Imagine being classified as a temporary, part-time university instructor and yet being assigned three classes with sixty-plus students in each class. Your title provides you with no office and no phone and yet it is expected that you will hold office hours and provide ways for students to contact you. So you give out your home phone number or your cell phone number and meet students in coffeehouses or in remote parking lots because you are not eligible for a parking permit. Your title provides no course support, so you have to photocopy all your class handouts and exams at your own expense. Yet you are passionate about your teaching, your students respond to you, and you are making a difference in their lives. So you consider your hardships to be inconveniences and tell yourself you are gaining valuable experience that will lead to a real position. You ignore the fact that your salary barely gives you a living wage.
These or similar inequities actually are experienced quite often by instructors who fill university and college non-tenure track teaching positions. Although the circumstances cited above may be a bit extreme, they nevertheless serve to illustrate the kinds of problems and issues confronting individuals who hold these positions. The abuse and exploitation comes from using people to fill non-tenure track positions who otherwise may be qualified for tenure-track positions. This is the same as hiring teachers at part-time wages for full-time work, thus ignoring the concept of equal pay for equal work.
A non-tenure track position, whether full or part time, does not lead to tenure. However, this title does not indicate that a person who holds such a position does not have a doctorate (or other terminal degree or professional equivalence). It does not mean that this person previously had a tenure-track position but did not get tenure and therefore has been demoted to a non-tenure track position. It does not mean that the person who holds that position is not tenurable, although in some cases this may be true. It does not mean that the person who holds that position has no research or creative interests. And it does not mean that a person who holds a non-tenure track position is any less a teacher, musician, or scholar than a tenure-track faculty member.
In a recent CMS survey of non-tenure track faculty there were over fifty different titles for non-tenure track positions, even including assistant, associate and full professor rank without tenure. From institution to institution every non-tenure track title has different expectations, different support levels, and different benefits from nothing to some equity with tenure-track faculty.
Non-tenure track positions are so diverse that to try to describe the people who hold these positions is impossible. Non-tenure track faculty range from the professional orchestra member teaching private lessons at a local institution, to the ABD doctoral student teaching a course at an institution within driving distance, to the spouse of a person holding a career job which puts them in a particular location, to the scholar with multiple publications and excellent credentials. The goals of people in non-tenure track positions are also incredibly different. To try to make some kind of statement about what is desired for the professional life is impossible, too.
What does it mean to hold a non-tenure track position? For some, it is the dream of a lifetimebeing able to teach music at the college level. For others, it is frustrating and at times demeaning. In some instances, the non-tenure position itself carries a negative association. Younger faculty members in non-tenure track positions may feel that they cannot say no to demands placed on them by senior faculty or administrators. A substantial number of people holding non-tenure track positions have invested time and money toward obtaining degrees and developing a set of experiences to make them eligible for tenure-track positions. Many never reach that goal.
Support for the non-tenure track position varies from institution to institution and from title to title. A section on services and benefits provided to non-tenure track faculty by their institutions was included on the CMS survey. Seventy percent replied that their school provided computers but barely 1 percent have Internet e-mail connections. Health benefits have been provided to 4 percent and retirement benefits have been provided to fewer than 3 percent of the respondents. Not even 2 percent have travel or development funds provided. Private office space is provided for 40.5 percent and 36.8 percent share office space. That is still only 77.3 percent with assigned office space; what happens to the other 22.7 percent? Almost 79 percent have telephones and 89.9 percent have photocopying of course materials provided. High percentages yes, but as one respondent indicated, these are not perks; rather they are the basic necessities for doing ones teaching job well. More than 50 percent indicated that their music department faculty consisted of more than 50 percent non-tenure track faculty. A comment from the CMS survey: It would be great if something could be done about the current trend of universities relying more and more on non-tenure track, adjunct faculty members who receive low salaries, no benefits, and often struggle to make ends meet while working as hard as tenured faculty!
Our institutions of higher education were created to encourage learning. Many of our students choose to continue their education and pursue graduate degrees. Graduate degree programs require letters of recommendation from faculty familiar with the applicants work. Music students can go through an entire undergraduate degree program taking classes primarily from non-tenure track faculty. In the CMS survey, 77 percent of the respondents indicated they have no security of employment. Many musicians holding non-tenure track positions are hired quarter-to-quarter, semester-to-semester, or year-to-year, depending on enrollment and/or budget. Because of the lack of security of employment coupled with the desire to obtain the stature of a tenure-track position, many non-tenure track positions incur a high level of turnover. The increased use of non-tenure track faculty could have a negative impact on prospective graduate students because of this high turnover. When the time comes to seek letters of recommendation, faculty members who know them may have left.
What is it that CMS can do to serve the interests of non-tenure-track faculty? The Society has already provided a valuable service by placing the needs of non-tenure track faculty on the radar of its membership. What needs to happen now is action. It is important that non-tenure track faculty work with CMS to identify their needs and to determine which needs CMS can fill. An online discussion web site is currently being created to provide a forum for non-tenure track faculty to talk with each other about their issues. We need to go beyond the complaint stage and do something. With the help of CMS and its membership, we are confident that answers will be found and acted upon.