- The American Faculty: Restructuring of Academic Work and Careers
Practitioners and researchers looking for a comprehensive overview of the faculty life with an emphasis on changes in the last 40 years will be well served by reading The American Faculty. While much of the data and information presented in the book can be found in other sources such as the historical background of the American professoriate, the changing complexion of faculty, compensation, or alterations in the academic career track, there is no other source that compiles all this information in one place. While this is the strength of the book, it is also one of the weaknesses because much of the data is not new to individuals who have read the American Council on Education's annual reports on the diversity of faculty, the Higher Education Research Institute reports on faculty, or National Center for Educational Statistics summary on faculty. In addition, all of the commonly reported data sources do not help us to understand the experience and details of how faculty life has changed between 1960 and 2000 that can be critical to developing policy and changing practice. But before examining this minor critique, let me first review of some of the major arguments made in the book.
The authors describe what they believe is a revolution or transformation in higher education—a dramatic change in faculty academic career tracks—with the expansion of part-time and full-time nontenure track faculty. They note that these are independent career tracks and that part-time and full-time nontenure track faculty are, for the most part, not transferring to tenure track lines and that tenure track lines are shrinking in number. Schuster and Finkelstein describe how this trend is largely the result of shrinking funding, globalization, and the corporatization of campuses over the last 20 years. They note that both the accelerating pace of the market-driven culture in higher education and technology have enabled innovations that will continue to dramatically alter faculty life. The over-arching message of the book is that faculty life is in the process of changing and will continue to change in significant ways over the next several decades and that there are both benefits and disadvantages to these changes. The summary of consequences (costs and benefits) presented in table 10.3 is one of the most compelling parts of the book.
The book begins by describing some of the adaptations that have occurred in the last 40 years. For example, Schuster and Finkelstein trace a variety of changes in the composition of the academy such as a dramatic rise [End Page 485] of women from 17% of the faculty in 1969 to 36% in 1998 (although there are differences by institutional type and discipline); the aging of the faculty; and the slow progress in obtaining more faculty of color. They also describe the ways that work expectations have risen and faculty are expected to publish much more (and do publish much more) than they did in the 1960s. Faculty use of technology has accelerated in recent years and over 70% of faculty use e-mail, 50% use Internet resources and courses, and 33% use web pages for courses.
In addition to emphasizing the way the Academy has changed, they also highlight the many of the ways it has stayed the same (often opposing conventional wisdom). Faculty are not doing more consulting than 40 years ago and they are just as committed to undergraduate teaching as they were in the 1960s (although they demonstrate that there was a dip in interest in the 1980s). Faculty are not conducting more funded research than they were in the 1960s and the balance of teaching and research remains mostly the same (so the ongoing criticism that faculty are not spending time teaching may be flawed; however, teaching load may mask the true amount of time spent on teaching since it does not include preparation and advising). In addition, the values of faculty remain largely the same in terms of...