AWP Recommendations Regarding Non-Tenure-Track Faculty

These recommendations embody AWP’s concerns about the exploitation of contingent or non-tenure-track faculty. The terms “contingent” or “non-tenure-track” (NTT) include faculty otherwise known as adjunct faculty, lecturers, or instructors who teach either full-time or part-time in higher education. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the proportion of appointments in higher education held by part-time or adjunct faculty has increased from 24% in 1975 to 41.1% in 2009, while NTT full-time faculty grew from 10.3% to 15.1%. At many institutions, especially at community colleges, more than half the appointments are NTT faculty.

While increases in the price of tuition have outpaced inflation, colleges and universities have assigned more of their classes to poorly paid and poorly treated teachers. Although the popular assumption may be that professors are comfortable members of the middle class with genteel jobs that afford time for research, the reality has become that many college and university teachers have challenging workloads, no job security, low pay, no health benefits, and little time off to conduct research or complete creative work. Many NTT faculty members have no offices, no secretarial support, no financial support for travel or research, and limited access to basic office supplies and photocopying. A large number of NTT faculty members are appointed to classes only a few days before the start of the semester. Many NTT instructors are paid $1,200 to $3,000 for conducting a class with a duration of 14 weeks; this level of pay is a small fraction of what tenured faculty earn per class. At these low levels of pay, if NTT faculty do a good and conscientious job with each class, they will be earning less per hour than workers in the fast-food industry. AWP believes that these poor working conditions and poor compensation thwart every institution’s efforts to establish excellence in higher education.

Although AWP recognizes that many public institutions have budgets subject to state legislatures that often fail to address the needs of a growing population of college-bound students, AWP urges faculty members, department chairs, and university leaders to provide better education for their students while their institutions provide fair compensation and professional working conditions for NTT faculty. Today’s universities require investments that are colossal compared to the needs of universities in the 1950s and earlier. Modern universities need more complex equipment and infrastructure, research laboratories, and computer networks, and our colleges and universities have done an excellent job in meeting these needs. Academe must focus the same care and investment on its most precious resource: its teachers.

Toward that end, AWP has provided these recommendations for the employment of NTT faculty:

  1. Institutions should create and periodically revise NTT policy statements consistent with their mission statements. Institutions should devise strategic plans that include three objectives toward the goal of establishing excellence in education: (a) increasing the percentage of tenure-track faculty; (b) providing adequate pay, good working conditions, health benefits, and professional support for NTT faculty; and (c) engineering a humane transition to more tenure-track positions by replacing NTT positions through attrition and promotion.
  2. In political advocacy among state legislators or trustees, university leaders should make investment in faculty a priority. University leaders should advocate investment in professional pay and working conditions for NTT faculty; they should also advocate increased investment to increase the percentage of full-time, tenure-track faculty.
  3. Colleges and universities should develop comprehensive hiring plans that eliminate excessive NTT faculty appointments. Each department should set limits on its number of NTT faculty members in relation to the number of tenured and tenure-track faculty members. NTT faculty should be used only to meet short-term or special needs (such as unanticipated enrollment surges, grants, experimental courses, sabbatical replacements), rather than to staff regularly offered courses. At four-year colleges and graduate schools, NTT appointments should constitute no more than 10% of a department’s total faculty; at community colleges, NTT faculty members should comprise no more than 30% of the faculty. Currently serving NTT faculty who have performed at a consistently high level should not be targeted for dismissal in order to reduce the proportion of NTT faculty or to upgrade the faculty in general. Instead, either their positions should be exempted from changes that would render them uncompetitive for the job they are already performing, or they should be provided with both incentives and means to improve their credentials to meet new and higher qualifications for the same position.
  4. Departments should establish an equitable compensation scale for NTT employees. Salary schedules for NTT faculty should be based on a scale comparable to that of a tenure-track assistant professor, and pay should be proportionate to work assignments. Salaries should reflect qualifications, experience, years of service, and workload (including hours of instruction and related work outside the classroom, as well as any required service or research). Currently serving NTT faculty with substantial teaching experience should not be denied course assignments nor reappointment because they are paid more than less experienced instructors.
  5. Departments should develop clear job descriptions and criteria for evaluation of NTT faculty. Departments should provide NTT faculty with these accurate job descriptions, specifying expectations for teaching, service, and/or research. Processes for hiring, evaluating, and assigning NTT faculty should be comparable to those for tenure-earning faculty while taking into account the particular demands of NTT work. The evaluation mechanism should help assess which NTT faculty are eligible to apply for positions that are converted to full-time or tenure-track.
  6. Part-time NTT faculty should not be required to serve on committees, advise theses, or to coordinate community service projects unless they are given additional compensation above and beyond the typical wage for teaching each class. Full-time NTT faculty should not be expected to serve on committees unless their pay (per class) is commensurate with the level of pay (per class) of tenure-track assistant professors.
  7. Departments should provide new NTT faculty with systematic orientation to their jobs and departments. Handbooks on departmental policies regarding NTT employees should be provided. Departments should provide mentorship and advisors to those NTT members who have fewer than three years of teaching experience at the college level.
  8. Benefits for NTT faculty should include health insurance, as well as access to other forms of insurance and retirement planning available to tenure-track faculty.
  9. Teaching loads for all faculty assigned to writing workshops or writing-intensive courses should not exceed 15 students per class for graduate seminars. At the undergraduate level, writing-intensive courses should not exceed 22 students for introductory classes, while advanced writing workshops should not exceed 18 students. AWP maintains that the optimum level of enrollment, for both graduate and undergraduate writing courses, is 12 students.
  10. Working conditions for full-time NTT faculty should be comparable to those for tenure-earning faculty and should include assigned office space, phones, clerical support, photocopying privileges, computers (including email accounts and Internet access), parking assignments, and other ancillary privileges.
  11. Professional development funding, including incentives, grants, merit raises, and travel money, should be available to NTT faculty.
  12. NTT faculty should have a voice in setting departmental or institutional policies that affect them, and they should have academic freedom to express their professional judgments.
  13. NTT faculty who wish to bargain collectively should do so.
  14. Academic associations, conferences, and publications should provide forums, analyses, and reports on the treatment of NTT faculty to help persuade political leaders and academic administrators to improve the compensation and working conditions of NTT faculty.
  15. Please see AWP’s other documents: “AWP Guidelines for Creative Writing Programs and Teachers of Creative Writing,” “Hallmarks of a Successful Graduate Program in Creative Writing,” “Hallmarks of an Effective Low-Residency MFA Program in Creative Writing,” and “Hallmarks of an Effective BFA Program or BA Major in Creative Writing,” and “AWP Recommendation on the Teaching of Creative Writing to Undergraduates.”

AWP is committed to helping its member institutions develop programs that ensure fair and professional support for all tenure-track and NTT faculty.

— The AWP Board of Directors