Change Requires Discipline

This is a guest post by Adrianna Kezar and Daniel Maxey. Kezar is professor at the University of Southern California and director of the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success; Maxey is dean’s fellow in urban education policy at USC’s Rossier School of Education and Pullias Center for Higher Education. Their article, “Change Requires Discipline,” appears in the newest issue of Academe.

Today, approximately seven out of every ten instructional faculty members at nonprofit institutions of higher learning are employed off the tenure track; nearly half of all faculty members providing instruction in nonprofit higher education hold part-time appointments. One of the reasons that contingent faculty issues have not been adequately addressed is that responding requires the attention, support, and action of many different groups across higher education. No single group or coalition representing only a few stakeholder groups has the ability to act unilaterally to make the changes needed. This is a systemic problem, but one that presents disciplinary societies with various opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways to the overall solution.

One of the main reasons we started the Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success was to work with a broad range of stakeholder groups to create systemic change. This national project engages disciplinary societies, organizations representing presidents and boards, unions, academic leaders, policy makers, accreditation agencies, faculty advocacy organizations, and other groups in discussion about how the faculty has changed and what the implications are for student success.

Some key activities that disciplinary societies can engage in to support this collective effort are:

1. Encourage participation of non-tenure-track faculty members in association conference/meetings, committees, leadership opportunities and service.

2. Examine membership fees and other possible barriers to involvement: Disciplinary societies such as the MLA and the AHA have thus created membership fee scales that reduce the cost of membership based on a salary scale.

3. Societies can seek out contributions from non-tenure-track faculty members for their publications and consider them for awards and honors given to members for outstanding contributions to their field of study and service.

4. Set up a task force to examine NTTFs issues within the discipline: Task forces are a good way to begin to collect data, identify trends, and examine the implications of findings for the future of the discipline.

5. Create a policy statement: Efforts originating from task forces sometimes lead to the development of policy statements and professional standards to inform the creation or revision of policies within the association and to guide campus departments, such as those related to faculty working conditions.

6. Form coalitions with other groups: Disciplinary societies can (and in some cases already do) make important contributions by forming or working with existing coalitions. The Coalition on the Academic Workforce (CAW) has been one of the more active coalition groups

To learn more – see our full article in Academe and visit The Delphi Project website which has made a wide range of data and other resources available, We encourage you to visit the site periodically, since we are continuing to work with our partners to improve our understanding of the problem and advance solutions.

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