Campus Equity Week: Building Platforms for Change

By Mayra Besosa

This is the second in a series of Academe Blog guest posts arranged by the AAUP Committee on Contingency and the Profession in celebration of Campus Equity Week. For information on and resources for CEW, see the national website at

In organizing around contingency, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Throughout the years, the AAUP has articulated principles and recommendations regarding contingent appointments that, for advocates and organizers like myself, should serve as a bill of rights upon which to build platforms for change.

“Bill of rights!” was exactly my thought back in 2003 when I felt liberated (and extremely grateful) with the release of the Association’s groundbreaking statement on Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession.[i]. The statement delinks tenure from professional rank and FT/PT status, and challenges the widely held idea behind common practice that tenurable academic work is only that which includes the expectation of research:

A faculty member whose position focuses primarily on teaching, supported by sufficient opportunity for scholarship and service, is also engaged in tenurable academic work. Just as there are different emphases in the range of faculty appointments in research universities, comprehensive universities, liberal arts colleges, and community colleges, all of which define tenurable faculty work, so, too, there may be different models for tenurable faculty work within a single institution.

What, in my opinion, makes this statement groundbreaking is that it introduces into what could be called the progressive higher education reform movement the possibility of conversion of faculty status from contingency to stability in order to address the many problems brought upon faculty and students by an increasingly exploitative system. Among these are the unbundling of faculty work and the erosion of equity among academic colleagues, academic freedom, shared governance, and quality of student learning.

Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession was followed in 2009 by the report on Tenure and Teaching-Intensive Appointments,[ii] which reasserts and expands on the Association’s recommendation of conversion of status—rather than of positions or lines—as “the best way to stabilize the faculty”:

Several noteworthy forms of conversion to tenure have been implemented or proposed at different kinds of institutions. The most successful forms are those that retain experienced, qualified, and effective faculty, as opposed to those that convert positions while leaving behind the faculty currently in them.

The report includes two useful appendices, which provide actual examples of Conversion Practices and Proposals (A)[iii] and of Forms of Stabilization Other Than Conversion (B).

It would be accurate to say, however, that presently conversion faces, if not insurmountable, at least serious obstacles at most institutions because of the cultural changes that it would involve. Short of conversion, the progressive reform movement should advocate for strong due process with automatic mechanisms for reemployment rights leading to appointment with continuing service, as articulated in Recommended Institutional Regulations on Academic Freedom and Tenure.[iv]

Finally, just last year, a joint subcommittee of the Committee on Contingency and the Profession and the Committee on College and University Governance prepared a report on The Inclusion in Governance of Faculty Members Holding Contingent Appointments[v] (2012). This report describes and addresses the effect of contingency on governance; namely, the cutting off of the majority of faculty members from participation in an integral part of faculty work. The seven recommendations are grounded on an inclusive definition of “faculty”:

Recommendation 1: Institutional policies should define as “faculty” and include in governance bodies at all levels individuals whose appointments consist primarily of teaching or research activities conducted at a professional level. These include (1) tenured faculty, (2) tenure-track faculty, (3) full- and part-time non-tenure-track teachers and researchers, (4) graduate-student employees and postdoctoral fellows who are primarily teachers or researchers, and (5) librarians who participate substantially in the process of teaching or research. Those individuals whose primary duties are administrative should not be defined as faculty.

This Campus Equity Week, as you advocate for change, promote these principles and make them your own.

Mayra Besosa is in her nineteenth year at Cal State San Marcos, where she teaches full-time on renewable three-year appointments. She presently chairs her California Faculty Association chapter’s Faculty Rights Committee as well as the AAUP Committee on Contingency and the Profession.

For information about the AAUP Committee on Contingency and the Profession, see

[iii] For example, at the Western Michigan University AAUP chapter, through collective bargaining the categories of faculty and aviation “specialists” have been converted to a tenure track different from that of traditionally ranked faculty.

[iv] Faculty Appointments, RIR #13; Graduate Student Employees – RIR #14

For example, under the UC-AFT–University of California Regents collective bargaining agreement, UC lecturers become eligible for continuing appointments following the completion of six years in the same department, program, or unit on the same campus and a satisfactory peer evaluation. (See Appendix B of Tenure and Teaching-Intensive Appointments.)


The joint subcommittee was unable to find examples of “best practices” in regards to inclusion of non-tenure-track faculty in governance. However, lecturers in the California State University, for example, are making progress in terms of their representation on the statewide and campus senates, including compensation for such service. For an overview of lecturer representation on CSU senates, see p.35 & 39 of the CFA Lecturers’ Handbook, The Handbook explains CSU lecturer rights under the CFA-CSU collective bargaining agreement, including renewable three-year appointments, preference for work, compensation, and benefits.

2 thoughts on “Campus Equity Week: Building Platforms for Change

  1. You don’t mention that “UC lecturers become eligible for continuing appointments following the completion of six years in the same department, program, or unit on the same campus and a satisfactory peer evaluation” has a very serious loophole. “Units” are defined in the smallest possible way, so that a lecturer who teaches for both electrical engineering and computer engineering, for example, may have his clock start over each time he teaches a course for the other department, even though the courses may be required for students in both “units”. A lecturer with decades of teaching awards in one department is still required to gather letters of recommendations and go through a lot of administrative BS in order to teach a similar course in a different department—even though the departments share their administrative staff.

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