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Digesting “the Worm’s Share”: Administrative Authority and Faculty Strategies in the Humanities


by Barrett J. Taylor, Kelly Ochs Rosinger, Lindsay Coco & Sheila Slaughter - 2019

Background/Context: Research on academic capitalism often maps changing conditions in which faculty work occurs without explaining the mechanisms by which change occurs. We use Fligstein and McAdam’s theory of fields to posit that the changing conditions in which humanities faculty members work reflect activities in overlapping (the academic profession more generally) and proximate (university administration) fields. We seek to illuminate the ways in which humanities faculty experience heightened administrative authority and strategically respond.

Research Questions: We ask: 1) How do faculty members in the humanities understand the changes in their field? 2) How do faculty members in the humanities understand their relationships to members of overlapping (e.g., faculty in other areas) and proximate (e.g., administrators) fields? and 3) How do faculty members in the humanities strategize to improve their positions?

Participants: We conducted semistructured interviews with 46 faculty members in humanities fields with various appointments (tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure-track). Faculty participants were mainly housed in English and history, two of the largest humanities departments at many institutions, but also in philosophy and religion departments.

Research Design: Our multiple case study design took place at two public research universities to understand how faculty respond to changing conditions. The research sites, typical of many public research universities, experienced declining direct government support and therefore conditions in which academic capitalist processes occur were present at both. Humanities departments contributed a large portion of student credit-hour production at both research sites, yet such funds were centralized and allocated by university administration.

Data Collection and Analysis: Our interview protocol focused on faculty perceptions of resource allocation within the institution, allocation of work within the department, perceptions of the department relative to others, and how faculty structured their time and careers in response to various pressures inside and outside of their university. Semistructured interviews ranged from 25 and 90 minutes and were recorded and transcribed. We analyzed data using a priori and emergent codes which were grouped into broad themes reflecting faculty responses to changing conditions.

Results: Three strategic responses emerged among humanities faculty members we interviewed: utilizing lower status faculty members, exploiting weaker units in the field, and forming alliances.

Conclusions/Recommendations: Strategies result in the improved status of some individual faculty members but do not arrest the diminishing status of the humanities as a field. Our analysis suggests that field-level analyses entail implications for the study of academic work and processes in the academic capitalism tradition.



Classic understandings of academic work cast faculty members as professionals who possess abstract knowledge, undertake complex tasks, and enjoy considerable control over their work (Abbott, 1988; Freidson, 2013). This orientation to academic work was made possible by extensive public investment in higher education (Marginson, 2016). Trends in recent decades have challenged this model. As neoliberal ideologies came to dominate policymaking (Harvey, 2005), direct investment in public higher education waned (Barringer, 2016). Universities increasingly competed for revenues from a variety of external sources, including research and development (R&D) funding and tuition receipts (Slaughter & Leslie, 1997; Weisbrod, Ballou, & Asch, 2008).


Efforts to pursue and manage such funds resulted in expanded administrative capacity and authority, making universities “corporatized” organizations that sought to respond quickly to changes in their environments (Cantwell & Taylor, 2013a, 2015; Slaughter & Cantwell, 2012; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004; Tuchman, 2009). Much of this administrative growth has emphasized reorienting universities toward winning competitions and improving their status positions. As a result, organizational striving—the reorganization of operations, reallocation of resources, and redeployment of personnel in the pursuit of additional resources and higher status for the university—has become the background of much academic work (Gonzales, 2014; O’Meara, 2011). However, the authority of administration is not evenly spread across the academic profession. While managerial control extends deeply into the work of humanities faculty, it tends to play a less substantial role in the work of academic scientists, who have instead seen their autonomy eroded by external resource providers (Cantwell, 2014; Rosinger, Taylor, Coco, & Slaughter, 2016).


These processes, commonly designated academic capitalism, entail profound consequences for faculty work (Rhoades, 2014). It is important to note, however, that the changes that characterize academic capitalism—heightened competition for resources, growing stratification among institutions, and increasing inequality within organizations (Slaughter & Cantwell, 2012)—are not universal. Academic capitalism coexists alongside more traditional understandings of faculty work, but the balance between the two is not always even (Johnson, 2013; Pusser, 2016). Well-resourced institutions are well positioned to resist the demands of competitive environments (Hearn & Rosinger, 2014; Taylor, Cantwell, & Slaughter, 2013). By contrast, academic capitalism tends to be more influential at resource-strapped, status-conscious, “striving” universities (Gonzales, 2014; O’Meara, 2011), many of which are public institutions (Taylor & Cantwell, in press).


As formulated by Slaughter and Rhoades (2004), the theory of academic capitalism maps the “networks … that link institutions as well as faculty, administrators, academic professionals and students to the new economy” (p. 15). Network-based theories tend to illustrate how systems change rather than explaining why change occurs (Fligstein & Dauter, 2007). Accordingly, recent work using the theory of academic capitalism has called for the identification of specific mechanisms that transform higher education organizations and academic careers (Kauppinen, 2012; Kauppinen & Cantwell, 2014; Kauppinen, Cantwell, & Slaughter, 2017; Slaughter, 2014; Slaughter & Taylor, 2016). We gain such insights from pairing academic capitalism with Fligstein and McAdam’s (2012) “theory of fields.” In this account, actors exist in multiple fields simultaneously, and change reflects the complex dynamics of actors in each of these fields. We take the humanities as our focal field and understand changes within it by attending to transformations in the overlapping field of the academic profession and the proximate field of university administration. This allows us to conceptualize the mechanism of change as interrelationships among these three fields.


Fligstein and McAdam (2012) emphasize the role of individual and collective actors in crafting strategic actions that shape fields. This is appropriate for a study of the academic profession, as faculty members do not passively accept the changes brought about by academic capitalism (e.g., Levin & Aliyeva, 2015; O’Meara, 2015). Notably, however, some faculty members have greater opportunities to respond to these changes than do others. For example, increasing numbers of faculty members work in fixed-term appointments (Kezar & Sam, 2010; Schuster & Finkelstein, 2006), making them vulnerable to pressure from both administrators and other faculty members than are their tenured and tenure-stream colleagues. Departmental contexts also shape faculty members’ responses to campus activities (Campbell & O’Meara, 2014). Although all faculty members possess agency, then, they exercise it under particular conditions that are embodied in organizational rules, practices, and resource flows (Gonzales, 2014; Kezar, 2013a, 2013b; O’Meara, 2015). These contexts shape a faculty member’s experience of—and response to—administrative authority.


This paper seeks to illuminate the ways in which humanities faculty at research universities both experience heightened administrative authority and respond to it strategically. We emphasize research universities because they commonly display the conditions of academic capitalism, as noted above. We focus on humanities faculty because these disciplines face a shrinking resource base (Donoghue, 2008; Taylor et al., 2013). At the same time, predictions of the “death of the humanities” have proven premature (Brint, Proctor, Mulligan, Rotondi, & Hanneman, 2012). Although they might not be the academic “heartland” that they constituted from the late 19th through the middle 20th centuries (Geiger, 2006; Winterer, 2002), the humanities remain central to university enterprises such as undergraduate teaching and knowledge production. The status of the humanities has eroded, but disaster has been staved off and elimination is not imminent. The environment has been unfavorable, but careers have been made and the field remains vibrant. These conditions provide an ideal context in which to explore faculty work and activity in proximate and overlapping fields because the focal field has changed without ceasing to exist. Resulting insights highlight potential mechanisms by which academic capitalism conditions are enacted, perpetuated, and resisted. To illuminate these topics, we explore the following research questions:


1.

How do faculty members in the humanities understand the changes in their field?

2.

How do faculty members in the humanities understand their relationships to members of overlapping (e.g., faculty in other areas) and proximate (e.g., administrators) fields?

3.

How do faculty members in the humanities strategize to improve their positions?


CONCEPTUALIZING THE HUMANITIES AS A FIELD


Utilizing Fligstein and McAdam’s (2012) “theory of fields,” we conceptualize the humanities as a field. Fligstein and McAdam draw on insights from Pierre Bourdieu, Anthony Giddens, and the neoinstitutional tradition of organizational studies. Drawing explicitly from Bourdieu, Fligstein and McAdam seek to explain how action is situated within fields. Individual and collective actors often reinforce but occasionally challenge existing power relations. These insights frame our assumptions about what a field is and how it might operate. We understand a field as an area of social activity consisting of individuals and organizations that share opportunities, constraints, and norms. This space is almost inevitably hierarchical, with the result that a field is characterized by contest over position and resources.


Fields are often stable. As a result, Fligstein and McAdam (2012) cast relationships among fields as a primary explanation for change. Thus, the humanities—though our focal field—are not the only field present in our analysis. The humanities are part of the academic profession, meaning that these are two overlapping fields. Because careers in the humanities are often shaped by administrative authority (e.g., Rosinger et al., 2016), strategies also cannot be fully understood without attention to the proximate field of university administration.


Each of these three fields can be understood using the general heuristic provided by Fligstein and McAdam (2011, 2012). New or emerging fields may prove quite unsettled, facilitating swift changes in position. The rules of established fields such as the humanities, the academic profession, and university administration, by contrast, tend to be relatively fixed and well understood. This in turn means that the strategies by which individuals become successful tend to be well known. Strategic action occurs within the confines of these field rules, which limits the possibility of upheaval. One person may rise through the hierarchy unexpectedly, but that individual’s ascent tends to confirm the authority of existing conditions because conformity with those rules likely allowed upward mobility in the first place. Accordingly, dramatic change to established fields tends to come from other fields. For example, the sharp retreat of state government funding has profoundly changed the hierarchy of higher education by creating a growing cadre of vulnerable public colleges that rely heavily on tuition but have limited enrollment demand (Taylor & Cantwell, in press). By extension, if we want to understand dramatic changes in the humanities, it is necessary to understand conditions in overlapping and proximate fields as well.


Figure 1.


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Figure 1 presents a graphic illustration of these complex field dynamics. As this figure shows, some activity occurs within the humanities field. For example, individual faculty members apply for jobs and secure reappointment and promotion largely based upon within-field conditions. At the same time, this field is enveloped within the overlapping field of the academic profession. What goes on in the humanities reflects broader changes within the profession, such as the rise of academic capitalism. Finally, humanities faculty members are influenced by activity in the proximate field of university administration, which can shape departmental resource allocations and organizational structures. Like many other scholars who have applied the theory of fields to understand changes in higher education and professions (e.g., Barnhardt et al., 2016; Krarup & Munk, 2016; Taylor, 2015, 2016b), then, we argue that changes to the work of humanists—the decline in the status of the focal field and the strategies that keep it viable—can be understood as the result of complex interplays across multiple domains. To fully conceptualize the humanities, we describe each of these field contexts in turn.


THE FOCAL FIELD: THE HUMANITIES


The humanities were some of the earliest disciplines to emerge from the classical curriculum (Winterer, 2002) and reached their apex of enrollments and influence from the 1940s through the 1970s (Geiger, 2006). However, since the 1980s, these disciplines have seen a steady decline (Donoghue, 2008). Some sources of this decline are educational. Doctoral students in the humanities encounter a long time to degree and report dissatisfaction with their preparation (Barnes & Randall, 2012; Ehrenberg, Zuckerman, Groen, & Brucker, 2010). Other concerns relate to the changing composition and interests of students. Many students remain focused on higher education as a passport to higher lifetime earnings (Eagan et al., 2016), and this mentality has prompted declining enrollments in some traditional humanities fields at the undergraduate (American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 2016) and graduate (Glazer-Raymo, 2005) levels. Still other concerns relate to a changing political landscape in which humanistic education may be viewed with hostility by the political right (Newfield, 2008).


Academic capitalism reinforced and intensified these dynamics. Degrees conferred in the humanities are associated with diminished institutional revenues (Taylor et al., 2013). The new circuits of knowledge that are characteristic of academic capitalism often bypass the humanities in order to emphasize commercializable scientific research or instructional programs (Slaughter & Cantwell, 2012; Slaughter & Rhoades, 2016). Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, careers in the humanities have been in a state of flux analogous to the decline of the humanities more generally. Academic capitalism tends to privilege countable outputs (Gonzales & Nunez, 2014; Tuchman, 2009), and faculty in the humanities tend to produce few peer-reviewed publications relative to their peers in the natural and social sciences (Ehrenberg et al., 2010; Real, 2012). As a result, it can be difficult for humanists to demonstrate the value of their work to accountability-minded administrators (Kronman, 2007).


Humanists’ career prospects have dimmed accordingly. A longitudinal study by Ehrenberg et al. (2010) found that only about one third of PhD completers in the 1990s secured full-time tenure-track positions. The relative few who did secure tenure-stream appointments often reported feeling underresourced and undervalued relative to other academic professionals (Rosinger et al., 2016; Slaughter, Taylor, & Rosinger, 2014). Such findings indicate that humanists perceived their career choices as constrained, as would be consistent with Campbell and O’Meara’s (2014) insight that departments with lower levels of resources employed faculty members with a limited sense of agency.


THE OVERLAPPING FIELD: THE ACADEMIC PROFESSION


While the declining status of humanists is notable, it has not occurred in isolation. The conditions of the faculty generally have changed a great deal in recent decades (Schuster & Finkelstein, 2006). As in the case of the humanities, changes in the academic profession often reflect processes of academic capitalism that encourage the circulation of resources and countable products through new circuits (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004). Institutions increasingly pursue status by “striving” to increase the number and perceived quality of these outputs (Gonzales, 2014; Gonzales, Martinez, & Ordu, 2013; Gonzales & Nunez, 2014; O’Meara, 2007; Taylor, 2016a). As pressure to produce outputs has increased, the number of specialized, non-tenure-track (NTT) academic appointments has soared. Although many contingent science and engineering (S&E) positions emphasize research (Cantwell & Taylor, 2013b, 2015), overall NTT positions tend to emphasize teaching (Kezar & Sam, 2010; Maxey & Kezar, 2015).


While these general patterns characterize the overlapping field of the academic profession, there is notable hierarchy and variation (Fligstein & McAdam, 2012). Academic departments mediate general trends in powerful ways (e.g., Campbell & O’Meara, 2014; Mendoza, 2012). As Kezar (2013a, 2013b) and her colleagues (Kezar & Sam, 2014) have demonstrated, departments can develop policies and cultures that are more or less friendly to NTT faculty. Given both the dramatic growth in NTT faculty (Kezar & Sam, 2010) and the relatively small share of PhD-holders in the humanities who hold tenure-stream positions (Ehrenberg et al., 2010), it is likely that the role of NTT faculty is particularly meaningful in humanities departments.


Departmental context also matters as a means of understanding the general state of the academic profession. Virtually all faculty members face deprofessionalizing pressures (Freidson, 2013), but the mechanisms by which these processes occur can vary by department. Academic scientists often report losing autonomy to external resource providers, while humanists indicate that university administration has curtailed their authority (Cantwell, 2014; Gonzales, 2014; Rosinger et al., 2016).


THE PROXIMATE FIELD: UNIVERSITY ADMINISTRATION


Precisely as higher education entered the period of academic capitalism, educational costs increased (Archibald & Feldman, 2011) and direct state support waned (Barringer, 2016), with the result that public universities competed vigorously for resources (Weisbrod, Ballou, & Asch, 2008). As this occurred, professionals found themselves subject to managerial logics (Freidson, 2013; Rosinger et al., 2016). Universities developed strong administrative cores in response to competitive conditions (Tuchman, 2009), expenditures on administration grew sharply (Desrochers & Kirshstein, 2014), and the authority of administration to demand accountability expanded apace (Gonzales & Nunez, 2014; O’Meara, 2007, 2011; Rhoades, 2014).


Although growing administrative power generally has come at the expense of the academic profession (Freidson, 2013), faculty in the humanities proved particularly disfavored by administrative expansion (Rosinger et al., 2016). Academic capitalist processes facilitated these changes in power relations. Successful scientists may support working laboratories with external research monies that cannot easily be repurposed (Cantwell, 2014). By contrast, administrators typically have been able to reallocate state appropriations and student tuition receipts toward preferred activities (Leslie, Slaughter, Taylor, & Zhang, 2012; Taylor & Cantwell, 2015). Units that generate instructional revenues—often including the humanities—are therefore particularly likely to lose authority to administrators who typically control instructional revenues (Rosinger et al., 2016).


STRATEGIC ACTION WITHIN THE FOCAL FIELD


As the preceding section suggests, during the period of academic capitalism, the power relations between the three fields that we study—the humanities, the academic profession, and university administration—shifted notably. Over time, the authority of administrators expanded at the expense of the academic profession and, especially, humanists. Faculty members are agents and likely did not accept these conditions passively. At the same time, strategic action cannot be understood apart from field context (Krarup & Munk, 2016). In this section, we conceptualize the ways in which humanists might respond strategically to changing field conditions.


O’Meara and her colleagues employed the concept of agency to indicate an individual’s capacity—in a specific social context and moment in time—to challenge or reproduce social relations (Campbell & O’Meara, 2014; O’Meara, 2015; O’Meara & Campbell, 2011). The concept of strategic action, a core element of the theory of fields, serves as an analogue of agency. In Fligstein and McAdam’s (2012) account, “action depends on the structural position and the opportunities it affords a given actor as well as her innate ability to read the situation and mobilize others in the service of a strategy tailored to the constraints of the situation” (p. 203). Both concepts stress the potential of individuals to shape events within a specific context. The ways in which humanists respond to administrative authority therefore are contingent upon field conditions.


In the theory of fields account, strategic action is rarely intended to overthrow the rules and hierarchy of the field itself (Fligstein & McAdam, 2012). Rather, strategic action typically reflects an attempt to advance an individual’s own interests. Such strategies rarely change fields themselves and often reinforce existing hierarchies (Cantwell, 2014, 2016; Kauppinen, Coco, Choi, & Brajkovic, 2016; Taylor, 2016a; Taylor & Cantwell, 2015; Taylor et al., 2013). In the context of our study, this dynamic suggests that a few humanists may secure greater autonomy through tenure-line positions or even externally funded MacArthur “genius” grants. These few instances of success, however, are unlikely to change the fundamental field dynamics that undergird both the particular conditions of the humanities and the general state of the academic profession and administration.


METHODS


This paper is part of a larger multisite qualitative study of the ways in which heightened competition for status and resources has reshaped faculty work. Analysis of the changing nature of faculty work is a crucial component of explaining academic capitalist processes (Rhoades, 2014). Because this paper focused on the changing working conditions for humanists and their strategic responses to these conditions, the primary data came from 46 semistructured interviews conducted with faculty members in humanities departments at two universities. We supplemented interview testimony with dozens of campus documents (e.g., mission statements, fact books, job postings, department and center websites) and official records (e.g., enrollment and finance figures), all of which were publicly available online. Documents and records guided the selection of cases and later served to triangulate interview data (Hodder, 2000).


We selected a multiple case study design because comparison of findings across cases can yield insight into broad topics of interest, such as faculty responses to changing conditions (Merriam, 2009; Yin, 2014, 2016). We utilized a purposeful sampling design, allowing substantive concerns that emerged from our review of theory and literature to guide selection of cases and participants (Creswell, 2007). Data collection occurred on two campuses, designated “Struggle University” (SU) and “Wrangle University” (WU). According to the documents and records that we reviewed (see “description of research sites” below), both campuses are large public universities that espouse multiple missions and draw revenues from diverse sources. Both also experienced declining reliance on direct government support via state appropriations. At both campuses, central administrators approved departmental budgets and could reallocate unrestricted funds, such as tuition, to other purposes. These cases are suitable sites for our study because they typified the kinds of “striving” universities at which academic capitalism is often most evident.


The 46 interview participants also were selected purposefully. We sought a broad sample of participants who could yield a rich portrait of academic labor and strategic responses to changing conditions. In each of the departments in which we interviewed, we reached out to faculty in various appointments (e.g., tenured, tenure-track, non-tenure-track) via email to invite them to participate in the study. After conducting interviews with faculty members who initially responded to our request, we sent additional invitations to faculty members in appointment types with lower representation in our data. Participants therefore spanned all faculty types from NTT instructors, lecturers, and adjunct faculty members to tenured professors holding endowed chairs. A summary of interview participants by appointment type appears in Appendix A.


At both campuses, we conducted semistructured interviews with faculty members in English and history. These departments are typically among the largest in the humanities and have faculty members in all appointment types. At SU, we also interviewed faculty members in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. WU divided its programs in philosophy and religion into two different administrative units that were housed in different colleges. Because it was not clear which of these units corresponded to the department at SU, we focused on English and history at WU. This limited our ability to draw inferences, but we believed the increase in comparability as well as the perspectives of faculty in additional humanities departments to be worth this cost.


Data analysis proceeded iteratively, as is typical of qualitative studies (Bryman, 2012; Miles & Huberman, 1994). Documents and records were collected at the outset of the study in 2011 and, with theory and literature, guided the selection of case sites. The study began with the development of a semistructured interview protocol. Based on theory, prior research, and analysis of documents and records, interview questions focused on faculty perceptions of resource allocation within the institution (e.g., What are the most important things with regard to academic work? What is first on your priority list?), the allocation of work within the department (e.g., How would you describe the division of labor in your department? How is the work of teaching, research, and service done in your department?), perceptions of their department relative to other departments (e.g., How do you see your unit, vis a vis other units in your college and other departments and colleges in the university? What groups have the most resources, opportunities, and graduate students? Why do you think this is the case?), and how faculty members structured their time and careers in response to various pressures both internal and external to the university (e.g., Of the many tasks on which you spend time, what do your regard as most productive and rewarding? What is most annoying and unproductive?). A complete listing of interview protocol questions is provided in Appendix B.


Because our protocol spanned a range of topics related to faculty experiences and perceptions, we reserved time at the end of each interview to allow participants to reflect on the questions we had asked and to provide additional thoughts they felt were important to their work. Additionally, interviews were semistructured, allowing for follow-up questions if a topic seemed particularly salient to a participant.


Interviews extended through 2012 and were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The interviews, with few exceptions, were conducted in person and lasted between 25 and 90 minutes. Due to the scope of the study and the distance between the two research sites, interviews were conducted by multiple individuals. Researchers met regularly to discuss findings and to adjust the interview protocol as necessary. We developed a series of codes iteratively as we progressed and discussed the codes as a research team to ensure that they were understood and applied consistently. Each interview was reviewed by two researchers: first, the interviews were coded by one researcher, and then the coded interviews were independently reviewed by a second researcher. The researchers then discussed any discrepancies in coding and conferred with the original interviewer if they were still uncertain about how to code a particular interview or interview segment. This approach ensured accurate capture of participants’ perceptions and improved the reliability of our data analysis process. The complete listing of codes are provided in Appendix C.


Coded interviews were compared across sites to identify commonalities and differences in the two cases (Merriam, 2009). Codes eventually were grouped into broad themes that gave structure to the narrative that follows. For example, findings coded as “advantage relative to other humanities departments” and “funding sources for the department” were grouped with other codes into the theme of “exploiting weaker units.” Each code supported this general theme in different ways, with the former describing participants’ experiences of advantage and the latter identifying resource bases that may support such advantages. The resulting themes were therefore both robust and richly descriptive. Appendix D provides the three themes we identified, which are discussed in more detail in the findings section, along with the codes relevant to each. We also give examples of our data analysis process in Appendix E, linking raw interview responses to specific codes and, later, broader themes that emerged from the interview transcripts.


We triangulated our interview data with additional documents and official records both to corroborate the reports of faculty participants and to develop a rich understanding of faculty work. We first drew upon publicly available records from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) to provide an understanding of the external funding environment in which faculty members worked. We describe our sites using IPEDS data below. Additionally, we examined department and center websites to understand the range of faculty appointments within a department (e.g., the numbers and shares of tenure, tenure-track, and NTT faculty). This allowed us to select interview participants purposefully and to understand the context in which interview participants worked. Finally, we reviewed curricular offerings in the departments to gain a better understanding of how teaching responsibilities were allocated across faculty members. These data sources improved the validity of our interview protocol, data, and codes.


LIMITATIONS


Our analysis is limited in several important ways. Our research design elicited information about participants’ experiences and perceptions of work. We do not claim to model actual organizational processes, only the ways in which individuals in a given context experience those processes. It is likely that individuals situated in other areas of SU and WU have very different perspectives and responses. This limits the generalizability of the content of our analysis but does not necessarily dampen our implications for theory. The limitation therefore highlights the need for additional research that applies the theory of fields to other topics in higher education.


A second limitation relates to our selection of cases. SU and WU are similar in crucial ways that we describe below. Nonetheless, important differences in the structure of the two campuses created some concerns in our sampling design (see above). These site constraints limited our ability to construct comparable samples across campuses.


DESCRIPTION OF RESEARCH SITES


SU is a public research university that in 2012 enrolled close to 35,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students and employed approximately 1,900 faculty members (tenure-track, tenured, and NTT). The faculty in the departments in which we interviewed were part of a large college that housed numerous departments spanning the fine arts, the biological, physical, social, and mathematical sciences, and the humanities. It was the largest academic college on campus and generated more student credit hours (SCHs) than any other unit, according to SU’s fact book.


WU is also a public research university. In 2012 it enrolled a little more than 40,000 undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students and employed 3,500 faculty members. Interestingly, the history department, typically identified within the humanities domain, sits within the social science college rather than the humanities college. Together, the college of social science and the college of humanities generated almost 50,000 more SCHs than the college of science, according to WU’s fact book.


In summary, both sites were large public universities at which the humanities contributed a large share of total SCH production. Descriptive data from IPEDS indicated that SU and WU also were comparable financially. From 2008–2012, the percentage of total revenues contributed by state governments dropped sharply at both SU (39% to 28%) and WU (31% to 17%). As direct state support waned, competing for other revenues became increasingly important. Over the same period, tuition increased from 17% to 26% of SU’s total revenues, while WU saw a similar rise from 16% to 24%. The shift away from direct government support proved broadly consistent with the conditions of academic capitalism (Slaughter & Rhoades, 2004).


Both SU and WU emerged from the Great Recession with relatively lean budgets that characterized many public universities during this period (Douglass, 2010; Taylor & Cantwell, 2016). Indeed, total expenditures per full-time equivalent (FTE) student grew only very slightly over time. Using the Consumer Price Index to standardize figures into 2008 dollars, expenditures per FTE at SU fell slightly from around $36,000 in 2008 to $35,000 in 2012. WU witnessed relatively stable expenditures around $41,000 per student in the same two years.   


DIGESTING THE “WORM’S SHARE”


CONDITIONS IN THE HUMANITIES AND RELATIONSHIPS AMONG THE THREE FIELDS


The straitened financial circumstances of SU and WU entailed clear implications for the academic profession. An assistant professor at SU acknowledged, “Every department, not just humanities, is really struggling with budget cuts right now.” An associate professor at SU noted all academic units operated “under reduced circumstances which are partly reduced for all of us, everybody in the university.”


While budgetary stress may have affected “all,” these pressures seemed to fall particularly heavily on humanists. A faculty member at SU noted that when it came to resource distribution, “We’re just kind of at the back of the line.” Faculty often claimed this occurred because while some sciences generated revenues tied to particular research projects, humanities faculty members produced tuition receipts that could be reallocated by administrators. A professor at WU stated, “freshman composition, which we have clung to, is important” as a “revenue stream,” but conceded, “it doesn't mean they fund it.” English faculty members, in this account, were expected to generate tuition revenues but could not expect reinvestment in the department. This process shifted resources out of the humanities and into other units. “Humanities, such as it is, gets the worm’s share, it gets the table scraps frankly when money is distributed,” the same WU professor stated.


As these comments suggest, humanists viewed themselves as disfavored within the overlapping field of the academic profession due primarily to activity in the proximate field of administration. These arrangements prompted concerns about working conditions. One professor at SU described the department as housed in a “primitive environment in relation to other schools and colleges that I see [on campus] …. I don’t know how all that gets allocated and made sense of,” he continued. “But my sense is that English isn’t in the most kind of privileged and prestigious place.” Pressures from the proximate field of administration shaped the overlapping field of the academic profession, and humanists claimed to feel them particularly heavily. Interview participants marshaled three broad strategies in response to these conditions.


STRATEGIC RESPONSES


Utilizing Lower Status Faculty Members


One common response involved incumbents within the field—meaning established, tenured faculty members—making strategic use of lower status individuals. A WU associate professor noted that teaching burdens often fell more heavily on untenured assistant professors than on their senior colleagues. “The College of Humanities works their assistant professors awfully hard,” she said. This heavy teaching burden could have deleterious consequences on careers, as “a very high proportion” of these assistant professors “do not finish their book and get fired.” Another professor at WU echoed the concern that limited support for junior faculty threatened tenure and promotion cases. “In order to be allowed to stay first of all we must publish, but we seldom are able to assist them in more than the smallest and nominal ways in carrying out the research, giving the papers, attending the conferences, making the connections that they require to be able to stay,” she said. This combination of increased pressure to produce research outputs and declining support prompted her to conclude with a frank assessment of conditions for assistant professors: “It’s really grossly unfair.”


Even more was asked of NTT faculty. During the recession, SU hired “a raft of lecturers,” in the words of one associate professor. NTT faculty appeared to carry heavy work duties. An instructor at SU described how hard it was for her to find time to conduct research. “I’m putting in 40–45 hours a week on my teaching and then maybe 5 hours per week when I can work on research,” she said. An SU professor noted the lecturers in his department carried a heavy teaching load while also trying to balance research because scholarly productivity was the key to moving out of an NTT position and into a more permanent tenure line. “You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck out of those people, and yet they’re managing to publish too, attend conferences, to hold their own there, but, boy, it’s much harder to do when you’re teaching that load,” he said.


NTT faculty often found themselves limited not only to teaching, but to teaching a single course time and again. As an endowed chair at SU told us, “Most of the budget is not funding faculty, it’s funding the coverage of the freshman [composition] courses and sophomore [literature] courses that are required.” This statement provided insight into the nature of NTT faculty work, pointedly contrasting these individuals with “faculty.” An SU faculty member in the English department suggested this arrangement served two purposes. This shift simultaneously moved students through degree programs at lower cost to the institution while leaving others—especially tenured faculty—with more time to pursue scholarship and to focus on upper-division courses. By teaching heavy course loads, then, untenured and NTT faculty allowed incumbents to enjoy more traditional roles centered upon research.


The growing number of instruction-focused NTT faculty members meant that service responsibilities fell on the remaining tenure-track faculty. As one SU professor told us, “when you replace [tenure-track faculty members] with people teaching much more intensive teaching loads … all those committee burdens and so forth, which these new people will not be involved in, get compressed into the diminished number of faculty there actually are now.” This professor acknowledged that the reliance on NTT positions could support individuals on the tenure track by allowing more time for research; the implicit contrast between NTT faculty and “faculty” was again notable. At the same time, heavy teaching loads meant that NTT faculty spent little of their time on service. Another faculty member at SU described a “crisis of citizenship within the university,” saying, “we’re in situations where people who are highly respected are being asked to do increasing amounts of service without getting any kind of recompense for doing that and what’s happening is that...and I’m seeing it in my own department... a number of people are beginning to balk.” While utilizing lower status faculty members served to advance the careers of some tenured and tenure-track faculty members by keeping teaching obligations low, it did so at the expense of their colleagues and often netted diminishing returns—in the form of service assignments that taxed research productivity—over time.


Exploiting Weaker Units Within the Field


A second strategic response found humanists from incumbent departments—often those with large undergraduate enrollments (Hackman, 1985)—consuming resources at the expense of weaker units. What a professor at SU called “the larger departments in big publics like ours: history and English” proved able to do this because of their central roles in general education. In the words of an endowed chair at SU, “English is a bread and butter course.” An SU professor concurred, noting, “3,500–4,000 students have to take freshman [composition].” These large enrollments of tuition-payers provided a rationale for the continued importance of English and history, something other humanities departments lacked. A history instructor at SU described how colleagues in other departments felt pressured to recruit students into classes and to increase credit-hour production. She noted that her department “generally isn’t hurting for credit hours.” An SU professor acknowledged this state of affairs, describing “a certain stability being connected to the English department … it’s not going to go belly-up at any time as everybody needs English writing skills.”


Faculty in English and history often used their department’s incumbency to secure continued advantage. “There’s a political kind of coalition and the creative writers, the [rhetoric and composition] people, and English language and linguistics people get together with a certain number of people in literature and they form the largest and most powerful political bloc,” an associate professor at WU told us. Such political arrangements could solidify a department’s status. At SU, according to one associate professor, “History gets more, music gets much less.” The result seemed to be continued incumbency for large-enrollment departments and heightened vulnerability for other areas. A professor at SU confided, “I think there’s a constant fear in religious studies that the department will be either disbursed and people will be sent into other departments, or there have been a few eliminated altogether.” Another SU faculty member expressed that concern more succinctly: “I would not want to be in classics or comparative literature right now.”


However, humanities departments’ relationships with one another proved more complex than the simple accumulation of power by large-enrollment units. In some cases, funds generated by larger units would be reallocated toward smaller departments to enable them to remain viable. Such redistribution did not make the smaller unit wealthy but nonetheless could stir resentment in the incumbent unit. “It’s easy for them [less resourced humanities departments] to believe that the English department is impoverishing them,” a professor at WU told us. “In fact it’s our association with those tiny departments that in part inhibits our ability to achieve excellence.” Another faculty member at WU indicated that because English was the largest department in the college, any changes in resource allocation “are going to come at the expense of English.” While exploiting weaker units within the field enhanced some departments’ status, then, there was a limit beyond which political arrangements and SCH production could not carry a unit. Some subsidies were required to maintain other departments. Because gains both came at the expense of other departments and often were partially repaid through subsidies, this strategy seemed to net few sustainable gains for the humanities.


Forming Alliances


A third strategic response found faculty members seeking alliances with individuals in other programs. Some alliances extended beyond the humanities and into other domains. An endowed chair at WU mused wistfully about partnerships outside the humanities. She opined that the humanities, “gets far less than, say, psychology and sociology and anthropology, all of which I think can apply to even NSF.” She concluded, “I hear that they have indirect cost recoveries, that they had standing grants that they can use to support graduate students. I mean, these things just don't happen in history departments.” An associate professor at WU worked in a humanities department that had already aligned with richer units. “We do have a lot more financial resources” as a result, she concluded. A second faculty member at WU concurred, saying departments “want to go where the money is.” An assistant professor at WU added, “There’s no getting around the fact that it’s much easier to find pots of money at the university for new faculty lines in a field [with more external funding opportunities] than in a field like French culture or something like that.”


In some cases, faculty became involved with a center or institute (hereafter, “center”) on campus relating to their research interests. Such instances stretched beyond shared grant applications and into formal affiliations. However, participants expressed similar motivations for both forms of banding together. One WU associate professor observed that many humanists sought center affiliations to obtain “internal funding, time off … they were desperate for that.” An SU professor described her association with a center by saying “I get a little extra travel money when we have travel money.” Involvement in a center also could increase the visibility of humanities departments and faculty within the departments. Speaking about her center, a WU professor noted, “These are ways we get out of our disciplinary isolation and also get some respect for our departments so that we don’t feel like second class citizens…you have to get out there and participate and contribute so that people see, oh, this is why we need English.”


Other participants identified with instruction-focused centers rather than those that emphasized research. As one SU associate professor explained, “In the humanities, most of these centers are actually teaching oriented with the exception of the best funded ones that are research hubs, and they're typically consortia between two or three universities.” Such initiatives, he explained, generated “funds for instruction or for some kind of public outreach.” Certificate programs as well as undergraduate and graduate course offerings were a common rationale for the development of humanities centers. An assistant professor at SU said that he was hired to “develop programs for both the undergraduates and the graduate courses [in the center]… so far I think I’ve developed nine courses.” Faculty members sometimes obtained external grant funding tied to course offerings rather than research projects. A lecturer at SU described having to demonstrate to funding agencies that “we have actually been teaching these … courses that we got funded.”


In addition to course development, humanities centers sometimes focused upon social justice and inequalities related to race, class, and gender. Referring to a group of humanities centers, a SU department head stated, “I think they are used to address the interests of what used to be called minorities. All of ours grew out of the 1960s.” A WU professor explained that humanities centers could address a society “troubled by social inequities and sort of intractable, cultural problems.” She went to on to note, “that’s why I like to do the interdisciplinary stuff, to be challenged to think about that stuff…nobody’s going to just give us the money to do what we do. We have to really make it clear that it’s worth something to society.” While these centers conducted crucial academic work, it was precisely the critical focus that may have made it difficult for humanists to secure resources in a hostile political environment (Newfield, 2008).


DISCUSSION AND IMPLICATIONS


Using Fligstein and McAdam’s (2012) “theory of fields,” this paper identifies a specific means by which academic capitalist processes are instantiated and contested among faculty members. We conceptualize the humanities as a field that is disfavored relative to other academic domains, that contains its own internal hierarchy, and within which various strategic responses to changing conditions are possible. We understand these field dynamics as interdependent with the overlapping field of the academic profession and the proximate field of university administration. We thereby advance understandings of academic capitalism, explaining its roots in actors and fields and highlighting its implications for faculty work (Rhoades, 2014; Slaughter, 2014; Slaughter & Taylor, 2016).


Our findings outline the strategic responses that faculty members have marshaled in response to changing field conditions. Faculty at SU and WU utilized lower status peers, exploited weaker units within the humanities, and formed alliances. The first and second strategies capitalized on within-field hierarchies, allowing incumbents to take advantage of the relative weakness of other humanists. The latter utilized collaboration in efforts to aggregate resources. In Fligstein and McAdam’s (2012) account, strategic action is unlikely to produce profound resistance to field rules and hierarchies. Qualitative findings confirmed this to be the case at SU and WU, as most initiatives seemed to entail negative consequences for other humanists and diminishing returns for the strategist. As a result, strategies did not seem able to arrest the decline of the humanities, in large part because this decline was consistent with activities in the proximate and overlapping fields. As in O’Meara’s (2015) understanding of agency, the strategic action of humanists could not be separated from the context in which their careers were embedded.


It is important to note, however, that the humanists whom we studied were not mere by-products of their contexts. Strategies allowed some individuals to secure positions within their own field. Careers in the humanities subsisted on fewer resources than in the past—the “worm’s share,” as one participant memorably termed it. With effort, calculation, and good fortune, however, careers could still be crafted. Yet those who prospered were not merely hardworking, clever, or fortunate. Opportunities were allocated in patterned and asymmetric ways. Tenured faculty members enjoyed opportunities that few of their tenure-track colleagues—and fewer still NTT faculty members—could access. Similarly, the scale of English and history departments meant that “star” faculty members in these departments might access far greater resources than did faculty members of comparable rank and accomplishment in philosophy, religion, or the modern and classical languages. As the humanities waned relative to other fields, the hierarchy within the humanities seemed to grow steeper. Being a professor of English or history still seemed to be a satisfying position, but an appointment as an assistant professor of religion or a lecturer of classics seemed to entail a great deal of difficult work in order to subsidize the few careers at the top of the field hierarchy.


The steepening internal hierarchy of the focal field likely entails consequences for the career prospects of individual humanists. The techniques by which a few faculty members “won” ensured that many more “lost.” Senior faculty members confronted adverse circumstances and translated these burdens into heavier workloads for NTT faculty or teaching assignments and service obligations that would limit tenure-stream faculty members’ ability to pursue the scholarship necessary for promotion and tenure. Large-enrollment departments secured resources that might be even more necessary for the support of smaller, struggling units. That powerful individuals and units have chosen to behave in these ways is understandable given the shrinking resource base of the field. However, these choices entail real consequences for the humanities, which may further reduce the appeal of careers in the humanities for future generations of would-be scholars.


These conditions of scarcity are indicative of power dynamics within the focal, overlapping, and proximate fields. The decline of the humanities has been visible for years and has long been associated with ideological, “critical-political” rationales as well as financial justifications (Volk, Slaughter, & Thomas, 2001). In Newfield’s (2009) term, the crisis of the humanities is not “natural”; rather, it reflects policy conditions and shifting power relations on university campuses, each of which disfavors the humanities for ideological rather than financial management reasons (Newfield, 2008; Taylor et al., 2013). Such circumstances seem to reflect both policy preferences and the growth of an administrative core capable of acting upon these preferences (Rhoades, 2014). Ironically, the strategic responses of humanities faculty members may exacerbate this dynamic. Large-enrollment undergraduate sections taught by NTT faculty members tend to produce surplus tuition revenues that administrators can reallocate to support other, preferred purposes (Leslie et al., 2012). As humanists successfully generate instructional revenues, then, powerful administrators may grow stronger as they command expanding bases of resources.


By way of conclusion, it is worth noting that the field conditions to which individuals respond are themselves the product of many choices (Fligstein & McAdam, 2012). This set of power relations is therefore not permanent (Pusser, 2016). Yet it is not clear what even well-intentioned individuals can do to change them. Our findings suggest that strategic action by individuals may lead to career success but is unlikely to shift underlying power relations. This is the case because working conditions in the humanities reflect activities in other fields. If problems reflect complex cross-field relationships, then successful responses to those problems likely will require engagement with actors in other fields. Collective action—marshaling resources, people, and ideas from other fields—may be required if the condition of the humanities, the academic profession, or university administration is to change profoundly. Such coordination would be difficult but not impossible. Although we focused upon the humanities, we expect that actors in other fields find elements of their work to be deprofessionalizing and worthy of critique. Administrators likely experience incursion from other fields into their work, and faculty members in other parts of the profession may look at humanists with envy in certain contexts such as enrollment-driven institutions. Such insights would represent surprising twists in the academic capitalist narrative but could fit logically alongside the academic capitalist account if analyzed from the perspective of overlapping and proximate fields.


To be sure, our multisite qualitative study cannot demonstrate this general account. However, our findings, coupled with the insights from the theory of fields, strongly suggest it. We therefore call for a vigorous renewal of research that identifies cross-field relationships in order to highlight the rapidly shifting dynamics of contemporary colleges and universities.



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APPENDIX A


Faculty Interview Participants by Case Site and Appointment Type

Rank

Wrangle University (WU)

Struggle University (SU)

Instructor/Lecturer/Adjunct Faculty

3

2

Assistant Professor

2

6

Associate Professor

6

5

Full Professor

8

8

Endowed Chair

1

4

Department Head/Dean/Director

0

1

Total

20

26

Notes: Interviews were conducted with faculty members in the English and history departments at Wrangle University and in the English, history, philosophy, and religion departments at Struggle University.




APPENDIX B: INTERVIEW PROTOCOL


1.

Demographic information (age, sex, rank, title, etc.)

2.

When did you first start working here?

3.

What brought you to this university and department/unit? Where were you before?

4.

How would generally characterize your department/unit?

a.

What are the most important things with regard to academic work? What is first on your priority list? Then what? Is what you value with regard to work valued in the same way by your department? Has this changed over time?  

b.

To what extent do you take into account how your work will impact students and colleagues when you make decisions about what to do?

c.

To what extent do you see your work as part of a collective body?

5.

How is your department/center funded?

a.

Has this changed over time?

b.

Do you contribute to raising external revenues? How do you do this? How much time does it take? What happens if you are not successful?

6.

Would you describe your work as entrepreneurial or strategic? Why or why not?

a.

If yes, what does it mean to be entrepreneurial or strategic?

7.

Do you spend more time reviewing grants, participating on panels, reviewing other colleagues’ work, writing letters for them, etc.?

8.

Do you spend more time responding to requests for external evaluation/audit—e.g., merit review materials, or university requests for data related to teaching, research, and service?

9.

Of the many tasks on which you spend time, what do your regard as most productive and rewarding? What is most annoying and unproductive?

10.

Who assesses your teaching, research, and service? How is it assessed? Is external (e.g., citations, getting grants) assessment more important or internal?

11.

How would you describe the division of labor in your department/center? In other words, how is the work of teaching (graduate/undergraduate), research, and service done in your department/center?

a.

What do full professors do? Is that any different than associates, assistants, lecturers, research scientists?

b.

What does public service mean?

c.

What is your usual teaching load?

d.

Why do you have this division of labor (e.g., equity, hierarchy, strategy)?

12.

Are there centers and institutes in your department? If so, ask the following:

a.

Are you a member? Why do you participate? What are the benefits? The downsides?

b.

Why are centers and institutes started? To solve new problems? To align with funders? To focus on research and graduate education?  

c.

What is the relationship between the department and center (this could vary if it is a multipurpose, multidisciplinary center)? How does the funding work?

d.

Can you belong to one and not the other? If yes, who gets to be in which and why?

e.

Are there different expectations within centers and academic departments? i.e., Is there any difference in members with regard to: workload, grants, salary, or status?

13.

When new people are brought into your department/center, what are the main considerations taken into account?

a.

How is it determined who decides when and how to hire new people? Does the central administration have a voice? Do you try to align positions with funding agency priorities or other strategic initiatives?

14.

Is the possibility to collaborate with others within your center/department important? If so, how to you choose collaborators? What are the axes of collaboration in your department? Shared research? Shared teaching or service? Are some types of research more important than others? Are you more successful at getting resources or recognition if you are on a team?

15.

Is the possibility to collaborate with others from outside of your center/department important?

16.

How much control do you have over shaping your department/center’s activities?

17.

How do you see your unit, vis a vis other units in your college and other departments and colleges in the university? What groups have the most resources, opportunities, graduate students? Why do you think this is the case?

18.

Have any conflicts with your colleagues or university administrators arisen due to the type of work that you do here?

19.

Have you recently considered making a move to another institution or other employment (e.g., industry)? If so, what are some of the important factors that would attract you to work elsewhere?

20.

Are domestic factors part of the consideration when you look at other opportunities, such as employment for your partner/spouse, school and/or daycare for your children, healthcare, or other aspects of your “home” life?

21.

What has the university done right to keep you thus far, with regard to your work and other quality of life considerations?

22.

What could be improved to make this a more attractive place to work?




APPENDIX C: A PRIORI AND EMERGENT CODES FOR THE HUMANITIES


Advantage relative to the rest of the university

Advantage relative to other humanities departments

Advantage relative to other institutions

Big picture comments on the general state of humanities

Central administration’s role in department decisions, budget, etc.

Career strategy—humanities departments and personal

Changing job market for humanities PhDs

Collaborate with faculty

Centers and institutes

Curricular decisions

Disadvantage relative to other parts of the university (i.e., S&E)

Disadvantage relative to other humanities departments

Disadvantage relative to other institutions

Disconnected from faculty outside humanities (willful v. benign neglect)

Discontent with job

Funding sources for department

Future of the profession

Pursuit of external grants

Pursuit of internal grants

Pursuit of private gifts

Gender

Hiring process

Historical perspective

Money shortage—general to the university

Money shortage—particular to the humanities

Money shortage—particular to this department

Not talking about sciences or other departments (i.e., ignoring them)

Reallocation of labor (including extra administrative duties)

Stratification within the humanities

Time structure

Time shortage (including work/life balance)

Tenure process/reward structure (including book as cornerstone)

Voice within department




APPENDIX D: DATA ANALYSIS PROCESS


Examples of a priori and emergent codes used to develop broad themes about strategies humanities faculty members employ in response to heightened competition

Codes

Themes

Reallocation of labor

Utilizing lower status faculty members

Tenure process/reward structure

Funding sources for the department

Central administration’s role in department decisions, budget, etc.

Stratification within the humanities

Money shortage particular to the humanities

 
  

Stratification within the humanities

Exploiting weaker units within the field

Advantage relative to other humanities departments

Funding sources for the department

Money shortage particular to the humanities

Collaborate with faculty

  

Centers and institutes

Forming alliances

Funding sources for the department

Collaborate with faculty

Pursuit of external grants




APPENDIX E: DATA ANALYSIS EXAMPLES


THEME 1: UTILIZING LOWER STATUS FACULTY MEMBERS


A priori and emergent codes within theme:

Reallocation of labor

Tenure process/reward structure

Funding sources for the department

Central administration’s role in department decisions, budget, etc.

Stratification within the humanities

Money shortage particular to the humanities


Excerpts from interview transcripts with codes (codes bolded)

Professor at Struggle University

“We've sort of resisted [hiring non-tenure-track faculty] on a large scale, but the people that we have are so good and … there are a lot of us in the department that value them enough to want to see them move to [the tenure track], but I'm not sure it’s going to happen (Tenure process/reward structure). But if they do a four/four load, the average for the rest of us is two/two (Reallocation of labor; Stratification within the humanities), so getting a lot of bang for our buck out of those people (Funding source for the department), and yet they're managing to publish too, attend conferences, to hold their own there, but boy it’s much harder to do when you're teaching that load.”


Associate Professor at Struggle University

“The national move is toward decreasing the number of tenure-track faculty, filling in with instructors. What happens in those situations in terms of service is that an institution that, and a department that is at all reasonable is going to recognize that you can’t expect instructors to provide service and so what happens is you have fewer and fewer people doing not just the same, but an increasing amount of administrative work because the more instructors you have taking care of the students, like you get the point, the university is constantly expanding. The number of students is constantly expanding. The number of people who will do service work to run the university, that is a diminishing pool and what happens is that I think whereas in the past the kind of classic humanities dilemma was balancing teaching and research, at the moment I think we’re coming very close to a kind of crisis of citizenship within the university because we’re in situations where people who are highly respected are being asked to do increasing amounts of service without getting any kind or recompense for doing that and what’s happening is that...and I’m seeing it in my own department...that a number of people are beginning to balk (Reallocation of labor).”


Professor at Wrangle University

“I mean we demand of assistant and associate professors that in order to be promoted, in order to be allowed to stay, first of all we must publish, but we seldom are able to assist them in more than the smallest and nominal ways, in carrying out the research, giving the papers, attending the conferences, making the connections that they require to be able to stay (Tenure process/reward structure), and it’s really grossly unfair that they, with their tiny salaries, have to find some mechanism, find, ask Aunt Josie or somebody, to help them go to meetings (Money shortage particular to the humanities).”


Professor at Struggle University

“This is another one of those silent transfers [of labor], because if you lose 10 tenured and tenure-track people who do all the things that professors are supposed to do, you know, which is everything in a department because we run ourselves pretty much, and you replace them with people teaching much more intensive teaching loads with capped salary, all that stuff, now, now all those committee burdens and so forth, which these new people will not be involved in, get compressed into the diminished number of faculty there actually are now (Reallocation of labor).”


THEME 2: EXPLOITING WEAKER UNITS WITHIN THE FIELD


A priori and emergent codes within theme:

Stratification within the humanities

Advantage relative to other humanities departments

Funding sources for the department

Money shortage particular to the humanities

Collaborate with faculty


Excerpts from interview transcripts with codes (codes bolded)

Faculty Member at Struggle University

“Well, there’s a certain stability being connected to the English department. I mean, it’s not going to go belly-up at any time as everybody needs English writing skills (Stratification within the humanities; Advantage relative to other humanities departments).”


Faculty Member at Struggle University

“In, you know, cold and accounting level institutional terms, the bread and butter of the department probably is the composition program, you know, the teaching of English composition, which is a pretty massive operation…I think it has 100 or some classes involved in it, must be thousands of students per year because pretty much every incoming student goes through that (Funding sources for the department)…And then the English department itself, I think, carries 800 or so majors. I may be wrong, I think it’s around 800 or so majors, which is pretty big…You know, so we carry our weight so to speak with those with those numbers such as they are (Stratification within the humanities, Advantage relative to other humanities departments).”


Faculty Member at Wrangle University

“There’s a political kind of coalition and the creative writers, the rhet comp people, and English language, and linguistics people get together with a certain number of people in literature and they formed the largest and most powerful political block within the department as long as they stay together (Stratification within the humanities; Collaborate with faculty). They do all of the administering.”


Faculty Member at Struggle University

“I think the larger departments in big publics like ours—history, English—don’t feel it in terms of the fear that the department won’t be there (Stratification within the humanities, Advantage relative to other humanities departments). I think there’s a constant fear in religious studies that the department will be either disbursed and people will be sent into other departments, or there have been a few eliminated all together (Money shortage particular to the humanities). There’s always that tension, which is part of why we are such a large service department. It’s a way to make sure we’re needed within the university.”


Faculty Member at Wrangle University

“Somebody, I mean this is second hand but somebody said somebody in one of the small language departments said well we've been carrying you guys for years. What are you talking about, we enroll 6,000 freshmen, they call them student credit hours now, but 6,000 freshmen, what, what, they, but they don't know, they're not in tune with what’s going on, and it’s easy for them to believe that the English department is impoverishing them when in fact, it’s our association with those tiny departments that in part inhibits our ability to achieve excellence (Stratification within the humanities).”


THEME 3: FORMING ALLIANCES


A priori and emergent codes within theme:

Centers and institutes

Funding sources for the department

Collaborate with faculty

Pursuit of external grants


Excerpts from interview transcripts with codes (codes bolded)

Faculty Member at Wrangle University

“I think there’s no getting around the fact that it’s much easier to find pots of money at the university for new faculty lines in a field [with more external funding opportunities] than in a field like French culture or something like that (Pursuit of external grants).”


Faculty Member at Wrangle University

“Part of my job is to really be a bridge and to see if I can spur my colleagues to be thinking about what other [ways we could find funding]. Maybe we could get an eco-critic funded or maybe we can offer a science writing course for both creative writers and science grad students (Funding sources for the department; Collaborate with faculty). These are ways we get out of our disciplinary isolation and also get some respect for our departments so that we don’t feel like second class citizens. You can’t just sit around and whine and say you’re not giving us enough money, you have to get out there and participate and contribute so that people see oh, this is why we need English (Funding sources for the department).”


Faculty Member at Struggle University

“I get a little extra travel money when we have travel money. They have a little extra pool and as a joint appointed scholar, I get a little extra (Centers and institutes).”


Faculty Member at Wrangle University

“The humanities have to learn how to talk about their value, I think, in a much broader, imaginative and passionate way than they do, and it partly means getting out of the silos and talking to people in other fields and brainstorming how we might do it. I mean nobody knows yet. That’s why I like to do the interdisciplinary stuff, to be challenged to think about that stuff…Nobody’s going to just give us the money to do what we do. We have to really make it clear that it’s worth something to the society (Centers and institutes).”





Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 121 Number 9, 2019, p. 1-38
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 22774, Date Accessed: 12/6/2021 4:11:42 PM

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    Pennsylvania State University
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