Overuse of adjuncts exploits faculty, professors' union report says

The UConn seal on Fairfield Way between the Homer Babbidge Library and the Rowe Center for Undergraduate Education in Storrs, Connecticut. (Jackson Mitchell/The Daily Campus)

An annual report released by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) decried overuse of part-time instructors, saying that it creates a “two-tiered system” and hurts graduation rates.

“The Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession, 2015-2016: Higher Education at a Crossroads” found that salaries for full-time, continuing faculty increased by 2.7 percent between fiscal years 2015 and 2016.

The magazine Inside Higher Ed reports that this is less than last year’s 2.9 percent increase. 

The report argues that tenure for professors is on the decline. Over the last four documents, full-time tenure positions have decreased by 26 percent and full-time tenure-track positions have decreased by 50 percent, according to the report.

“The report asserts that the tenure system, which protects academic freedom, facilitates shared governance, spurs pedagogical and research innovation, and bolsters student learning, has declined over decades and must be rebuilt if the United States is to remain a leader in higher education,” said an AAUP press release.

The AAUP argues in the report that more part-time faculty must be converted into full-time and tenure-track positions for American higher education to remain competitive internationally.

The report argues that tenure is important because it gives professors the power to express controversial and innovate ideas as well as to challenge students and administration. It continues that graduation rates are lower at institutions with more part-time faculty.

For the first time, the AAUP report included data about part-time faculty and graduate student instructors. Inside Higher Ed reported that the AAUP has been criticized in recent years for not doing so.

All of this comes at a time when the University of Connecticut’s AAUP is working on a new collective bargaining agreement with the university. 

The place of adjunct faculty has been a major theme in the negotiations.

“Despite two-thirds of the classes being taught by adjuncts, they have no share in governance. This affects quality,” adjunct English professor Rebecca Rumbo told The Daily Campus in February. “Adjuncts are excluded typically from administrative and departmental meetings, committee meetings, you name it.”

Rumbo has taught at UConn since 1997, but is technically still a temporary employee.


Christopher McDermott is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at christopher.mcdermott@uconn.edu.