In an Era of Increasing Fiscal Constraints, an Inexplicable Shift in Hiring Patterns in Higher Education

In this past week’s issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, there is a very revealing graph representing the changes in employment in colleges and universities from 1976 to 2011. The graph is based on an analysis of IPEDs data by AAUP’s John Curtis.


Full-Time Tenured and Tenure-Track Faculty

1976 – 353,681

2011 – 436,293

Increase – 23%


Graduate Student Employees

1976 – 160.086

2011 – 358,743

Increase – 123%


Continue reading

USM President Rescinds Proposed Faculty Layoffs

Those regular readers of this blog will know that we have published several posts on the proposed elimination of faculty positions at the University of Southern Maine ostensibly to close a continuing budget gap but also to allow the administration more “flexibility” in funding programs.

This afternoon, the Lewiston Morning Sentinel is reporting that the president of the university of Southern Maine, Theodora Kalikow, has reversed herself on those faculty cuts: Continue reading

Across the Great Divides? No More (Updated)

No matter the measure you use–education, income, heritage, race, family size, job type, language–Americans are moving to greater segregation than we have ever before experienced. This is a no-brainer; it has been the pattern for decades, and it becomes more dominant each year.

We must be satisfied with it, for we are doing nothing, absolutely nothing to change it. Certainly not in higher education.

My students, most of them first-generation college students, many of them immigrants, almost all of them from the less fortunate “side of the tracks” in one way or another (generally in many), are still sold the dream that they can make it to the other side of the divides, that their education is going to make a difference. They have been told that degrees are all it takes, told it throughout their education. I work with an Associates degree program, a transfer program meant to prepare students for baccalaureate majors. Few of these students were strong candidates for college in the first place (else they would be at one of the other CUNY campuses) though most of them (even those lacking basic skills) have the intellectual capacity for college work. As in A.A. programs nationwide, however, their success rate is abysmally low. We, like educators everywhere, are working hard to change that–but we still are, also, abetting a situation of growing separation.

What are these students going to do when they do get their Bachelor’s degrees and find that they still aren’t going to get the prize jobs? When are we going to admit to them that the dreams for their futures that we have helped foster can never be realized, that their chances of crossing to the other side are next to nil? When are we going to recognize that we are fooling ourselves–along with our students–when we claim that degrees are enough in themselves? Continue reading

Higher Education “Reform”: The Price Paid by the Next Generation of Students and Professors

An “On the Issues” Post from the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education []


The increasing awareness of—and outrage about–the size of the debt crushing college graduates is, we must hope, a sign that meaningful action to address it may be possible.

The numbers alone are staggering.  According to recent reports, the average student debt for graduates with bachelor’s degrees is now $29,400—roughly 80% of a young person’s average income in this country. (See more at

The implications of these numbers are also frightening.  As we are increasingly aware, student debt is fueling the widening wealth gap in the United States ( and even threatening the health of our overall economy (

Less understood is the parallel economic precariousness of this generation of college professors. Continue reading

Cops and Robbers at the University of Southern Maine

This guest post was written by Michael DeCesare, Chair of the Department of Sociology at Merrimack College and President of the AAUP Chapter there.

At a special meeting of the University of Southern Maine (USM) faculty senate on March 14th, USM President Theodora Kalikow announced her plan to eliminate four academic programs and lay off 20 to 30 faculty—including tenured and tenure-track professors—along with 10 to 20 staff. What was the ostensible purposes of these unilateral decisions? To “re-brand” USM from a liberal arts institution into a “metropolitan university” and to make up $7M of a $14M shortfall. Martin Kich reported on these austerity cuts on this blog a week ago.

To this point, neither USM nor the University of Maine (UM) System has declared financial exigency. The supposed severity of the budget shortfall was quickly shown by Susan Feiner, a professor of economics and women’s and gender studies at USM, to be a flimsy justification for firing faculty and closing programs. As Paul Krugman put it in his New York Times blog last week, USM’s administration “seems eager to downsize liberal arts and social sciences for reasons that go beyond money.” Continue reading

Challenging the Necessity of Eliminating Faculty as an Austerity Measure: A Letter from a University of Southern Maine Alumna to University President Theo Kalikow

What follows is a letter sent by a University of Southern Maine alumna to Theo Kalikow, the university president, in response to his announcement that full-time faculty positions need to be eliminated in response to a projected deficit in the institution’s budget. It is, in some respects, a follow-up to a previous post that I have made very recently on this topic:

The letter is re-printed here with the permission of its author.



Dear Theo Kalikow,

I would like to explain to you, using the critical thinking skills I cultivated under the guidance of extraordinary faculty at the University of Southern Maine—skills that got me into a highly competitive doctoral program in Sociology at an R1 University—why as an alum, I strongly suggest you resign immediately.

Having majored in Sociology and Women & Gender Studies (with a minor in English), my analysis of your current predicament is a sociological one. The institution of higher education in the U.S. is facing a crisis. Not a financial one, but a crisis that arose from a larger political and economic shift toward privatization of formerly state-controlled institutions. Continue reading

Students and Faculty Demonstrate against Austerity Cuts in Maine

An article published yesterday by Portside in Portland, Maine, opens:

“Faculty and students launched an occupation of a Maine university building Friday to demand a halt to mass faculty layoffs and department slashes that they say are part of the austerity cuts devastating public education nation-wide.

“Over 100 people launched a late-morning occupation of the hallway outside the Portland office of the University of Southern Maine provost Michael Stevenson, where many plan to stay at least through the night. People sat on the floor and leaned against walls as chants and even songs broke out amid discussions about “next steps” for holding the university accountable. “We’re using this as a space to organize,” said Meaghan LaSala, student in Women and Gender Studies, in an interview with Common Dreams.

“Meanwhile, students took the microphone to speak out against budget cuts during a nearby university event for gubernatorial candidate Michael Michaud.”

The author of the article, Sarah Lazare, then provides more specific details about the cuts and attempt to provide the broader context in which the cuts should be understood as the result both of reduced state revenues compounded by ideologically driven tax reductions and of the corporatization of higher education: Continue reading

Employment Patterns in Higher Education, 2004-2012, a State by State Survey: Part 1, Alabama

This series will review the employment data for U.S. colleges and universities from 2004 to 2012. That data has been measured against enrollment, by the percentage increase in each category per 1,000 students at the institution. The five categories are: full-time faculty, part-time faculty, upper administration, professional staff, and non-professional staff (with the last three categories limited to full-time employment.

Before I survey the data for institutions in Alabama, I would like to emphasize that this data is already two years old, and hiring at an individual institution may have changed significantly or even dramatically over the past two years. More broadly, for those of us who do not work for a particular institution or who reside outside a particular state, the specific percentages for each institution are, ultimately, of less importance than the patterns that emerge from them.

I will begin with the Alabama institutions at which employment patterns seem to bucked the national trend and to have moved toward an increased emphasis on creating full-time faculty positions. I should pause here to emphasize, however, that tenured and tenure-eligible full-time positions (TET) and non-tenure-eligible full-time positions (NTE) are not distinguished in this data. At Auburn University—Montgomery, full-time faculty positions increased 10.77% in proportion to enrollment, part-time faculty positions decreased 2.58%, upper administrative positions decreased 19.59%, professional staff positions decreased 39.37%, and non-professional staff positions decreased 24.13%. Of the 51 two- and four-year institutions for which data is available, Auburn University—Montgomery is the only one at which an increase in full-time faculty was accompanied by decreases in all of the other categories of employment. Continue reading

The Questions That We Ask Determine the Answers That We Get

When I was entering graduate school in 1978, there were 29 new Ph.D.’s for every tenure-track job opening in English. It was the period in which anecdotes about Ph.D.’s driving taxi cabs became commonplace.

I didn’t know that information at the time, but it became very apparent as I made my way through the Masters and doctoral programs. Very few students in the cohort ahead of me stayed on to pursue a Ph.D. The cohort that included me essentially vanished. And the cohort that followed me has a much more nuts-and-bolts point of view about graduate education. They seemed to feel very little of the joy that I felt about simply being in graduate school and, instead, to be focused immediately and intently on doing everything that they could to enhance their chances of securing a tenure-track position.

I started graduate school in the transition between the baby-boom years, when states rapidly increased their outlays to higher education and institutions created new faculty positions in a sort of desperate effort to keep up with rapidly expanding enrollments–until they ultimately found themselves over-staffed with faculty. I had been born in the middle of the baby boom, which meant that the most marked increase in postwar births had preceded my birth. My father earned a blue-collar wage in a munitions plant, and because my older brother was also attending college when I enrolled, I received very generous federal Basic Educational Opportunity (BEOG) grants as well as state grants. My entire four years as a baccalaureate student at a private university ended up costing cost me $400. I was, in short, among the last middle-class students who could idealize the opportunity of earning a college degree, who could separate it from its cost because its cost was not an issue. Continue reading

Addressing the Faculty Crisis

If American higher education is going to continue to aspire to excellence, its institutions need to address and reverse the growing reliance on adjuncts as teachers. Not only is this exploitative of the adjuncts (to say nothing of the students), but it reduces our colleges and universities to factories, effectively excluding academic freedom and removing research components from teaching responsibilities. Two of the three aspects of a professor’s job, teaching, scholarship and service, are eliminated, for adjuncts are expected to do nothing but complete classroom activities.

Though reliance on adjuncts has risen primarily because it is a cheap alternative to tenured and tenure-track faculty, it also fits into the corporate top-down models of governance, models of efficiency that see shared governance as a waste of time and energy. To date, college and university administrations have been given little incentive to move in another direction. To them, use of adjuncts provides a situation where they not only save money but they get rid of pesky faculty involvement in what they see as exclusively their own responsibilities. They are not going to make a change unless countering incentives, or new oversight structures, are offered.

It’s nice to see that the plight of adjuncts is finally getting play in American media. The New York Timesfor example, ran an editorial today that ends: Continue reading