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2 The Case for Instructor Tenure SolvingContingencyandProtecting AcademicFreedominColorado Don Eron Beginning in the late 1970s, university administrations at Colorado and elsewhere began waging what can be seen, with the benefit of hindsight, as a revolution against the academic freedom protections of higher education faculty . In order to achieve a more flexible workforce in times of budgetary constraints and curricular change, they began replacing retiring tenured faculty with contingent faculty—defined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) as faculty who teach off the tenure track—because these faculty will teach for less money and require little commitment from the universities. Thirty-five years later, roughly 70 percent of all higher education faculty are contingent.1 This revolution has been a triumph for administrators , who can now exercise unprecedented control over faculties, increasing their class sizes and course loads while decreasing their benefits and wages and summarily dismissing those who dare to complain or otherwise challenge the status quo. However, the consequence of employing faculty who teach without even a modicum of job security has been the corrosion of undergraduate education. Another consequence—this one stemming not from administrators but tenured faculty who have neglected to ensure academic freedom for their contingent colleagues—may well be the elimination of tenure altogether, at least in any form that current tenured faculty are liable to find palatable. Section 1: The War to Eliminate Tenure In 1975, the landscape of higher education was much different than it is today. According to data from the AAUP, 57 percent of all faculty were on a tenure track.2 If this meant that a full 43 percent were off the tenure track, most employed at will—meaning that they could be fired at any time, for any 28 reason (including, by definition, for expressing their opinions), or for no reason at all—the circumstance struck few as particularly onerous. This may be because many of these contingent faculty had little pretense of participating in university culture, and as such were invisible to their tenured colleagues. These marginal faculty tended to fall into three categories—true adjuncts, spouses of tenured faculty, and part-time teachers who had finished their graduate coursework but not their dissertations (a status known as “All But Dissertation,” or ABD).3 As a generality, the true adjuncts were experts in “practice” who could augment the education of students by drawing on firsthand clinical knowledge . If they pushed the envelope in the classroom or otherwise alienated administrators with their opinions and lost their contingent positions as a result, they had their regular employment to fall back on. The lack of academic freedom for such faculty was not a particular deterrent to teaching. What’s more, most, while perhaps pleased to enjoy the professional imprimatur (and market value) implicit in teaching a course at the local university, hardly considered themselves central to, or even part of, the mission of the university. Similarly, the spouses of tenured faculty, many of whom returned to teaching on a part-time basis after taking time out to raise families, often considered themselves to have foregone professional academic careers, at least in the way their spouses engaged their career ambitions. The academic back seat was part of the social contract; many felt they had no standing to complain, even were they inclined. By the same token, many faculty in the third category, part-timers who were ABD, regarded themselves as being in academic limbo, at least until they finished their dissertations and landed tenure-track positions elsewhere. Most had little interest in the cultural life of the institution—per academic custom, they wouldn’t be considered for­ tenure-track employment at the institution where they had received their professional credentials; they would have to pursue their careers elsewhere. They didn’t covet inclusion; indeed, many would have considered any expectation of participation in faculty business an imposition. When one finds invisibility desirable, which was typical of faculty in the three contingent categories, others can’t be fully faulted for failing to see them. Still, while it would be an overstatement to suggest that these contingent faculty were denied meaningful access to academic freedom by mutual agreement (in fact, the AAUP issued a cautious statement addressing the lack of due process for contingent faculty as far back as 1980), it was easy for contingent faculty to view the status quo as an unfortunate but largely tolerable fact of life.4 It was easy as well for the few tenured faculty who...


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