OAH takes strong stand in support of adjuncts

Historians in the News

At its March 2011 meeting, the Organization of American Historians (OAH) Executive Board approved revised Standards for Part-time, Adjunct and Contingent Faculty. This action took place after a year of intensive study by the OAH Committee on Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Employment. The new standards reflect a major overhaul of the guidelines adopted in 2003 as part of a joint venture with the American Historical Association.

The new standards outline five "best practices" adaptable to the wide range of teaching institutions and employment circumstances that contingent historians experience. In the first standard, the OAH recommends the establishment of the support systems deemed essential for effective teaching and good scholarly activities. These include adequate office facilities, access to computers and clerical support, health and unemployment benefits, professional development opportunities, and consideration for longer terms of employment.

The second standard urges all programs offering history courses to maintain accurate statistical records of all contingent faculty members, whether they are full-time temporary instructors or part-time adjuncts. This acknowledges the dramatically growing proportion of contingent historians who are either part-time adjunct teachers or full-time, temporary instructors, and who hold a host of job titles and job descriptions from school to school. Current surveys estimate that nearly 50 percent of all college and university faculty nationwide are employed part-time on short-term or semester-long contracts, and that another 20 percent hold temporary full-time off-the-tenure-track positions. Such arrangements are anything but temporary.

The third standard, an important new one, calls for the incorporation of non-tenure track faculty into college and university governance systems when “appropriate” and with “adequate compensation.” This recommendation acknowledges contingent faculty members’ growing presence on campus, their increasing expertise, and the contribution that might make to faculty governance at their institutions.

The fourth standard advocates “fair salaries,” wage increases over time, and appropriate stipends for committee work and administrative assignments. This standard addresses the most dogged problem of the contingent academic workforce—its chronic underpayment of part-time faculty compared to the earnings of full-time tenure-track faculty.

The final standard asks all history departments and programs offering history courses to report their progress in meeting these standards and to share information about the percentage of contingent faculty that their institutions employ. Such data will assist school administrators, parents and policy makers to gauge the resources needed by the teaching faculty in order to facilitate the kind of educational excellence that students need and deserve.

Altogether, these new standards aim to make history programs in higher education stronger. Expectations are that the updated standards will not only promote equity for contingent instructors, but also encourage the kind of professional work environment that they need to do their jobs as history teachers well. Most importantly, the new OAH Standards for Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Faculty Standards will hopefully improve cooperation between contingent instructors and full-time professors and foster a united faculty.

Members of the OAH Committee on Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Employment are: Donald W. Rogers (chair), Central Connecticut State University and Housatonic Community College; Donn Hall, Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Bloomington Campus; Elizabeth Hohl, Fairfield University; Arlene Lazarowitz, California State University, Long Beach; John P. Lloyd, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona; and Howard Smead, University of Maryland, College Park.

To download the complete Standards for Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Faculty, visit: http://oah.org/news/20110331OAH_PACE_Standards_03-17-11.pdf

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