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Understanding Key Stakeholder Belief Systems or Institutional Logics Related to Non-Tenure-Track Faculty and the Changing Professoriate

by Adrianna Kezar & Daniel Maxey - 2014

Background/context: Over the past 40 years, the composition of the professoriate has changed substantially across all institutional types. Once predominantly tenure track, now nontenure-track faculty (NTTF) constitute more than 70% of the faculty. While these major changes have occurred, we know little about key stakeholdersí views (accreditors, policy makers, presidents) of these changes.

Purpose: In this article, we explore the following research question: What are the beliefs systems (logics) related to the changing professoriate of the key entities within the higher education organizational field?

Population/description of participants: Thirty-five individuals from key stakeholder groups were included: accreditation agencies; disciplinary societies; faculty stakeholder groups such as New Faculty Majority; unions; state or system leadership and state compacts such as National Association of System Heads; voluntary regional consortia such as those representing deans; governing boards; and individual and institutional membership associations, including the American Council on Education and American Association of Community Colleges.

Research design: In order to better understand the perspectives of key stakeholders in higher educationís organizational field related to the nature of the professoriate, we conducted a modified Policy Delphi study.

Findings: The findings indicate one of the major reasons that the organizational field did not provide a shield to the decline of tenure or mobilize to combat the deteriorating conditions of nontenure-track faculty is because no new decided upon logic has been created as it relates to the professoriate. Great disagreement exists about what the future professoriate should look like and the four distinctive views are presented.

Conclusions: There is some opportunity for consensus and mobilization around two key points: (a) All groups believe the current three-tiered model (shrinking tenure track, large part time, and full-time nontenure track) is not working; and (b) there is broad consensus about a few principles for a new model such as greater job security, shared governance, greater academic freedom than most faculty currently have, and more focus on the educational function of faculty.

Over the past 40 years, the composition of the professoriate has changed substantially across all institutional types. Once predominantly tenure track, now nontenure-track faculty (NTTF) constitute more than 70% of the faculty (AFT, 2009; Kezar & Sam, 2010; Schuster & Finkelstein, 2006). While this varies by institutional type, the trend is significant across all institutions today with community colleges averaging 75%, research universities 50%, comprehensive doctoral 46%, and baccalaureate, 40%. Most research describes a three-tiered system with tenure-track faculty now making up a small minority of the faculty, a second group of full-time NTTF that have a bit more stability and integration into the institution, and a large third group of part-time faculty that have the worst working conditions (AFT, 2009; Kezar & Sam, 2010; Schuster & Finkelstein, 2006).

Recent research on nontenure-track faculty has identified some consistent and disturbing trends related to student outcomes that make this shift in the faculty a policy issue worth focusing on. The negative outcomes range from lower graduation rates for student who take more courses with NTTFs (Ehrenberg & Zhang, 2005; Jacoby, 2006); to students who take courses with adjuncts perform significantly worse in follow-up courses compared to students that took courses with tenure track faculty (Carrell & West, 2008); to lower transfer rates from 2-year to 4-year institutions from students who take more courses from adjuncts (Eagan & Jaeger, 2009; Jaeger & Eagan, 2009). In addition to outcomes like graduation, transfer, and future performance, studies of NTTFs instructional practices suggest that part-time faculty use less active learning and service learning and fewer student-centered teaching approaches, educational innovations, and culturally sensitive teaching approaches (Baldwin & Wawrzynski, 2011; Banachowski, 1996; Jacoby, 2006; Umbach, 2008). Most researchers emphasize that these trends in research reflect that campuses have not altered their policies and practices to support the new largely nontenure track faculty and that the faculty has devolved over the years with little intentionality regarding how human resources are deployed on campus (Eagan & Jaeger, 2009; Ehrenberg & Zhang, 2005; Jacoby, 2006; Jaeger & Eagan, 2009).

Almost all scholarship on this issue characterizes the change as revolutionary, but also as happening in an almost invisible fashion (Rhoades, 1998; Schuster & Finkelstein, 2006). This sort of imperceptible, yet significant, change is often explained using institutional theory. Institutional theory suggests that different external influences can change the nature of organizations with little internal agency or action through the creation of new routines, ideologies, or belief systems (Scott, 2008). Rhoades (1998) suggests how neoliberal philosophies held by board members and other key external stakeholders became a prevalent ideology and infiltrated educational institutions. He describes the emergence of NTTF as a byproduct of neoliberalism, reflecting the outsourcing of work and deprofessionalization of employees, characteristic of its managerial logic. Within neoliberalism, the prevailing logic of faculty work is quite different from the traditional logic (described later in this paper); it emphasizes faculty work as deprofessionalized with less autonomy and control over their work and role, contingent and part-time labor as desirable, and an overriding emphasis on accountability, efficiency, and productivity of work exemplified by higher teaching loads and assessment of work (Levin, Kater, & Wagoner, 2006; Rhoades, 1998). In the theoretical framework section, the convergence of logic between institutional theory and academic capitalism are more fully described.

A common concern or conundrum in describing the changing professoriate is the lack of action among key stakeholders such as unions, disciplinary societies, academic leaders such as presidents or provosts, accrediting agencies, and policy makers (Burgan, 2006). These groups make up the organizational field of higher education (described in the literature review and are also the focus of this study) and have typically been sources of change or resistance to external market forces. Many of these entities advocate for faculty, yet their roles amid continuing changes in the professoriate remain unexplained. The work of Rhoades and Slaughter largely did not focus on the organizational field, so examining these groups may help us to better understand the changing professoriate currently and in the future (Rhoades, 1998; Rhoades & Slaughter, 1997; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004).

In this article, we explore the following research question: What are the beliefs systems (logics) related to the changing professoriate of the key entities within the higher education organizational field? We explore this research question through a Delphi study in which we collected qualitative data from members of these various entities within the organizational field, exploring their belief system related to nontenure-track faculty. The reason this is an important set of perspectives is that we remain unable to explain the shifts in faculty composition (beyond the broad explanations offered by neoliberalism) and why reversing these changes has been so difficult, even though they have had negative impacts on student outcomes and institutional performance. Scott (2001) argues that early uses of institutional theory overemphasized macro dynamics of the societal fields, ignoring the organizational field and leaving many important dynamics unexplored. Furthermore, it is unclear whether or how this shift is continuing or may take a different direction. The views of stakeholders within the organizational field may shape the future direction of higher education policy and practice. Furthermore, little research exists with regard to organizational fields in higher education and how they operate to shape the landscape (Altbach, Gumport, & Berdahl, 2011). An understanding of these groups is particularly important as it is argued that societal and organizational fields now have a greater impact on institutions than ever before (Leicht & Fennell, 2008). The stakes are high; student outcomes and institutional performance are currently threatened and perhaps the integrity of the enterprise will be over time too.


This paper is framed by the concept of institutional logics, which developed out of neo-institutional theory. The main focus of the paper and analysis is on these logics, but some background on institutional and neo-institutional theory, as well as societal and organizational fields, is provided in order to foster understanding about the landscape in which the logics exist and play out. This section will also explore how institutional theory has been reshaped from a theory about the improbability of change to one that began to recognize how various external and internal forces can affect change; the latter perspective is particularly important in todays higher education environment, where academic capitalism is rampant. We also seek to establish the connection between the sort of unreflective and broad, sweeping changes that are characteristic of institutional theory and the shifts in faculty composition to a majority of NTTFs to demonstrate the applicability of the theory to this study. This study is original in the way it utilizes institutional logics and the organizational field, which are concepts that have largely been ignored in higher education research, but also in the broader literature on institutional theory.

Institutional/Neo-institutional theory

The changes in the professoriate are often described as having occurred without local intentionality or awareness; one institution after another altered hiring without plans or discussion (Powell & DiMaggio, 1991; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004).1 Institutional theory can be helpful in understanding and framing changes that seem to originate from largely invisible or outside sources (Powell & DiMaggio, 1991). Many earlier theories of change examined external factors (evolutionary theories) or internal factors (scientific management theories) in isolation (Scott, 2008). Institutional theory examines the interaction of internal organizational features or conditions such as strategic planning and leadership, but also external conditions such as state appropriations and accreditation standards (Dacin, Goodstein, & Scott, 2002; Powell & DiMaggio, 1991). Furthermore, earlier theories (e.g., evolutionary, resource dependency, contingency) emphasized rationality among actors and systems but ignored how politics, values, and norms can significantly impact organizational life. Institutional theory suggests individual organizational behaviors are largely a consequence of taken for granted beliefs, schemas, and ideas that originate in larger institutional contexts (Leicht & Fennell, 2008, p. 2). Accordingly, theorists focus on documenting the underlying beliefs that shape actions (Scott, 2008). This study sought to understand the larger forces or pressures behind changes in the professoriate, as interpreted by key entities within the organizational field. While many earlier theories of change (e.g., scientific management or resource dependency) suggest it occurs commonly within organizations, it is important to note that early scholarship on institutional theory sought to explain why change is hindered by powerful embedded norms (Meyer & Rowan, 1977; Scott, 1983). Higher education was put forward as the epitome of an institution that was not likely to be influenced by external forces or fields (Meyer & Rowan, 1977). The emergence of neo-institutional theory demonstrated the dual role of schemas and norms for creating and obstructing change (Morphew, 2002). In an example from higher education, Morphew (2002) used neo-institutional theory to describe how less selective colleges are sometimes transformed into universities as administrators seek greater status and legitimacy from external constituents.

Institutional theorists have long questioned the independence and agency of individuals and institutions and their ability to change institutional arrangements (Scott, 2008). Theorists suggest the presence of powerful external norms originating from the broader environment, or field, of which the organization is a part, yet also emphasize strong normative and mimetic pressures within organizations (e.g., faculty socialization in the disciplines) (Morphew, 2002; Powell & DiMaggio, 1991; Rusch & Wilbur, 2007; Scott, 2008). There are two types of fieldssocietal fields (e.g., nation state, market factors) and organizational fields (e.g., disciplinary societies, accreditation). Each of these fields is composed of a constellation of various forces or organizations. The societal field is more removed, whereas the organizational field is more tightly connected to the institution. Both types impact the organization, but in varying degrees depending on their power, which is dynamic and changes over time. Institutional theorists were critiqued for overemphasizing macro forces (e.g., societal and organizational fields) and not considering institutional agency (Davies, Quirke, & Aurini, 2006; Scott, 2008). Neo-institutional theorists suggest the importance of the actors within the organizational field as sources of resistance to pressures from societal fields (Davis, & Marquis, 2005; Davis, McAdam, Scott, & Zald, 2005; Hirsch, & Lounsbury, 1997; Greenwood & Suddaby, 2006; Scott, 2008). Furthermore, they suggest that institutions hold more agency themselves.

The more actors within societal and organizational fields coalesce around particular new perspectives (logics) or interests, the more likely they are to create the conditions to foster changes on campuses (Scott, 2001). By contrast, when there is more divergence (competing of logics), there is a greater likelihood that potential changes will be stifled. However, Scott (2001) also notes that a conflicted environment offers opportunity for agency. Thus, divergence is an obstacle and might slow efforts to change, but can also give rise to conflict that can bring change about over time as various groups consider new logics. Colleges attempt to maintain support and legitimacy in the marketplace and among powerful constituents (e.g., policy makers, business partners); as a result, they may make changes against internal norms like tenure (Boyce, 2003). While scholars suggest that societal fields influenced the shift toward NTTF (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004), little is known of the organizational fields roles in the historic shift or current efforts to address rising contingency.

As noted earlier, higher education was historically seen as an institution that underwent very little deep change, especially with regard to the sort of sweeping alterations that have occurred in the professoriate. However, in the last three decades, several scholars have documented how the societal field started to have a greater impact in shaping higher education institutions (Bernasconi, 2006; Gonzales, Martinez, & Ordu, 2013; Gonzales & Pacheco, 2012; Leslie, Slaughter, Taylor, & Zhang, 2012; Morphew, 2002; Rusch & Wilbur, 2007). Additionally, these very forces have drawn together the once distinctive theories of academic capitalism and neoliberalism. Studies have illustrated how academic capitalism, a more corporate logic or philosophy, is influencing institutions, pushing them to strive for greater prestige by being more selective, increasing access to resources, and prioritizing research (Leslie et al., 2012; Morphew, 2002; Morphew, C. (2009). Various studies in higher education (Gonzales & Pacheco, 2012; Leslie et al., 2012; Morphew, 2002; Rusch & Wilbur, 2007; Taylor & Morphew, 2010; Ramirez, 2006; Tuchman, 2009) describe ways campuses strive for greater legitimacy in order to gain additional funding and resourcescolleges become universities, standards or approaches are altered to attract external funders, slogans or brands are employed, mission statements are refined, policies are designed to improve rankings, and budget priorities shift to pursue prestige. Gonzales and Pachecos (2012) study of an Hispanic serving institutions striving to be the Harvard of the Border highlights the use of marketing logics; slogans were used to sell the new campus direction to faculty and staff. It also demonstrates how corporate logics (emphasized in academic capitalism and neoliberalism) are used to alter norms and create change.

Moving from an institutional focus to the faculty, studies have examined similar behaviors of faculty striving, wherein faculty are pressured to perform or seek to ascend the academic hierarchy (Gonzales et al., 2013; OMeara & Bloomgarden, 2011). OMeara and Bloomgardens (2011) study, for example, examines the interplay of institutional striving environments and faculty members own agency, socialization, and background, as well as influences from the field like disciplinary societies. In another paper, which focuses on faculty roles from a neo-institutional perspective, Gonzales (2012) shows how roles have evolved to emphasize the priority of research focused, being shaped by external societal norms and prestige seeking. The paper explores how these norms are not just represented in institutional structures and priorities, but are absorbed and embodied by individual actors such as faculty. Yet, Gonzales also explores agency and resistance to the academic capitalist logic being promoted by administrators on campus among some faculty. The potential for multiple logics and agency to exist within the change process is similar to the focus of this paper. Together, these studies suggest that academic capitalism is becoming the dominant external logic affecting changes in higher education, once regarded as being so resistant to change. Gonzales (2012) research hints at the need for more studies that focus on institutional logics among individual agents within the organizational field in order to more fully understand how institutional theory and academic capitalism are playing out within the enterprise. Although the societal field has been explored, there has been virtually no research on the organizational field and its role in shaping changes.

Organizational field

DiMaggio and Powell (1983) defined the organizational field as: those organizations that, in the aggregate, constitute a recognized area of institutional life: including key suppliers, resource and product consumers, regulatory agencies, and other organizations that produce similar services or products (p. 148). Essentially, a field is a collection of similar organizations, as well as their social arena of exchange partners, consumers, and regulators. They emphasize how this concept incorporates the totality of relevant actors that influence a particular sector, linking organizations to larger networks that influence their activities and logic. Building on DiMaggio and Powells earlier influential definition, Scott (2008) defines an organizational field as: a diverse array of organizations working within a given arena or domain with attention to not only the producer organizations, but their exchange partners, customers, competitors, intermediary actors, regulators, and funding agents which form their organizational set (p. 182). Given this definition, the higher education organizational field can be seen as made up of organizations such as presidential organizations, accrediting bodies, disciplinary societies, state and system leadership, academic unions, voluntary consortia, and foundations, among others. For example, disciplinary societies sometimes emphasized research over teaching, which is perceived as less prestigious, influencing institutional norms (Harcleroad & Eaton, 2011). Associations such as the American Association of Colleges and Universities have promoted a common general education curriculum.

Institutional theory scholars note how governance systems are an important relational system within an organizational field (Scott, 2008). Governance constitutes how decisions and agreements are made and how authority is distributed within the field. Within higher education, there is a very fragmented system of governance and authority (Birnbaum, 1988). Most of the entities within the organizational field have limited direct influence or control (Altbach et al., 2011). For example, accrediting bodies can withhold accreditation status, which can result in federal funding being withheld, but are very unlikely to exercise this authority and power (Harcleroad & Eaton, 2011). Disciplinary societies hold no formal power or authority and can only recommend decisions or change. Foundations can provide financial incentives, as can state entities, which also direct institutional behavior by creating regulations; still, these groups rarely exert power over day-to-day activities of institutions (Altbach et al., 2011). In organizational fields with a fragmented governance system, change is more difficult unless the institutional logics of these various entities align (Scott, 2008). In addition, societal fields are likely to overwhelm actors within the organizational fields when logics are divergent. Scott (2008) points out that structural aspects of the field have tended to be overemphasized and that the cultural cognitive aspects are extremely important to understand and have tended to receive much less attention.

Institutional logics

In addition to examining the governance system that helps understand how the organizations within the field interact, institutional theorists focus on the cultural cognitive system of the field. The cultural cognitive system is primarily focused on institutional logics that shape institutional activities and behaviors. While governance can structure behaviors through incentives and regulations, institutional theory sees the cultural cognitive system as having the most significant impact on how the field operates, particularly in fields that have fragmented and disconnected governance, like higher education (Dingwerth & Pattberg, 2009; Evans, 1997; Scott, 2008). Institutional logics are defined as the material practices and symbolic constructions, which constitutes its organizing principles which is available to organizations and individuals to elaborate (Scott, 2008, p. 186). Institutional logics can be identified through values and rationales described in the language and discourse of particular entities within the organizational field (Thorton & Ocasio, 2008). A field can be guided by a single logic, but sometimes there are multiple and/or contradictory logics. New or emergent logics are best identified through the language and discourse of groups because they have not become instantiated into institutional practices. Institutional logics gain greater legitimacy when multiple stakeholders adopt the logic (Bastedo, 2009).  

Institutional logics are typically studied on four levels that help understand their dominance in shaping the field: content, penetration, compatibility, and exclusiveness (Scott, 2008). Content refers to the actual beliefs and assumptions and how compelling they are, which affects how they will guide/shape behavior and gain legitimacy. Penetration refers to their vertical depth and horizontal breadth. An institutional logic has penetration if it resonates with people throughout an organization (however, not necessarily everyone) and is widely found across institutions within the field. Compatibility has to do with whether the logic is related to institutional arrangements. In other words, a particular logic needs to fit with other belief systems and activities that guide the organization. Finally, exclusivity refers to whether other logics exist and the extent to which the logic is contested within the field. Logics that lack solid content, penetration, compatibility, and exclusiveness are likely to have minimal dominance within the field (Scott, 2008).

Various studies have been conducted examining how certain logics did not gain prominence while others did over time. For example, early views of environmentalists about recycling were not adopted until they were repackaged from a voluntary model to a for-profit model favored by federal, state, and local legislation (Lounsbery, Ventresca & Hirsch, 2003). In higher education, the main way that institutional logics related to faculty have been examined is in the work of Slaughter and Rhoades (2004), which documents two competing logics: a public good knowledge/learning logic and an academic capitalism knowledge/learning logic.2 This study examines the cultural cognitive system by examining the institutional logics related to the nature of the professoriate, represented by different entities (stakeholder groups) that make up the higher education organizational field, exploring the core elements used to examine institutional logics such as content, penetration, compatibility, and exclusiveness.

Centrality and embeddedness: Various institutional theory scholars have studied how individuals who are more central or embedded within the organization are less likely to change and be entrepreneurs (Greenwood & Suddaby, 2006). Peripheral organizational players are more likely to disengage from institutionalized practices and logics because they are disconnected from the organization in some way and are less embedded in its norms, less aware of institutional expectations, and may be disadvantaged by prevailing arrangements and thus would benefit from a change (Greenwood & Suddaby, 2006). If one is less embedded, one is also more likely to be aware of and open to alternative logics. While this concept has not been extended to entities in the organizational field, it is conceivable that groups that are closer to the institutional norms (e.g., disciplinary societies) are less likely to be able to adopt new logics than those that are more distant from institutions (e.g., policy makers).. New ideas and logics are more likely to emerge at the margins not only because they are less tied to existing norms but are also better able to see the contradictions with an existing logic that make it less effective, which is critical to move toward change.

Supplanting a new logic: When a field becomes dominated by a particular logic it is said to become structuratedtherefore, it has a compelling logic, penetration, compatibility, and exclusivity (Scott, 2008). Structuration occurs when there is more agreement about institutional logic and over time activities/behaviors within the field leads to more isomorphism of structural forms within the overall population within the organizational field (Scott, 2008). Yet new logics can emerge and supplant existing ones. Two prevailing ways that new logics come into place are typically describedinstitutional entrepreneurs and structural overlap (Thorton & Ocasio, 2008). Institutional entrepreneurs can use persuasive argumentation, storytelling, and rhetorical strategies as well as assemble resources to support the change (Thorton & Ocasio, 2008). Part of their strategy is offering a new and compelling logic (Thorton & Ocasio, 2008). Structural overlap occurs when organizations or individuals come into contact via mergers, acquisitions, or restructuring with new forms of logic. Yet there is very limited research on the ways logics supplant one another and how this occurs. In this study, we are interested in seeing if evidence of a new logic emerges and how it might supplant the existing logic.

In summary, entities within the organizational field have shaped higher education in the past (Harcleroad & Eaton, 2011). However, there are few studies of higher educations organizational field and virtually no empirical studies of these groups roles regarding faculty issues. Recent changes in the professoriate present an opportunity to examine the role of entities in the organizational field to change processes around institutional logics. Because higher education has a decentralized governance system, the way to understand the influence of organizational fields is through institutional logics that dominant when policies are not firmly in place to solidify norms. Institutional theory suggests that convergence and divergence of logics can either serve as sources of change or the status quo, so we specifically paid attention to the diversity and strength of beliefs articulated. The four concepts describing how logics influence institutional normscontent, penetration, compatibility, and exclusivenesswere used to frame this study and our analysis. We also utilized the concepts of centrality and embeddedness to examine whether groups most connected to institutions (e.g., trustees) will be less open to new logics than those who are less connected or central (e.g., policy makers). There is virtually no research on how one logic (e.g., a new faculty model) supplants another (e.g., tenure-based faculty logic), so this study aimed to examine the role of a coherent logicpredicted to be central to moving from one logic to the next.



In order to better understand the perspectives of key stakeholders in higher educations organizational field related to the nature of the professoriate, we conducted a modified Policy Delphi study.3 The purpose of the Policy Delphi differs from the traditional or conventional Delphi study aimed at building consensus among experts. The Policy Delphi attempts to understand diverse stakeholders views and identify areas of consensus and disagreement that might shape the creation of policy. This type of study is conducted in public policy to brainstorm or examine a particular issue or problem and are helpful for understanding underlying perspectives (Linstone & Turoff, 1975; Pill, 1971). The method is best applied to problems that do not lend themselves to precise analytical techniques but rather could benefit from the subjective judgments of individuals on a collective basis, to focus the collective human intelligence on the problem at hand, and when there is incomplete knowledge, an unknown landscape, or limited consensus (Adler & Ziglio, 1996; Linstone & Turoff, 1975). The future model of faculty or beliefs systems about faculty are not items that can be easily consolidated into simple survey questions; they require brainstorming and creativity.

Modified approaches usually amend one or more of the process points of the technique (e.g., interviews versus surveys used in traditional studies, fewer numbers of surveys, or adding an in-person component or meeting), but maintains the overall goals and aims of the Delphi method (e.g., understanding the stakeholder or expert views, iterative refining of views). The modified Policy Delphi approach in this study involved an open-ended, qualitative survey of stakeholders and in-person meeting (Hasson, Keeney, & McKenna, 2000). First, a survey of stakeholders examined their views on a particular issue, in this case the changing professoriate. Second, the same participants were invited to a meeting to discuss their perspectives. It varied from the traditional Delphi in not having multiple surveys and used the in-person meeting as a way to develop consensus and sort out points of divergence.

In summary, this study involved identifying key experts that come from different perspectives and interests (e.g., entities within the organizational field), surveying key stakeholders for their views (e.g., what are their beliefs), and then bringing them together for dialogue and discussion, potentially helping to reach more consensus about an issue (Hasson et al., 2000). While the Delphi approach is not commonly used in education, it is a prevalent approach in areas such as public policy, political science, environmental studies, medicine and nursing, and social work (Adler, 1996). It is also important to note that this study is designed to overcome weaknesses of past studies of organizational fields. Most studies infer entities views within the organizational field based on documents or actions, which is seen as a weakness in the literature (Leicht & Fennell, 2008; Scott, 2008). Few studies have collected data on views directly from these groups. This study overcame this shortcoming by directly asking individuals from entities within the organizational field about their views.


The first task in a Delphi study is to identify individuals to participate in the process (Linstone & Turoff, 1975; Pill, 1971). Thirty-five individuals were identified, representing key entities within the organizational field related to the professoriate. Because people will be physically brought together for discussion, the method recommends no more than 40 individuals participate in the process; a good goal is to have 3040 participants (Pill, 1971). Although no definitive roster of entities within the organizational field exists, we used Harcleroad and Eatons (2011) list of groups that influence higher education, focusing on groups that have historically influenced faculty. They are:


Accreditation agencies;


Disciplinary societies;


Faculty stakeholder groups such as New Faculty Majority;




State or system leadership and state compacts such as National Association of System Heads;


Voluntary regional consortia such as those representing deans;


Governing boards; and,


Individual and institutional membership associations, including the American Council on Education and American Association of Community Colleges.

The last category was broader than the others, representing different sectors and positions, but mostly groups representing presidents. In order to protect anonymity, we present the general groups rather than the specific entities that participated.

We identified specific individuals to invite based on two criteria. Participants were nominated from within their field for having knowledge about NTTF. They also had several years of involvement with NTTF issues, many being recognized nationally for their leadership. Thus, the individuals involved were highly influential and could be considered to represent the dominant logic within their particular entities. Once we identified organizations, we contacted the president or head and asked for their participation. Individuals who participated were typically the president or head of the organization or an individual chosen by the president who had specific expertise on faculty issues (noted in our criteria above) and who worked closely with the president on the survey so that views presented represented the overall organization. A summary of the sample is included in Appendix 1. We sought to include 35 individuals to represent each field. In one category, accreditation, we were only able to obtain two individuals.

Data collection

There were three major forms of data collection: survey, field notes, and document analysis. We developed an open-ended survey with 36 questions.4 The initial questions related to key areas of the issue and were informed by an extensive review of the literature. In order to check for clarity, we obtained feedback from individuals who work within the various entities that we would be surveying. So, the questions were checked for understanding and language use, which was important because the survey was being sent to so many diverse groups with different cultures. The survey focused on participants knowledge and perspective on current and ideal models of faculty work; internal and external pressures associated with the rising numbers of NTTFs; the nature of NTTF work; challenges or implications for student learning and the institution; opportunities for flexibility and change; connection of NTTF issues to societal fields such as economic changes; pressures from legislators to be more productive, accountable, and efficient; competition from for-profits; pressures to increase access for students; and the like. The survey had several open-ended questions (e.g., if you could start all over, describe the faculty you think is needed for the academy) and also concluded with an open-ended response section to collect views that might not have been obtained through earlier prompts. Returned surveys averaged 30 pages, yielding more than 1,000 pages of text for analysis. We obtained surveys from all individuals who attended the in-person meeting. While iterative surveys are common in conventional Delphi studies, in Policy Delphi studies it is important not to force consensus, which could mask complexity or prevent participants from brainstorming about policy alternatives. Instead, the set of diverse perspectives was shared with participants in order to help provide a generative space for the in-person meeting.

We also collected documents and reviewed websites for each of the entities that make up the organizational field. For example, each of the faculty unions has developed statements and reports about nontenure-track faculty and these were reviewed to reflect their perspective and views as well.5

Participants were provided summaries of points of consensus and divergence from the surveys to prepare for the in-person meeting and to better understand the range of views that exists among stakeholders. They were then convened for a daylong in-person meeting to discuss what should be the nature of the professoriate moving forward. The meeting entailed a review of the summary responses from the survey, brainstorming of policy alternatives, and agreement on some common action (e.g., need to better support NTTFs) and areas for further deliberation (e.g., what a future faculty model might look like). Field notes were taken to log perspectives emerging from the discussion, as well as participants mannerisms and behaviors. An audio recording was also produced and transcribed. Field notes and transcripts from the meeting provided another set of data for understanding the perspectives of the organizational fields represented.

Data analysis

Data analysis was conducted on the survey responses, as well as the assembled field notes, transcription of the meeting, and documents. The findings rely most heavily on the surveys because this was the richest source of data. The in-person meeting transcripts/observations were used to triangulate data from surveys. Surveys were categorized by entities within the organizational field and content analysis conducted specifically for logics, values, rationale, language, and interests that seemed specific to each field. Furthermore, we examined aspects of the logic such as content, penetration, compatibility, and exclusivity. Any overlap or convergence/divergence of perspectives among stakeholders was also examined. An analysis table with all survey quotes (again, relying most heavily on survey responses), meeting transcripts, observation field notes, and document excerpts was created using these categories of analysis. Four perspectives emerged in the analysis; these were used to refine the analysis and develop the data summary table. A summary of the analysis is presented in Appendix 2. Appendix 3 demonstrates the connection between key analysis points in this study and various questions in the survey; it provides a sample of data (either from surveys, fieldnotes, or documents) collected, illustrating globally the data analysis process.

Trustworthiness and limitations

In order to enhance the trustworthiness of the data, multiple individuals reviewed the data and compared their interpretations (Bogdan & Biklen, 2003). Second, multiple forms of data were compared with the surveys being triangulated with the fieldnotes from the observations. Furthermore, by directly reaching out to stakeholders within the organizational field, we more directly accessed their perspectives rather than inferring them, adding to the trustworthiness. Lastly, in order to ensure trustworthiness and transparency, the authors offer up their own positionality in relationship to the topic. The first author is a tenured full professor at a major private research university that actively pursues academic capitalism. She has watched three institutions move from largely tenured to nontenure-track faculty and served on committees to support nontenure-track faculty. She has written about the public purposes of higher education and the potential problems of a neoliberal perspective. The second author is a doctoral student with a public policy background and an interest in equity, community engagement, and the public good. Both are currently involved in a major project to examine and propose new future directions for the academe, of which this study is a part.

The study is limited in that a small sample of individuals is used in order to understand the perspective of each entity within the organizational field. Broad-based survey methodology has been used in some earlier studies of entities within the organizational field in order to understand the logics or perspectives. However, these survey studies were not combined with in-person study and observation of the individuals and did not target key stakeholders. Through multiple forms of data (e.g., survey and observation), we achieved greater depth in examining actual individuals perspectives. By using targeted selection of the sample, we identified the most influential stakeholders, increasing trustworthiness. However, we lack the breadth that a more general survey would have provided. Having included individuals who are substantially invested in the organization and so reflect the norms and values to a greater degree than participants further from the core of decision making, we do feel that we have identified the most influential stances within the field that define the interests and are the most legitimate voices. While the sample is small, each individual likely represents their corresponding entity because of their place of influence within it. However, we did not meet our target and had fewer perspectives from accreditation agencies than would be ideal.


The findings indicate one of the major reasons that the organizational field did not provide a shield to the decline of tenure or mobilize to combat the deteriorating conditions of nontenure-track faculty is because no new decided upon logic has been created as it relates to the professoriate. The traditional view of a tenure-track faculty member with significant authority, autonomy, research focus, and bundled activities of research, teaching, and service is no longer maintained by most of the key members of the organizational field, but no new ideology has emerged to replace it. In fact, great disagreement exists about what the future professoriate should look like. The three groups (academic unions, faculty associations, and disciplinary societies) that still maintain the traditional perspective admit that it has little support and that there are contradictions about its usefulness. The analysis suggests that neoliberalism, understood to be the dominant logic in the societal field, penetrated and begin to subsume policies and practices throughout, contributing to a loss of support for the traditional logic for the professoriate. No new logic has emerged to counter neoliberalisms influence.

Due to the unformed nature of the ideas, none of these organizational field perspectives have penetration, compatibility, and exclusiveness. In the absence of an emerging logic, external ideas promoted through a neoliberal agenda took hold much more easily and have been met with little resistance. In the sections below, we describe the four perspectives that emerged within the various stakeholder groups: traditional (nine stakeholders held), tweaking (10 stakeholders held), responsive and open (seven stakeholders held), and unbounded by convention (nine stakeholders held). And, even though these groups vary in legitimacy and interest, the lack of any compelling and coherent logic means that there is overriding power for the societal logic (neoliberalism).

However, there is some opportunity for consensus and mobilization around two key points: (a) All groups believe the current three-tiered model (shrinking tenure track, large part time, and full-time nontenure track) is not working; and (b) there is broad consensus about a few principles for a new model such as greater job security, shared governance, greater academic freedom than most faculty currently have, and more focus on the educational function of faculty. We now review the four logics presented using the four areas noted in neo-institutional theory as critical for understanding the dynamics of logics: content, penetration, compatibility, and exclusiveness. Content of the logic will be a major feature of the findings, because it is the lack of a coherent logic content that drives and shapes the lack of penetration, exclusivity, and even compatibility. The perspectives are summarized in Appendix 2, with the content broken up into areas all participants commented on through the surveys, including views of tenure, roles of faculty and essential characteristics, new perspective within a proposed faculty type, and models.


The traditional perspective is best conceptualized as maintaining the tenure-track faculty model. Disciplinary societies, faculty associations, and academic unions noted the continued value of the traditional model of faculty that has been prevalent the last 50 years. These stakeholders agreed that most faculty should have tenure and perhaps a small core of the faculty be part-time professionals. They conceptualize the problem with the current three-tiered system (tenured, part time, FTNTTF) as merely a move away from the traditional model that has so well served students and the academy. These three groups raised concerns even about being asked to consider what the ideal faculty role should be if we could start from scratch.

I have to say that Im surprised to be asked to start here in the survey. Its just not what I think about when I think about the structural conditions of tenure-track and non-tenure-track faculty. My own job allows me to read, time to think, time to devise interesting courses, time to participate in interdisciplinary activities and university and disciplinary service. Its pretty much ideal as it is and I only wish every faculty member could have a position like this.

And when asked about any alternative models that might be used to rethink the faculty or approaches to faculty work, they were generally confused by the question: Why consider any alternative ideas about faculty when the perfect logic has already been identified? Others answered that no other model exists that is worth examining. And yet others described problems with new work models adopted in other sectors such as the specialization that happened in medicine and the move back to integrated medical specialties as reasons that moving to a new model would, in the words of a faculty association leader, only be dangerous and have no potential upside.

The primary feature (content) of the traditional perspective is having all faculty be eligible for tenure and tying this right to the need for academic freedom. Other features of the traditional model included making sure that every faculty member is involved with research, teaching, and service and that these responsibilities are not unbundled: As retrograde as it may sound I still believe that all faculty roles should have some combination of teaching, research, and service though the relative mix may change in relation to institutional type. Faculty roles should also maintain autonomy and power for the faculty over the curriculum and in institutional affairs such as governance: The faculty ought to determine the curriculum. Faculty should have the primary roles in evaluating their colleagues and in university governance. Every single respondent in these stakeholder groups agreed that academic freedom, shared governance, tenure, and peer evaluation or review were essential to a functional faculty model. There was agreement on the factors that have led to nontenure-track faculty roles: Massification of higher education; economic downturn; decline in funding by states and administrators prestige seeking increasing the cost of institutions and directing resources away from the faculty.

Disciplinary, faculty associations, and union leaders recognize that their perspective is not shared by others in the system/enterprise or with general public and lacks both penetration and exclusivity: The politics of the country shifted after a nation at risk pointed the finger at K-12 education. It was only a matter of time that the focus would shift to the independent, arrogant higher education faculty who could not be fired because of tenure. That focus, I believe, was the beginning of the political rhetoric with laser focus on undermining and marginalizing the role of the full-time tenured faculty. Many of the disciplinary and union leaders spoke about the lack of support for tenure among various groups including the general public, policy makers, boards and academic leaders, among others: We know we are in an environment where broad swaths of the American public are skeptical of the concept of tenure for university and college faculty. The skepticism spans widely across the political spectrum. Thus, they recognize that their perspective has little penetration within the field or more broadly in society anymore. Some disciplinary society and union leaders believe that if these various groups knew about the negative impact of nontenure-track faculty on student learning, they might rally again around traditional faculty roles: We need a broad coalition of academics, students, businesses and nongovernmental organizations pushing the agenda of higher education being an investment so that we can get money to fund the tenure model again.

Two thirds of the respondents in this group were less hopeful of any returning support for tenure and described a double consciousnessadherence to the traditional logic while knowing it has contradictions or logical inconsistencies. For example, at times they noted the incompatibility with higher education institutions of the future as they evolved to focus on student learning, students needs for more flexibility in curriculum, technology, competency-based education, and assessment. One disciplinary leader noted: And outlandish as it might sound, I do believe the conventional academic term will have to diminish as a way to organize campus life. New identities and expectations for faculty will be needed in the absence of a 15-week semester. It is these types of changes that suggest we will need changes in the faculty model. Or by another disciplinary leader: fundamental concepts like peer review and expertise are becoming less important to the public in which googling is a quick way to access information. And Im a big fan of the digital culture, but when expertise and authority matter less and less than the faculty matter somewhat less and less too. There was also the acknowledgement that some of the faculty responsibilities related to teaching, research, and service may need to be unbundled in certain settings and that faculty roles may need to shift by institutional type: Im not sure all faculty do need to be doing research or service. As we really think about the various institutional types, maybe teaching can be a central focus of some faculty. Learning should be the focus of faculty work in this era. There was also concern about the overemphasis on research within the traditional model. One union leader made this observation: The over emphasis on research has resulted in losing some public support and there has been a lot of prestige seeking among faculty rather than being focused on learning. Other union and disciplinary leaders focused less on changes in learning and noted the changing context, economically and politically, makes the traditional faculty model incompatible with the existing system and structure of higher education:

It is not possible, in the current financial environment for most institutions to have all faculty on the tenure track. To do so would severely limit the options for students given the budgetary restraints. My inclination would be to consider maximizing full-time employment on a contract basis, 3 to 5 years. This would provide flexibility that is required for budgetary reasons while also providing full-time employment that maximizes both educational quality and working conditions.

So while the traditional faculty perspective exists, it is riddled with concerns about whether teaching should be a central focus, the overemphasis on research, possibility of needing to unbundle faculty roles, whether it fits within institutions that are shifting rapidly with technology and new learning environments, and whether the public would ever support tenure in the ways it has done in the past. These various types of contradictions and concerns make the logic inconsistent even among those who subscribe to this position. Additionally, individuals who hold this perspective reflect that the logic has low penetration and exclusivity. Yet this perspective remains compatible with some aspects of current institutional normsdisciplinary societies still socialize graduate students to this model, campus reward structures are largely based on this model, and many campus policies and handbooks are focused on tenure-track faculty. It is embedded within some institutional structures, which maintains its relevance for some faculty and academic leaders. However, it is important to note that structures have shifted as a result of external pressures (budget cuts) and neoliberal logic so that alignment of structure and logic is becoming unhinged more and more.


The tweaking perspective is best conceptualized as a variation on the tenure-track faculty model in which most elements are maintained, but some parts, those that seem to detract from student learning or institutional goals, are altered. This perspective was held by leaders within national organizations that represent primarily presidents, regional consortium of administrators, and organizations that represent boards. All three of these organizations agreed that the tenure-track faculty model is not politically viable in todays social and economic environment. Each of these groups also registered significant concern around problems that have emerged with the tenure-track faculty model that make it inconsistent with the future of the enterprise including the overemphasis on research, the hierarchy within the faculty by institutional type and discipline, the lack of emphasis on students and learning, the prestige seeking among faculty, and the connection to discipline over institution to name a few. These stakeholders see the reasons for the shift away from tenure-track positions much differently from the traditional faculty perspective and thought it reflected short-term and unplanned reaction to state budgets declines, but also as a reaction to lack of public support for tenure and concerns about the rising cost of higher education.

In terms of offering a new logic (content) for the faculty, they all agreed that student learning should be the primary focus: Faculty should be teachers first. Rather than breaking with the traditional faculty perspective completely, this group tended to tinker with the existing role to address some of the concerns they registered such as focusing more on teaching, having less hierarchy among the faculty, tying faculty appointments to the institution and not the discipline, having more differentiated faculty roles by institutional type: Not all faculty members in the future will have the same roles. But, in general the ideal faculty member would have a deep understanding of how students learn and be committed to working with students in a way that fosters their learning. They would also be more part of the community of learners and have less hierarchy within and across ranks or type of responsibilities or contract. Others responded similarly: I would provide for more flexibility and varying appointment types without loss of status and a less hierarchical governance system where all faculty have a voice. I would not tie faculty appointments to departments since disciplines have become a roadblock to change and student success. In terms of the characteristics that are essential, they largely agreed with the traditional perspective in that they supported academic freedom, shared governance, and peer review, but added on other essential qualities not mentioned by the stakeholders holding the traditional faculty perspective such as accountability for learning, assessment and support for the learner, mutual respect, and inclusiveness.

While they described changes to address problems with the current model, their list of small modifications did not emerge into a new logic for the faculty. The closest they reached to a new logic is the model presented in Boyers (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered as a way to think about the future faculty:

What we need is a system that better recognizes and rewards these various roles and that allows flexibility as faculty interests and abilities change over the course of their careers.

Ernie Boyer proposed such a system. In his model, Boyer defined five areas of scholarship covering the full range of faculty responsibilities and allowing faculty to differentiate based on their strengths.

They also mentioned examining medical models where general practitioners and specialists are divided as a way to think about a different but bifurcated faculty model. Their perspective is more a reaction against the tenure-track position rather than an articulation of new faculty logic. Their list of characteristics and features for the faculty might be described as a series of bandages for symptoms rather than treating the deeper problem. As a result, their perspective lacks coherence and is not compelling in terms of a form of logic.

Stakeholders in this group registered significant concern about having their perspective be integrated into the system because the structures and culture of higher education support the existing three-tiered system. They noted the need to change the nature of PhD preparation, to change the reward structures around research, to develop new faculty roles for different institutional types, to address campus redistribution of funding, and the will to address the internal politics with tenure-track faculty members:

Redefining the role of faculty must start with a redefinition of the role of most PhD programs in the United States. Since such programs are usually at research universities the emphasis on preparation generally focuses on what the schools know best, research. We have to address the over emphasis on research and publication in the current faculty model. And we need to address the reward structures that focus solely on research.

This group recognizes that the calls for accountability, focus on learning outcomes and competencies, technology, changing pace of learning, and advances in course redesign may provide an opportunity for moving towards a new faculty logic because the traditional logic is not aligned with or compatible with the future of institutions: Given the increased expectations for accountability and learning outcomes I feel the possibility of moving towards a Boyer model may be better than at the time he proposed it. Yet the forces aligned against such a change are formidable and entrenched. Unlike those representing the traditional faculty perspective, they see their ideas as compatible with the current and future needs of higher education, yet incompatible with the current structures and culture.

Administrators, boards, and professional associations that support presidents see that their perspective on faculty is more widely shared by the public and policy makers and feel there is penetration of the idea that we need a new faculty that responds to a set of globally agreed-upon concerns: Outside academe, tenure is not highly regarded in most political circles, and is considered a rite of passage to intransigence and early retirement on the job. Within higher education administration, tenure is perceived as an extremely tedious and time-consuming task of little value that can be achieved in other ways. They perceive that the new logic about faculty has not been implemented because long-term institutional structures are so deeply instantiated. Interestingly, they often overlook the fact that nontenure-track faculty positions quite easily replaced tenure-track faculty positions. Why the imposition of the new model would be so difficult was unclear from their responses. They focus their emphasis on how their ideas were incompatible with current institutional structures making them difficult to implement.


 The responsive and open perspective is best conceptualized as integrating changes required by the external environmenttechnology, accountability, assessment, greater student diversity, greater access, and the like. These individuals might be open to more foundational changes, but still lean toward some version of the historical concept of faculty members as being professionals, even though they might favor unbundling certain functions like research. This view, held by accreditation leaders and members of national organizations representing a broader group of stakeholders (department chairs, deans, provosts) across higher education articulated more a substantial departure from the traditional logic for the faculty. They shared similar concerns (inequitable working conditions, sacrificed student learning) about the current three-tiered system as the individuals holding the tweaking perspective. But the responsive and open group emphasized more serious and wide-ranging negative results for the institution including morale, leadership, governance, institutional memory, and maintaining institutional operations. With this acknowledgment of more significant problems, came openness to and deeper exploration into an alternative logic to guide the future faculty. They were also more attuned to environmental changes such new research on student learning, advances in technology, and innovative educational models that allowed them to rethink the nature of the professoriate itself.

Yet, in an effort to be open to both addressing the laundry list of problems associated with the current model as well as create a new vision for the faculty that is responsive to different students, learning contexts, institutional types, and new institutional arrangements such as online learning, there was a reluctance to specifically articulate what a faculty member should be (content). Instead the perspective shared was responding to new conditions: The faculty of the future need to accommodate the many social and technological changes that are occurring and finally acknowledge the diversity of institutions of higher education, or, Faculty work is stuck in the past just like grading and credit hour metrics. There was also a reluctance to identify any essential principleswhile academic freedom and shared governance were noted among some stakeholders within this perspective, there was much less agreement than the other perspectives around central principles. They also provided no specific models or examples to guide their perspective. In their reluctance to provide specific features or models that capture this perspective of the faculty, the logic is not coherent or compelling as of yet, it is merely open and responsive.

They also tended to see the reasons for the rise in nontenure-track faculty different from the other groups emphasizing not just the economic considerations or the change in public perception around tenure which was no longer politically defensible, but noted institutional responsibility such as prestige seeking, overreliance on research, and mission drift. Through their acknowledgement of institutional responsibility, they saw more potential in making this perspective compatible with the institution and to obtain penetration.

 In terms of penetration of this perspective, members of this group acknowledged that there is great support for new ideas about faculty among the general public because the academic workforce (at least the traditional model of faculty, not really in existence anymore) now differs so much from the workforce within business or industry: It appears to me that the Academy has been an outlier. The academic work force model is so different from others that it is harmed our sector socially and politically. We need to find a more flexible model, more like the emerging workforce models of the 21st-century assuming more mobility among faculty and more collaboration in all aspects of work. While individuals in this perspective did not describe wholesale compatibility or incompatibility of their emerging perspective with higher education institutions, they did note that there would be resistance (emphasizing internal more):

There are internal and external social and political forces working against the idea. It would be difficult to imagine a high status faculty or high status institutions accepting the loss of tenure, for example. It would be hard for unions to move in this direction, I suspect right to work systems oppose it. It would be difficult to imagine where financial support for a more equitable retirement and health care system for all faculty could be found. It will be more costly for all faculty to take responsibility to document or demonstrate learning, making genuine assessment part of learning.

They also recognize that their ideas are not exclusive and that the traditional faculty perspective is still strongly supported among faculty groups, that administrators prefer minor tweaking that prevents resistance among tenure track faculty, and that others had even more radical ideas for advancing change.


The unbounded by convention perspective is best conceptualized as focused on rethinking faculty roles more foundationally and fundamentally. They are willing to completely abandon any prior historical models, roles, and sense of being a professional. This logic was associated with state and system leaders, national associations representing community colleges, and nontenure-track faculty stakeholder groups. These groups, similar those of the responsive and open perspective, identify extreme problems with the current three-tiered system. Individuals within this perspective also provided more direct criticism of the tenure model, describing how it leads to a lack of accountability for student success in learning. In the words of one stakeholder: Faculty protectionism has stymied legitimate and necessary changes in the academy. The current faculty model compromises student learning and success. Or, the intellectual elite of the tenure-track faculty has led away from focus on learning and a joint enterprise focusing instead on self-interested career advancement. They also emphasized how institutions are unable to respond to economic and social changes and expressed concern about how it advanced hierarchy, prestige seeking and mission drift. Stakeholders noted: Theres too little accountability for those tenured, too high-stakes and too much stress for those on the tenure track and too much exploitation, too little professional development and too little job security for the non-tenure-track group.

In terms of characteristics (content) of a new faculty role, individuals from this perspective described the central role of faculty in student learning and success: I think that todays faculty role should be defined in the context of student success. Faculty exists to support student learning, but the role of faculty members does not always correspond to the mission. As a result, they emphasize the importance of faculty learning about how individuals learn, assessment techniques, and being part of an education team. In terms of essential principles, they emphasize the need for more stable employment to support student learning as well as a living wage. The conditions they see as essential are ones that are connected to faculty members ability to engage with students for learning: Faculty need to be employed full time so they can update and revise curriculum, perform task involves with orienting new students and retention of former students; and perform institutional service that furthers the goal of learning. Furthermore, if student learning is the primary determinant of faculty roles, they would change expectations over faculty control of the curriculum which should be shared with administrators and boards, and others in the learning process, but note faculty have to be more central than they currently are at many institutions in the full life of the campus. Individuals within this perspective also emphasize key dimensions that need to be a part of faculty roles including professional development, opportunities for ongoing learning, and involvement in curriculum and governance. They align these responsibilities with the need to support student learning. They also mention that we should envision multiple types of faculty contracts: Teaching only, research only, teaching and research, teaching and service. I cant imagine why in the perfect system, starting a new, we would value one of these roles more than the other, given all are critical to the mission and success of higher education institutions.

These stakeholder groups could describe many different models that might be used to inform a new faculty logic. However, these models varied tremendously and individuals in this perspective would mention two sometimes contradictory types of models within the same sentence. They mentioned institutions like Evergreen College that have never had tenure. They also identified Arizona State University, which has been moving away from traditional departments and disciplines towards a new more interdisciplinary model. Others mentioned the notion of the learning community as a way to refashion the academy into more equal partners all dedicated to student learning. Those advocating for this model describe how teams operate: in many other types of institutions and organizational context such as surgical teams, theater troupes, orchestras. They also described Boyers (1990) Scholarship Reconsidered as a helpful model to think about the future of the professoriate. Like the administrative prerogative they also considered medical models but more directly looked at medical schools within universities as a model for faculty. They also mentioned other institutional types that can be drawn from including trade schools that have strong collaborative models of student services and faculty working together. Stakeholders identified models within community colleges such as emporium instructional teams. Other models drawn from community colleges focus on collaborative instructional teams:

The term faculty should apply to a variety of specialized education and research functions within the academic community including teaching, instructional design, assessment and placement, evaluation, advising, academic support, learning resource, and research specialists, and so on. The teaching faculty should work in instructional teams with specialists in instructional design, assessment and placement, learning evaluation, advising, academic support, learning resources and the like.

Lastly, they brought up models drawn from for-profits and hybrid programs such as the National Center for Academic Transformation, which is reconceptualizing faculty roles and creates greater teaching productivity. Because this group was able to articulate the most characteristics within the revised faculty as well as substantial number of models, they could be seen as moving towards a more compelling and concrete logic. However, the sheer number of models and the fact that they are quite different makes this logic complex to grasp at present. In fact, no two individuals in this group had survey responses that looked similar. They are grouped into a single perspective based on their unboundedness to convention.

This group perceived faculty roles themselves as the largest obstacle to moving towards a new faculty logic: The largest obstacle to overcome in the social context is likely the perception of faculty and roles by faculty themselves. Faculty will have to relinquish the relative autonomy, in which they shoulder the full burden of all aspects of instruction and research, in favor of a collaborative model in which they will be supported in their work by a team that is equally invested in the work. In terms of penetration, they see the faculty as the main group that needs to be worked on. They identified some stakeholders (e.g., accreditors) as supportive but noted that boards, presidents, and administrators were often not forward thinking: Many campus stakeholders, even ones you think should be forward thinking, like presidents, are not. So, penetration remains uneven, but they saw possibilities in the logic penetrating and becoming compatible with higher education institutions based on the economic situation.

While they describe the economic situation as leading to the three-tiered faculty, they see the lack of alignment between the current faculty system and the needs of higher education to educate students as an opportunity to leverage change: If student learning is central to the work and purpose of an educational institution this trend should prompt a re-examination of all aspects of the faculty model to determine its role in student success or conversely in their failure. Furthermore they see the economic problems as aligned with creating a new faculty logic because we simply cant afford to support the tenure-track model anymore. The situation is untenable. And they further go on to describe their disagreement about the reasons for the rise in nontenure-track faculty being external to academe and related to state funding and budget (typically the common cause listed by others stakeholders):

I do not agree that the primary reason for the rise of non-tenure-track faculty has been predominantly the result of external, uncontrollable circumstances. The rhetoric that it was the result of reduced state support is simply bunk. Certainly that has been the case in the past three years, the result of the great recession. But the shift in faculty has been occurring for a quarter century and during that time, the truth is, states were increasing their funding for higher education, per student, more rapidly than inflation and institutions were also increasing tuition. The fact is we were becoming a less productive enterprise. Why? Because the traditional faculty didnt want to teach anymore and our administrators wanted higher salaries and more staff and we built athletics programs and increased our appetites for more. Its as simple as that.

They note the need to address related problems that affect the move to a new faculty such as the training of PhDs, the prestige seeking among universities, the lack of accountability related to faculty hiring of boards, or external systems of accountability like accreditation, noting this as a systemic problem. Yet, the problems within the system that need to be changed suggest the incompatibility of this model with the current structures and culture of higher education.

One stakeholder summed up the overarching problem illustrated in this paper: Someone needs to think the fight is worth the outcome and the vision just isnt there (for the faculty). Some alternative future needs to be created that is compelling, plausible and can be achieved. If all this is about getting rid of part-timers and giving everyone tenure more quickly, then nothing will happen.


This study aimed to better understand the perspectives of key stakeholder groups within the higher educational organizational field and use this data to inform our understanding of the larger question about how organizational fields are operating to inform or shape the changing professoriate in higher education. As noted in the literature review, institutional logics can play a pivotal role in understanding how change processes unfold within organizational fields, particularly ones with fragmented governance and loose coupling like higher education. Through an examination of the content, penetration, compatibility, and exclusiveness of the current perspectives a better understanding of the lack of impact of key stakeholder groups becomes apparent. The traditional logic of faculty held by three stakeholder groupsunions, faculty associations, and disciplinary societiesis being supplanted; the logic is no longer compelling, it has limited penetration, it is becoming increasingly incompatible with the future of higher education institutions, and it is not exclusive any longer. Why these stakeholder groups within the organizational field have had limited ability to shape the move to a largely nontenure-track faculty can be seen by the divergence of perspectives that exist about what a new compelling logic should be for the faculty.

Neo-institutional theory would predict that the breakdown of the traditional logic might provide an opportunity for a new logic to emerge. Because the traditional logic historically remained compelling as the neoliberal logic was emerging, it prevented the development of new logics that might better counteract the neoliberal logic. Thus, even though there has been limited opportunity for change because a coherent logic is missing, this study identifies some commonalities across the logics that could be used in the future to craft a more compelling logic for the faculty in the future. These commonalities are detailed below under the practical implications.

None of these fields aligned with the existing neoliberal view of faculty as deprofessionalized, as supporting contingency, or focusing on productivity and efficiency. In fact all of these groups advocated for greater job stability, more involvement of faculty in institutional governance, the importance of academic freedom, and the like. Certainly various stakeholders perspectives and discourse included the importance of assessment, improved access (often relating to greater teaching productivity), and related concerns about lack of accountability. None of their emphasis on assessment or accountability related to managerial control, but was focused on student learning and success.6 As a result of their divergence from the neoliberal perspective, together they might create a formidable counter logic that could emerge within the organizational field to combat the external societal field. However, the inability of these various stakeholder groups to come together around a coherent and compelling logic results in a lack of exclusivity and penetration, preventing a legitimate logic to gain dominance. Furthermore, the new logic can emerge slowly and need not have initial consensus and/or there need not be a single logic. However, the lack of any single compelling counter logic to neoliberalism is preventing the organizational fields from mobilizing to counter the forces of the societal field. It is also important to note that because no single compelling logic existed this also prevents penetration, exclusivity, and compatibility, which tend to increase the probability that a more coherent and compelling logic is developed. As predicted by institutional theory, entities more central and embeddedunions and disciplinary societieswere less likely to embrace new logics to combat neoliberalism. Entities less central and embeddedstate and system leaders, national associations representing community colleges, and nontenure-track faculty stakeholder groupswere more likely to embrace new logics that might have the potential to create change.

Using Scotts (2001) analysis of institutional logics, the entities within the organizational field at present are unable to provide counter logic to the now prevailing neoliberal logic that is beginning to supplant the old logic still held by unions, faculty associations, and disciplinary societies. Scotts theory also predicts that education, being loosely coupled and complex, will have difficulty in creating consensus with the organizational field. In addition, as predicted by institutional theory, societal fields (represented through neoliberalism) are likely to overwhelm the organizational fields when logics are divergent. As Slaughter and Rhoades (2004) have noted, the neoliberal and traditional faculty logics have coexisted and remain in an embattled state, but the emerging deterioration of the traditional faculty view exemplified within these findings suggests the neoliberal logic will likely prevail in coming years if a new logic does not emerge amongst the organizational field. The perspectives identified in this article have not been articulated in any prior study and represent the dynamic state of the organizational field. They represent a snapshot and further studies in the future would likely find stakeholder perspectives continue to evolve potentially into emerging logics.

In terms of additional theoretical contributions, the study supports an understanding of organizational fields, particularly logics that are important within fields that are fragmented in terms of governance, to explicate the change process. The lack of a compelling logic amongst the stakeholders within the organizational field helps to explain the emerging dominance of the neoliberal logic. The study also examined an area with very limited studyinstitutional logics in higher education (see Footnote 2 for other studies). The study also provides empirical evidence for the component parts of institutional logics (content, penetration, compatibility, and exclusivity) as well as the dynamics of stakeholder groups in supplanting (or not supplanting) different logics within the organizational field.  

In terms of the practical implications of this study, it suggests the importance of stakeholders articulating a coherent and compelling logic related to the faculty. From our discussions with stakeholders in these organizations, we know that the majority of stakeholders lack an understanding that a new model of faculty is necessary or important. Even if only one of these stakeholder groups could develop and articulate a compelling and coherent logic, then they might get others to resonate and support this logic. In addition, stakeholders within the organizational field can use this data to identify the current understanding of various important stakeholder groups and have conversations about potential areas of consensus that might lead to the emergence of a more unified logic among the organizational fields to combat the emerging neoliberal logic. While a consensus or unified logic is not necessary, Scott (2001) notes that the stakeholders within the organizational field have more power when they converge. A solidified logic can then lead to action, which is currently thwarted by divergence of logics.

Another important practical implication of this study is the identification of some key areas of consensus that could be used to leverage a more compelling logic. First and foremost, largely everyone agreed the three-tiered faculty system does not work. Second, some key areas of consensus across the perspectives include the importance of a faculty role being oriented to student learning and success, the need for long-term contracts and job stability (at least for the majority of the professoriate), the importance of adapting faculty roles to align with new studies about the way people learn and using more engaging pedagogy and curriculum, the importance of shared governance and academic freedom, the need to use advances in technology and curriculum design to improve faculty work, the significance of using models such as Boyers (year) Scholarship Reconsidered, to name a few.  If a vision could emerge for a new faculty out of these points of consensus there is an opportunity to create an alternative logic to the dominating neoliberal one. This is more likely to occur if institutional entrepreneurs (e.g., academic leaders) begin to formulate a vision out of this consensus and create a compelling story to lead people (Thorton & Ocasio, 2008).

It is important to note that some individuals discussed the broader public purposes of higher education as they spoke about the faculty role including creating knowledge, applying knowledge for the betterment of society, engagement with societal issues and challenges, and a critical voice and speaking truth to power. Yet, it was not consistent within any stakeholder group. Thus, it is also noteworthy to point out that many people did not identify these broader public purposes and the lack of connection between these goals and faculty roles may be lost in a future articulation of the faculty. For those who find the broader public goals important, this may point to a need for more advocacy of the importance of this perspective.

In a more general sense, the paper highlights the importance of various stakeholder groups in higher education articulating a compelling and coherent view of faculty, because if they do not, then the emerging neoliberal logic will likely be institutionalized. A deprofessionalized contingent faculty managed by administrators may become further ingrained into our system, an outcome that stakeholders in our study spoke out against.  In summary, this snapshot of perspectives provides insight into the current evolution of faculty roleswe remain without any compelling organizational logic, therefore, the societal logic of neoliberalism and deprofessionalization will continue to shape the field.


1. It is important to note that while institutional theory described limited direct intentionality among actors, it does not mean that actors lack all intentionality. Instead, because they are responding to larger forces, actors may not feel they planned for or made intentional decisions. Also, using theories of political economy, Rhoades and Slaughter (2004) suggest that campus leaders are intentional in taking on the logic of academic capitalism.

2. Other studies examining institutional logics (but related to other phenomenon than faculty) in higher education include studies largely of academic leaders by Bastedo (2009), Gumport, (2002), Lounsbury, (2001), Meyerson, (2007), Thorton, (2004), Washington, (2004).

3. The study used a modified Delphi method because we had open-ended responses allowing stakeholders to express their perspectives. Some Delphi studies use close-ended surveys and allowing respondents to provide opinions on predetermined ideas and areas. Because our goal was to allow them to share their beliefs and logics, we did not use a close-ended survey common of traditional Delphi studies.

4. A copy of the survey can be found at X website. For anonymity purposes, the website is not placed in paper under review, but can be accessible to readers.

5. While we reviewed documents, they were not as helpful for the analysis of institutional logics; the surveys and field notes were better sources of data. Many stakeholder groups do not have any public documents related to their views of faculty, which complicated comparison.

6.  Some readers may suggest that a student learning emphasis is being used by managerial interests to deflect their emerging power grab. This is another way that this logic could be interpreted. Having spent time reviewing the surveys and hearing these groups in dialogue, we did not feel that interpretation matched their perspectives.

7. While this article did not examine stakeholder legitimacy, power, and interest in detail given none have a compelling logic, yet it is important to note that certain groups (e.g., the administrative group) may have more success moving their logic forward based on their perceived interest (perceived less self-interest), power, and legitimacy within the organizational field than others. Institutional theory suggests that groups with more legitimacy are better able to obtain penetration and exclusivity, for example. All of these various stakeholder groups have varying interests and legitimacy, which will shape their success in moving an institutional logic forward, if one were to emerge that is compelling.    

8. Another paper from this study specifically examines areas of consensus for negotiation as well as contradictions within the logics that serve as vehicles for change utilizing Seos and Creeds framework. For further information, please see Seo and Creed (in press).


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2 Presidents

Disciplinary societies


3 Presidents, 1 Director, 1 Executive Director

Faculty stakeholder groups such as New Faculty Majority or the AAUP


3 Presidents, 3 Directors



2 Deputy Director, 2 Senior Policy Analysts

State or system leadership and state compacts such as National Association of System Heads


4 Presidents; 2 Vice Presidents

Voluntary regional consortia such as those representing deans


2 Presidents, 1 Vice President

Governing boards


1 President, 2 Vice Presidents

Individual and institutional membership associations


2 Presidents; 3 Vice Presidents; 1 Director


Summary of four perspectives




Responsive and Open

Unbounded by Convention

Number of individuals who held





Entities in field that held view

Disciplinary societies, faculty associations, and unions

Presidents, regional consortium of administrators, and organizations that represent boards

Accreditation leaders and members of national organizations representing a broader stakeholders (department chairs, deans, provosts)

State and system leaders, national associations representing community colleges, and nontenure-track faculty stakeholder groups

Short definition

The traditional perspective is best conceptualized as maintaining the tenure-track faculty model.

The tweaking perspective is best conceptualized as a variation on the tenure-track faculty model in which most elements are maintained but some partsseeming to detract from student learning or institutional goalsare altered.

The responsive and open perspective is best conceptualized as integrating changes required by the external environmenttechnology, accountability, assessment, greater student diversity, greater access, and the like.  

The unbounded by convention perspective is best conceptualized as focused on rethinking faculty roles more foundationally and fundamentally. They are willing to completely abandon in prior historical models, roles, and the sense of being a professional.



view of tenure


role of faculty


key features of new perspective






1.Tenure is essential

2. Research, teaching and service are responsibilities of all faculty and remain bundled

3. Faculty be eligible for tenure and tying this right to be need for academic freedom;

4. Essential characteristics include academic freedom, shared governance, tenure, peer review

5. No models as existing one should remain dominant

1.Tenure should be changed

2. Teaching, research, and service still bundled, but tinker to address concernssuch as focusing more on teaching, tying faculty appointments to the institution, and having more differentiated faculty roles by institutional type

3. Student learning should be the primary focus

4. Academic freedom, shared governance, tenure, peer review plus accountability for learning, assessment, and inclusiveness

5. ModelScholarship Reconsidered

1. Tenure should be eliminated

2. Responsive to different students, learning contexts, institutional types, and new institutional arrangements such as online learning; unbundled as needed by discipline, institution, or student needs

3.Responsiveness to changing learner dynamics and focus is student learning and success

4. Reluctance to specifically articulate any essential characteristics of faculty member

5. None

1. Tenure should be eliminated

2. Unbundled in many waysteaching only, research only, plus unbundling of teaching with assessment, curriculum design, and delivery separate as needed.

3. Central role of faculty is student learning and success; faculty understand how individuals learn, integrate assessment techniques, and being part of an education team.

4. Desire for long-term contracts, shared governance, and other essential characteristics are argued for because they support student learning.

5. Many models presentedEvergreen State, Arizona State, Emporium at Virginia Tech, National Center for Academic Transformation, University of Phoenix

Penetration and exclusivity

Neither seen as a single dominant logic or held by varying stakeholders anymore

Yes, some penetration as increasing among varying groups but not exclusivity as other logics exist

Yes, some penetration as increasing among varying groups but not exclusivity as other logics exist

Yes, penetration among many groups outside faculty; but no exclusivity as other logics exist


Emerging tensions within current system, but currently most compatible with current structures and campus culture

They see their ideas as compatible with the (current and) future needs of higher education, yet incompatible with the current structures and culture

They see their ideas as compatible with the (current and) future needs of higher education, yet incompatible with the current structures and culture

Possibilities of logic penetrating and becoming compatible based on the economic situation, but enormous structural and culture changes suggest current incompatibility

Appendix 3 Overview of data analysis

Area of analysis

Survey section and type of questions*

Sample data (quote from surveys, fieldnote, or quote from in-person meeting)

Content of logic

Participants knowledge and perspective on current and ideal models of faculty work; the nature of NTTF work; challenges or implications for student learning and the institution

I would provide for more flexibility and varying appointment types without loss of status and a less hierarchical governance system where all faculty have a voice. I would not tie faculty appointments to departments since disciplines have become a roadblock to change and student success.


Connection of the nontenure-track faculty issues to societal fields such as economic changes

Outside academe, tenure is not highly regarded in most political circles, and is considered a rite of passage to intransigence and early retirement on the job. Within higher education administration, tenure is perceived as an extremely tedious and time-consuming task of little value that can be achieved in other ways.


Models of faculty work; Connection of the nontenure-track faculty issues to societal fields such as economic changes

We know we are in an environment where broad swaths of the American public are skeptical of the concept of tenure for university and college faculty. The skepticism spans widely across the political spectrum.


Internal and external pressures associated with the rising numbers of NTTF

Redefining the role of faculty must start with a redefinition of the role of most PhD programs in the United States. Since such programs are usually at research universities the emphasis on preparation generally focuses on what the schools know best, research.  We have to address the over emphasis on research and publication in the current faculty model. And we need to address the reward structures that focus solely on research.

* Because most of the data came from the surveys, we highlight survey responses drawn upon to generate analysis. Yet the third column of the data analysis did include data from all three sources. This is merely a sample to show how we drew on survey data.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 116 Number 10, 2014, p. 1-42
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 17606, Date Accessed: 10/17/2021 12:19:38 AM

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About the Author
  • Adrianna Kezar
    University of Southern California
    E-mail Author
    ADRIANNA KEZAR is professor of higher education at the University of Southern California and codirector of the Pullias Center for Higher Education. Her research interests include the changing faculty, governance, leadership and change in higher education. She has several recent books including Embracing non-tenure track faculty: Changing campuses for the new faculty majority (2012, Routledge) and Enhancing campus capacity for leadership: An Examination of grassroots leaders (Stanford Press, 2011).
  • Daniel Maxey
    University of Southern California
    E-mail Author
    DANIEL MAXEY is a doctoral student and Deanís Fellow in Urban Education Policy at the University of Southern Californiaís School of Education and Pullias Center for Higher Education. His research focuses on non-tenure-track faculty, politics and policy in higher education, and governance.
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