Reorganizing the Faculty Workforce for Flexibility: Part-Time Professional Labor

By Rhoades, Gary | Journal of Higher Education, November-December 1996 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Reorganizing the Faculty Workforce for Flexibility: Part-Time Professional Labor

Rhoades, Gary, Journal of Higher Education

Part-time Professional Labor

In the United States the rise of the academic profession in the last quarter of the nineteenth century was marked by the establishment of faculty as full-time employees of colleges and universities with career tracks in their fields [18, 32]. Subsequently the profession struggled to establish autonomy vis-a-vis managers and boards, as the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) successfully inscribed tenure and academic freedom in institutional policy and in case law [36].(1) In the post-World War II era, many faculty gained such autonomy from the organization that analysts contrasted "local" and "cosmopolitan" faculty [7] and spoke of an "academic revolution" [12] in which faculty's power within and beyond the university increased by virtue of their research and grants activity.

However, the last quarter of the twentieth century has seen challenges to faculty autonomy and job security. The AAUP censure list [33, 35] and case law reveal ongoing violations of academic freedom and tenure. Amidst criticism of faculty as self-interested careerists, demands for more accountability and the reform or elimination of tenure emerged in the 1970s and 1990s. Many faculty have been retrenched [29]. Moreover, there is a twenty-five-year trend of increased numbers and percentage of part-time relative to full-time faculty [1, 21]. Managers in higher education have hired more part-time workers to minimize costs and maximize managerial control in providing educational services. The professional position of faculty is being renegotiated, with an increased emphasis on managerial flexibility in relation to the academic workforce.

In this article I address several professional workforce issues as they relate to part-time faculty, concentrating on unionized institutions. I look at unionized institutions because most part-time faculty are found in the type of institution most likely to be unionized - community colleges, comprehensive state colleges, and universities. Also, the professional status of such part-timers and the political battle surrounding their use are clear in the formalized context of collective bargaining. I focus on part-timers because their growing numbers represent a challenge to the academic profession's definition of faculty lines as full-time, with a secure future. The use of part-time faculty also represents an explicit challenge to tenure as the professional structure that defines faculty's terms of employment.

Most of the higher education literature on part-timers is taxonomic and/or functionalist [6, 39]. It offers insights into the previously unmapped terrain of part-time faculty by classifying types of part-timers. In addition to providing an overview of employment conditions and use of part-timers, this literature focuses on issues such as motivation (of employers and part-timers) and quality [6, 16]. It recommends planned, rational use of part-time faculty, incorporating them into the organization, improving their practice, and enhancing educational/institutional performance [5]. In short, the literature promotes "effective policies and practices" [20]. Generally sympathetic to part-time faculty [3, 6] the literature accepts managers' stated need for increasing numbers of such faculty. Many problems experienced by part-timers are attributed to full-time faculty more interested in protecting their professional privileges than in educational quality or employment equity [15]. That critique has been extended to the tenure system, portrayed as inhibiting necessary managerial flexibility and causing the exploitation of part-timers:

Are [full-time faculty] willing to preserve tenure and the associated privileges at the expense of exploited nontenure-track academic workers? . . . We question . . . the viability of the existing tenure system because it requires that tenured faculty be subsidized with a work force that carries heavy loads at low pay [6, pp.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Reorganizing the Faculty Workforce for Flexibility: Part-Time Professional Labor


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?