AFT - American Federation of Teachers

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AFT Resolutions

ADDRESSING THE ACADEMIC STAFFING CRISIS

WHEREAS, after two decades of replacing full-time faculty positions with positions that are temporary or part-time, higher education has reached the point where more than 70 percent of all college and university instructors are part-time or temporary, more than twice the national workforce average of 30 percent; and

WHEREAS, this trend makes higher education one of the most extreme examples nationwide of the trend toward decreasing job security and benefits—the Wal-Mart of the professions; and

WHEREAS, state support for public colleges and universities, on a per student basis, is declining, as is the proportion of state budgets devoted to public higher education and the purchasing power of federal student aid grants; and

WHEREAS, the decline in government support has resulted in tuition increases and has contributed to a frenzied search among colleges and universities for profitable corporate ties and a trend toward “corporate-style” management with little faculty involvement; and

WHEREAS, the effect on students of the lack of government support and the hollowing-out of the full-time faculty workforce is becoming apparent:

  • College costs are rising much faster than family income.
  • Among the 30 member nations of the OECD, the United States now ranks just seventh in the percentage of citizens who enter postsecondary education and complete a bachelor’s or higher degree.
  • The effect is disproportionate on poor students and students of color. The gap between affluent and low-income students is widening. Affluent students with the lowest test scores have as good a chance of attending college as the lowest-income students with the highest grades; and

WHEREAS, a faculty corps consisting primarily of full-time tenured or tenure-track positions is essential because, just as in other professional fields, full-time commitment and professional treatment result in better service to students, and ultimately to taxpayers, and because tenure protects the academic freedom essential for teaching and high-level research; and

WHEREAS, many colleges and universities have survived during the past decades of shrinking government support only because of the underpaid work of part-time faculty and full-time nontenure-track faculty; and

WHEREAS, part-time and/or temporary faculty—who, on many college campuses, now teach more than half the courses offered each academic semester—must be treated professionally, paid fairly and recognized for their commitment to higher education even in the face of their own economic exploitation; and

WHEREAS, the dearth of full-time positions has meant that the full-time faculty who remain are less and less able to devote the time they need to their research and teaching because they have an increased share of the responsibility for student advising, college governance and curriculum development; and

WHEREAS, the shrinking percentage of full-time faculty positions has also placed increased burdens on other academic staff, whose workloads have risen as the number of full-time college and university professionals has declined; and   

WHEREAS, with fewer than 30 percent of faculty nationwide in full-time tenure and nontenure-track positions, the number of faculty who are institutionally supported to conduct research has declined dramatically; the future of university-based research in the U.S. is now in danger; and

WHEREAS, academic quality is impaired when the majority of faculty members are denied the resources and professional autonomy they need to do their best work. So long as part-time/adjunct faculty have to run from job to job to earn a living, so long as they have to worry about obtaining health and pension benefits, so long as they are hired under less-than-professional conditions, so long as evaluation of their work is cursory or nonexistent, so long as they lack office space and basic professional support, so long as they are unable to participate in college governance—so long as they are the academic equivalent of piece-workers, the quality of education, research and community service offered by American colleges and universities will suffer; and

WHEREAS, American higher education now appears to be at a crossroads, a time when the achievements of the past have been put at risk by the employment policies of the present; and

WHEREAS, AFT national conventions have passed resolutions calling for the restoration of full-time faculty positions and for creating fairness and equity in the employment of contingent faculty members:

RESOLVED, that the American Federation of Teachers develop a national campaign to demonstrate to the public and to elected officials that American higher education is at a crossroads and that the academic quality and research capacity for which American colleges and universities are internationally respected requires a strong, secure full-time faculty corps and fair, professional treatment of the existing contingent faculty; and

RESOLVED, that the primary goal of the campaign will be to work with allies to promote the introduction of legislation simultaneously in as many state legislatures as possible and secure the passage of such legislation along with companion federal legislation with the aim of restoring full-time tenured faculty positions and providing the equity in compensation, respect and professional support that contingent faculty need to best serve their students; and

RESOLVED, that the campaign will engage faculty members, labor unions, students and advocacy groups in a coalition to build grass-roots support for the effort, to elicit legislative sponsors and to engage in political action to win passage of the legislation.


(2006)