By Kelsey Reichmann
During 2007-2016, when the rate of tenured faculty decreased an average of 5.6 percent across the CSU, that percentage was double at CSUDH, 12.3 percent. And, if, as the Bulletin reported in the first part of this three-part series April 11, there is a link between lower tenured faculty numbers and lower student graduation rates, we thought it important to examine the three types of faculty we have on this campus. Last issue, we reported on the university’s push to hire more tenured faculty. In part 3, we will examine those faculty members on the track to become tenured.
In this issue: we focus on the largest number of faculty members on this campus: the non-tenured.
Ask nearly any university administrator why tenure track or tenured faculty are preferred over adjunct faculty, also known as lecturers, temporary, or part-time faculty, and you’re likely to get a similar response as this: they have more time to dedicate to their teaching because they are full-time and can devote themselves to only one job. That means more attention to their students as well as a vested interest in contributing to the university in ways other than teaching.
So how do you explain faculty like Adam Sanford?
Sanford has a Ph.D. and has been an adjunct faculty member in the sociology department since spring 2012. Until just this week, he was one of the 49 voting members on the CSUDH Academic Senate and was part of the senate’s non-tenure-track task force. In his spare time, he hosts a podcast about teaching at the university, and also works as an academic coach, working with students on issues such as how to efficiently plan out projects, manage course loads and navigate the often labyrinthine process of higher education.
And he still wants more. Sanford said he would like to conduct research, but as an adjunct instructor, he struggles to find the money that usually is reserved for tenured faculty.
While Sanford had aspirations to be tenured, he realizes now, that despite his advanced degrees (most CSUs have a set policy that a master’s degree is needed even to teach part-time, and a doctorate is needed to achieve tenure) and experience, because of his age, that isn’t a possibility.
“For me, I have given up the tenure track because of my age,” Sanford said, who said he has attempted to gain tenure status often in the past but has not been selected. (In part 3 of this series, we will explain the hiring process of tenure-track faculty). “I’m almost 50 and most people who get hired for tenure track are just coming out of grad school…They are a lot younger. They have a lot more energy. They have a lot more time in their life to give to the institution.”
Maybe Sanford is an anomaly. Or, maybe there are many out there like him who wanted to become tenured but were never given the opportunity.
Whatever the case, CSUDH, like the CSU as a whole, has relied on adjunct faculty for a very long time. According to a task force formed at the university in September 2017 to examine non-tenure-track faculty, adjunct faculty comprised more than half of all faculty on this campus between 2003 and 2016, the percentage never dipping below 51.7 percent and peaking at 62.3 percent in 2016, the highest in the CSU next to the Channel Islands’ campus, which had half as many instructors.
That isn’t unique to CSUDH. Forced to deal with a steep drop in funding from the state, all CSU campuses had to find ways to cut costs, and hiring adjunct faculty rather than replacing tenured professors was a way to do that. Throughout the system, the percentage of tenured faculty from 2007-2016 dropped 5.6 percent. At Dominguez Hills, the drop was twice as steep, 59 percent to 42 percent, a 12 percent increase.
So, not only did CSUDH have more adjunct faculty than every other campus, it was increasing those numbers faster than any other.
(Some more numbers, according to the California Faculty Association Lecturer’s Handbook 2014-2020: “Since the budget cuts in the 1990s, the proportion of lecturers relative to all CSU Faculty has [increased[ from 37% in November 1991 to over 59% at present, reflecting a national trend.”
And belying the “part-time” or “temporary descriptors, the CFA handbook says “about 61% of lecturers teach 6 units or more….17% teach 15 units per semester or quarter…[and]available data indicates that over half of all current Lecturers were first appointed more than five years ago,
and a cohort of Lecturers (around 11%) was first appointed
over 20 years ago.
To be fair, lecturers in the CSU are treated better than many of their contemporaries elsewhere.
As Terry McGlynn, a professor in the CSUDH biology department said in a 2018 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, CSU adjuncts are represented by the California Faculty Association, which represents all CSU faculty, tenured or not: “The union has secured adjuncts more pay, guaranteed raises, full benefits for those who teach more than six units per semester, security of employment for experienced instructors, and a range of protections from administrative malfeasance.”
The situation in California reflects a national trend. In 1969, according to an April 2018 article on insidescholar.org, roughly 78 percent of faculty members at colleges and universities in the U.S. held tenure or tenure-track positions. But that was in the midst of a surge in college enrollment, sparked by the eight million veterans who enrolled in college after the signing of the 1944 G.I. Bill of Rights.
Suddenly, the idea of getting a college degree, particularly when states and the federal government began offering grants to students, seemed affordable and attainable to many Americans, and college enrollments soared. Another spike occurred in the mid-1960s, as “the landmark Higher Education Act of 1965 pushed for greater college access for women and minorities,” according to a March, 2014 article on National Public Radio’s website.
But then, the NPR article relates, the economy tanked, tuition rose faster than inflation, and “private loans, heavily subsidized by the federal government, gradually replaced federal grants as the main source of money for both poor and middle-class college students.”
At the same time, public institutions, such as the California State University, the largest public education system in the country, began dealing with cuts in state funding. “In an effort to cut costs, schools decided to swap out tenured and full-time teaching jobs for a cheaper option: adjunct and part-time professors,” according to the insidescholar.org article.
The numbers have almost reversed, according to another American Association of University Professors’ report: In 1969, 78 percent of university faculty was tenured or tenure track; in 2016, 73% of faculty were off the tenure track.
The numbers at CSUDH weren’t that high in 2016, but at 62.3 percent they were the second-highest in the CSU and increasing even faster. The next year, the Academic Senate launched a task force to look into the condition of non-tenured-track at the university.
The task force, which was comprised of 12 members including one professor, one associate professor, two assistant professors, and five lecturers issued its final report–all 273 pages of it– in March 2018. It listed seven reasons for the high number of adjunct faculty at CSUDH. The most substantial was, no surprise, economic, citing the relative inexpensiveness of hiring lecturers. (Hiring adjunct faculty costs less than tenure-track faculty for several reasons including they are hired per class and are not required to participate in the university other than teaching).
Additionally, even though there are lecturers who do have master’s degrees and doctorates, there are also many who don’t, and that generally precludes them from being selected for the tenure track. And, they are not nearly paid as much as fully tenured professors, even if they teach a full course load. For instance, according to the American Association of University Professors’ Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession: 2017-18, a fully tenured professor with a doctoral degree at a public university averaged nearly $134,000 at a public institution. A lecturer with a doctorate at a public institution? Just under $61,000. (No campus in the California State University system was included in the nearly 1,000 campuses in that study).
“When I tell students what my income is, they say, ‘but you’re a professor,’ Sanford said. “Well in name, but that doesn’t mean that I’m actually getting the compensation that you would expect someone with a Ph.D. to be getting at a public institution.”
As mentioned, every CSU campus found itself in the throes of a funding crisis in the early 2000s. But compounding the situation is the way the CSU Chancellor’s Office allocates funds. On the surface, it’s based on student numbers: the more students a campus has, the more money it gets. Everything is in proportion, no complaints right?
Wrong. In fact, some on this campus are quite open about saying the CSU process, especially when it comes to a school like CSUDH, is a symptom of institutionalized racism, a type of racism that is so embedded in the practices of social and cultural institutions, such as California’s higher education system, that many observers don’t even notice.
But Dr. Trevor Griffey, a lecturer in U.S. history and labor studies, definitely has noticed the “racist effects” of the current funding system. (A letter to the editor based on part 1 of this series can be found adjacent to this story).
“By “racist effects” I mean that if a funding model privileges schools based on the number of full-time students they have, and a disproportionate number of part-time students are low-income and therefore more likely to be non-white, that schools with more affluent and probably whiter populations will likely receive more funding per-capita,” Griffey said. “This disadvantages schools like CSUDH, compared to, say, Sonoma State or Humboldt State.”
Money also plays a factor in recruiting potential new tenure-track faculty. Candidates go through an intensive screening process and finalists are often flown to the campus for interviews. But even in terms of searches, appointments and success rate, CSUDH was near the bottom of the CSU. From 2013-2017, according to the CSU Report on the 2017 Faculty Recruitment and Retention Survey, CSUDH appointed 100 tenure-track faculty. That ranked 16th out of the 23 CSU campuses, which compares to CSUDH being the 14th largest campus in the CSU, but even a school with nearly the same students, Cal State East Bay, appointed 18 more, and Chico State, which has roughly 2,500 more students, appointed 78 more tenure-track faculty than CSUDH.
In 2017, the only year in the survey specifically broken down, CDSUDH’s 16 searches were fourth lowest in the CSU, 10 appointments second lowest, and 63 percent success rate the lowest–even though the number of applicants per search was fifth highest, at 68. (That information can be found on pages 9-10 of the 2017 survey linked in the paragraph above)
The Bulletin called the chancellor’s office twice requesting information om the funding allocation process, but did not receive a response to the topic.
Among the other six reasons the task force mentioned for CSUDH’s high number of lecturers, was institutional choices. When the university did receive larger budgets that would have allowed it to hire more tenure-track faculty, the funds were reallocated and spent on other areas that needed priority, such as maintenance or growth in administration.
The task force blamed the leadership style of the university as well, referring to “corporate-style leaders [more] focused on managing budgets, assuring responsiveness to institutional strategic direction, and ensuring high-performing teaching. Tenure may be (rightly or wrongly) seen as a problem for all three.”
The last two reasons for the high number of adjunct faculty dealt with temporary needs of the university, such as high enrollment rates and new programs demanding more teachers immediately rather than the lengthy process to recruit and interview prospective tenure hires.
Seven reasons why CSUDH’s numbers of adjunct faculty exploded for most of the 20th Century. Yet, not one of them has to do with a common portrait of adjunct faculty members: that they wouldn’t want to be tenured even if were offered them because they are not as committed to education as a career academic since they look at teaching as a second job, something to do after retiring, or just want to parlay their professional experience into some extra money.
While it’s true that some lecturers share those traits, it’s also true that all are individuals with their own circumstances factoring into why they have either not obtained a tenure-track status or don’t want it.
Some are aspiring academics and wish to be tenured. Faculty like Adam Sanford. These adjunct faculty apply for the tenure track positions that open up, however, there is a very low percentage (about 10.5%, according to the task force report) that actually end up getting them.
“A lot of adjuncts are in the running too,” Sanford said. “It’s just not common for a university level school to hire tenure track people from the people who are working for it as adjuncts. There’s this sort of…understanding that you aren’t supposed to hire from within that you should hire people from outside the area so you bring in new ideas and new blood so that there is cross-germination of ideas across different areas.”
Sanford has applied for tenure-track positions on this campus but “the problem is that they found people that were fresh out of grad school with the same credentials or in some cases slightly better credentials.”
There are also professors who are what is referred to as career-enders. These faculty want to be full-time, in terms of course load, but not tenure-track. They only want to teach and do not wish to participate in research or contributing in ways other than teaching.
Brent Becker is a full-time untenured faculty member in the criminal justice department. A 31-year veteran of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, as a lieutenant one of his responsibilities was teaching recruits, and he enjoyed it.
“When I started thinking about retirement…since I had my master’s degree…I thought what about teaching,” Becker said.
However, Becker does not wish to be tenured.
“I knew going in that most tenured professors had to earn either a Ph.D….(or a) law degree, and I didn’t have the inclination or desire to go back to school and earn that advanced of a degree,” Becker said.
Other adjuncts are experts in their field who teach on the side or have jobs related to the subjects they teach. And those people, Becker said, bring something to the classroom that career academics might not possess: actual experience in those fields.
One CSUDH lecturer, who wished to remain anonymous to speak freely, said he has nearly two decades in the profession he teaches and didn’t want to spend “how many years and how much money” getting a master’s and doctorate.
“I wanted to do what I loved and get paid,” the lecturer said. “So why should that disqualify me years later from perhaps changing careers and going into teaching? I don’t see why actual experience is disregarded next to a degree. Ask students what they would prefer?”
While untenured faculty do not have the luxury of career job security, they are offered contracts after serving six years at an institution.
While Sanford is now currently under contract, it hasn’t always been that way.
“Most adjuncts aren’t as lucky as I am,” Sanford said. “I was fortunate enough to get the number of units that the union contract says once you have this number of units you are entitled to that. So once I had 14 units, I was always entitled to have 14 units.”
Sanford is now entitled to 15 units and is under a three-year contract. Becker is also currently under a three-year contract with the university.
CSUDH is making moves to create a more welcoming and equal environment for the lecturers on this campus considering they account for more than half of the faculty on campus.
One of the proposals is having a lecturer on the eight-person executive board of the academic senate. However, this will be complicated by the unknown status of their length of employment at the university and is ” also a blurring of the lines of what does it mean to be an adjunct and what does it mean to be tenure track,” Sanford said.
The university would also have to compensate adjunct faculty if they are going to do more than just teach, such as serving on committees and helping to develop courses and programs.
“We cannot expect, at this point, our non-tenure-track faculty to contribute at that level of service without some reasonable compensation,” Kirti Celly, a member of the executive board of the senate, said.
Though they are not paid as much as tenured faculty, and not expected to do as much outside of teaching, the sheer numbers of adjunct faculty on this campus would seem to indicate that they are instrumental to the success of the university and its students.
However, many times, even if they are under a three-year contract, many do not know what classes, or how many, they will teach the next semester until the final weeks of the preceding semester.
“I had a situation a few years ago where my entire spring schedule was totally reorganized,” Sanford said. “So suddenly I had to prep three new classes that I had not taught here before. I had taught them, but not here. So I spent the entire winter break instead of taking some time down for myself, I was recording lectures and writing assignments and I was freaking out and making sure that I could get everything set up so that when spring came, I would have organized classes.”
Another factor in the tenure equation is degree level. To be considered for tenure, most of the time you have to have a Ph.D.
The task force report used brutally honest language to describe the situation of adjunct faculty. It cited a 2010 national survey of adjunct faculty which listed the five areas that needed most improvement; salaries; access to full-time positions; access to health care benefits; access to job security; and retirement benefits.
Other issues were also cited, including: not according “status and recognition to the work of (adjunct)…contributions and success; not providing office space for office hours and other work; exclusion from meaningful participating in governance and professional development; the recruitment of non-tenure-track faculty is often haphazard, too-often last minute, and not frequently the product of a wide search with careful choices of candidates; and the hiring of new hires at CSUDH is ad hoc, informal, not the product of institutional policy, and not reliably part of the culture. Consequently, it is hard to track.”
Although the university is looking into tangible ways to improve conditions for non-tenured faculty, one of the biggest hurdles may be an intangible one.
The task force included this sentence in its report: the “lack of respect for non-tenure-track faculty from tenured faculty and administrators on many campuses.”
Ken O’Donnell, the university’s vice provost and co-chair of the task force, acknowledged this problem when discussing the changes the university is planning on making.
“It’s not very expensive. It’s mostly just about time, attention, respect, which we want to do, it’s just that we didn’t have anyone explicitly in charge of it,” he said.
Who knows, maybe even the term is an issue. As one blogger wrote on the Adjunct Crisis.com website.
“Think of the word adjunct and the meaning sounds like something “supplemental to the larger academic mission of the institution…temporary or only to be used as needed. Of lesser value, and thus deserving fewer resources, lesser academic freedom and pay.”
At least one of our academic senators seems to agree.
“I think we should have a policy of no more adjuncts. I don’t mean no more lecturers, I mean that phrase, that expression should be banned from usage at our university,” Celly said. “If you look up the meaning of adjunct…it is something that is nonessential to the functioning of a system. Lecturers are absolutely essential to the functioning of our system.”