Through our chapters and our national organization, the AAUP will continue to advocate for rights and protections that should be afforded to all faculty, tenured or not.
University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
Chair of the Investigating Committee