Inside Higher Ed has an article about Elon University’s attempts to go against the grain and become less reliant on contingent faculty. Excerpt:
The percentage of faculty members who are off the tenure track keeps going up, and they are quite possibly in the majority in American higher education. Administrators have justified the hiring pattern — even before the current economic downturn — by saying that they gain flexibility and talent without tenure, and end up saving money as well.
Faculty groups have been pushing back hard against this trend, but with limited success. Even many professors view it as inevitable and argue for a focus on improving pay and benefits for adjuncts.
Elon University, a private institution in North Carolina, offers evidence that institutions can reverse the tide and build up their tenured and tenure-track ranks. In the 1990s, Elon’s faculty was split about evenly between adjuncts and those on the tenure track. Today, about 74 percent of professors are either tenured or tenure track. Even with the national economy in turmoil, Elon’s leaders say that they plan to continue in this direction until the faculty is about 85 percent tenure track.
Particularly notable, given the concerns of many adjuncts that shifts away from contingent labor will only cost them jobs, is the fact that Elon has hired some former adjuncts into tenure-track jobs, given them credit for their time as adjuncts, and in some cases tenured them. […]
John Sullivan, a professor emeritus of philosophy, is credited with putting the issue of the tenure track front and center when the discussion of “engaged learning” came up. “We were talking about producing a community of learners,” and the idea of community was central, he said.