October 1, 2018 | University Life

By James McElwaineChalk board with light bulb
In the beginning . . .
In 1940, when the American Association of University Professors published its Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure, it simultaneously defined the flip side of academic instruction, the non-tenure-track faculty. We are the adjuncts, the part-timers, the visiting professors, lecturers, research professors, clinical professors and professors of practice. Did I name them all? Not even close!  At CUNY the Board of Trustees Bylaws list about 44 titles.  That’s a lot of degrees of separation– with all apologies due to playwrights Frigyes Karinthy and John Guare.

Why the proliferation and division? The answer is generated by the mighty investment that US universities have made in contingent faculty since that 1940 AAUP pronouncement, starting in the 1970s. Contingent faculty now account for over 60% of the faculty members on every CUNY campus. In terms of instruction, we deliver more than 60% of total credit count of major, minor and general education required academic coursework.

What can’t we do? What don’t we do?
Contingent faculty cannot participate in local governance at many CUNY campuses. We often cannot serve on committees and reviews. We are not encouraged to mentor or advise. We are rarely engaged by campus colloquy. We are not celebrated for our research and creative endeavors, though both certainly continue since we are all active scholars, artists, and professionals. Yet, those additional services, the very ones which often assure promotion for tenure-track faculty and proudly justify so much of the academy, are either withheld or discouraged.

A call
Yes, this is a call for action to our contingent faculty colleagues. This year we will gather the contingent faculty elected to serve on the UFS to open dialogue and look at shared governance.  We are the UFS, the elected senators who address the issues of academic affairs, student affairs, learning, campus and system governance, mentoring, advising, colloquy, research, and creative endeavor.  We do not veer into the terms and conditions of employment that is the domain of our sisters and brothers in the Professional Staff Congress. Instead we look at everything else in the contingents’ world – and that world is changing.

An action
Let’s lose those 37 degrees of separation. Let’s come together under the single title contingent and proceed to educate ourselves and others. To facilitate discussion about contingent faculty and shared governance we launched this CUNY One Faculty blog series. This blog is a good way to start, please read it assiduously, share it with your colleagues, send us your questions, comments, and please your submissions.

CUNY One Faculty is a collaboration of Kimora and James McElwaine, members of the UFS Executive Committee who are Senators elected to represent contingent faculty from John Jay College and Queens College.

The UFS Blog is a forum for CUNY Faculty, and welcomes the expression of all points of view.  Please send questions and submissions to Stasia Pasela, Editor.