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Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty: Changing Campuses for the New Faculty Majority

reviewed by Iván F. Pacheco - March 31, 2014

coverTitle: Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty: Changing Campuses for the New Faculty Majority
Author(s): Adrianna Kezar
Publisher: Routledge, New York
ISBN: 0415891140, Pages: 256, Year: 2012
Search for book at Amazon.com

It is well known that non-tenure track faculty are a majority in most universities and colleges around the United States today, and that the trend is likely to continue.  As Adrianna Kezar, the editor of Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty, explains, most college presidents now prefer to hire non-tenure track faculty.  Two-thirds of the faculty across all institutional types and three out of every four new hires are now off the tenure track (pp. x, 30).  Despite these figures, higher education researchers and the literature in general pay very little attention to this phenomenon.  

Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty tackles that research gap with a set of strategies that seek to include this “new majority” in the day-to-day life of universities and colleges.  Previous works have addressed this problem and recommended policies and practices for institutions to improve the working conditions of adjuncts and contingent faculty (see, for example, Baldwin & Chronister, 2001, and Gappa & Leslie, 1993).  Recommendations include: regularizing hiring procedures, creating a systematic socialization process and mentoring, providing multi-year renewable contracts, and defining promotion and evaluation processes for non-tenure track faculty, among others.  However, the book goes beyond merely suggesting strategies by providing qualitative empirical research about how some of these suggestions have been implemented in various higher education institutions.

The book consists of three parts. Part I presents historical background illustrating why adjunct positions were created and how the use of contingent, adjunct and non-tenure track faculty became so popular. Based on institutionalization theory and drawing on Curry’s (1992) three-stage model of institutionalization, this section provides the conceptual framework that anchors the subsequent chapters in Part II that describe the change process at eight case study institutions. Finally, Part III consists of two chapters that present general conclusions.

Among the contributors to the book are associate professors, an assistant researcher and doctoral candidate, the Director of the New Majority Foundation, a former Associate Provost, and non-tenure track faculty members, most of whom are also members of teacher unions, teacher associations, or belong to their institution’s teachers’ senate.  Such variety provides insight from different perspectives and is a strength of the book.

Although the book is “based on a national study of campuses implementing policies to include non-tenure-track faculty on campus” (p. xv), the case studies in Part II (Chapters Three to Ten), are a somewhat narrow selection.  Half of the cases are concentrated in California and six out of eight cases are unionized institutions.  However, the institutions are diverse in type, ranging from a two-year technical college to public and private research universities.  Perhaps more important than the variety of case studies, the book presents a wide spectrum of situations and stages of contingent faculty institutionalization.  From this broad sampling of conditions and stages, activists and administrators can learn to improve the working conditions for, and make institutions more responsive to the needs and expectations of, adjunct and contingent faculty.  

Despite the uniqueness of every case study, coherence across them is evident through the use of several common elements.  A shared conceptual framework, a table with an “institutional snapshot,” a table illustrating the stage from the institutionalization process at which the college or university is profiled, and a concluding set of “Key Points” and “Key Questions” are presented for each case.  Together, the case study chapters highlight how change in working conditions for adjunct and contingent faculty is possible, but requires a good amount of agency from the non-tenure track faculty themselves.  Further, the authors make it clear that change is required not only at the level of non-tenure track faculty salaries and benefits, but that other topics such as inclusion, participation, and respect are crucial elements in the institutionalization strategy.

Kezar has a strong presence throughout the book.  In addition to being the editor, she wrote the Preface and one chapter in Part I, a case study in Part II, and the final chapter in Part III. She also coauthored with Sam the second chapter of Part I.  Most of her chapters start with a narrative in which she depicts everyday situations in the life of non-tenure track faculty, administrators, or other faculty or staff members dealing with the challenges of adjunct faculty: “Imagine: Professor Smith patiently waits outside of the classroom while …” (p. x); “John heads to the non-tenure track faculty subcommittee of the academic senate …” (p. 2); and “Melissa, a mathematics professor at a community college, sometimes has to pinch herself because…” (p. 28).

Embracing Non-Tenure Track Faculty does not claim to take a “neutral” approach, as is clearly evident by the book’s title and dedication: “for all those fighting inequities wherever they exist and for the non-tenure track faculty leaders and their allies who fight to maintain the quality of education.”  However, the book has a very constructive tone in which the authors make clear their conviction that improving the working conditions for the “new majority” not only benefits the growing number of adjunct and contingent faculty, but also their institutions, students, and society at large.

The book is targeted at contingent faculty and administrators facing the challenges of the new composition of the professoriate in their own institutions.  However, anyone interested in the academic profession will find valuable information regarding one of the most important topics in the field.  Despite the fact that the book focuses predominately on U.S. institutions (with the exception of the Vancouver Community College case study), the stories and institutionalization processes described in the second part of the book, as well as the conceptual framework and general observations in Parts I and III, may be inspiring and enlightening for faculty and administrators in other countries who face similar challenges.


Baldwin, R. G., & Chronister, J. L. (2001). Teaching without tenure: Policies and practices for a new era. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Curry, B. K. (1992). Instituting enduring innovations: Achieving continuity of change in higher education. Washington, D.C: George Washington University, School of Education and Human Development.

Gappa, J. M., & Leslie, D. W. (1993). The invisible faculty: Improving the status of part-timers in higher education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record, Date Published: March 31, 2014
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17481, Date Accessed: 1/28/2022 4:21:14 AM

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About the Author
  • Iván Pacheco

    E-mail Author
    IVÁN PACHECO is a consultant and researcher in higher education. His main topics of interest are the academic profession, quality assurance, and peacebuilding. He received his Ph.D. and M.A. in higher education from Boston College. With over fifteen years of higher education experience, his past roles include Director of Quality Assurance for the Colombian Ministry of Education, acting Vice Minister of Higher Education, and board member for more than ten Colombian public universities. Among his publications are: Paying the Professoriate: A Global Comparison of Compensation and Contracts (coeditor with Altbach, Reisberg, Yudkevich and Androushchak, 2012); International Comparison of Academic Salaries: An exploratory study (Laura Rumbley and Philip Altbach, 2008) and several articles and blog entries on academic salaries and the academic profession. In addition to his consultant activities, Iván is currently editing, together with Alberto Roa, a book on the challenges for Colombian higher education for the next decade.
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