It is well known in academic circles that tenure as a professional norm on campus has been declining for years. Some commentators have attributed the nationwide reduction to a shift in attitude by policy makers, driven partly by the global marketplace, where job security often appears like a relic from the past.
However, a recent article in the New York Times (registration required) attributes the decline of tenure to the rise in proportion of part-time instruction. Adjunct instructors typically serve on very limited contracts, with no security whatsoever in being rehired.
Partly responsible also is the growth of community colleges, according to the report.
From the article:
The shift from a tenured faculty results from financial pressures, administrators’ desire for more flexibility in hiring, firing and changing course offerings, and the growth of community colleges and regional public universities focused on teaching basics and preparing students for jobs.
The article also offers some personal examples, citing evidence recently released by the American Association of University of University Professors, using federal statistics.
It is also a matter of money:
Adjuncts are less likely to have doctoral degrees, educators say. They also have less time to meet with students, and research suggests that students who take many courses with them are somewhat less likely to graduate.
“Really, we are offering less educational quality to the students who need it most,” said Ronald G. Ehrenberg, director of the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute, noting that the soaring number of adjunct faculty is most pronounced in community colleges and the less select public universities. The elite universities, both public and private, have the fewest adjuncts.
“It’s not that some of these adjuncts aren’t great teachers,” Dr. Ehrenberg said. “Many don’t have the support that the tenure-track faculty have, in terms of offices, secretarial help and time. Their teaching loads are higher, and they have less time to focus on students.”