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Give Adjuncts Credit: Update the Occupational Outlook Handbook

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Researchers, the media, policymakers, and the public all rely upon occupational and employment statistics and descriptions to make reliable, informed decisions. The Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook's description of the proportion of part-time faculty in higher education is factually incorrect and should be updated and revised to accurately reflect the working conditions of college faculty on American college and university campuses.

The following passage is taken from a recent report entitled A Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Members authored by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce:

"According to data from the United States Department of Education's 2009 Fall Staff Survey, of the nearly 1.8 million faculty members and instructors who made up the 2009 instructional workforce in degree-granting two- and four-year institutions of higher education in the United States, more than 1.3 million (75.5%) were employed in contingent positions off the tenire track, either as part-time or adkunct faculty members, full-time non-tenure-track faculty members, or graduate teaching assistants.  Despite the majority status of the contingent academic workforce, the the systematic information available on the working condition of these contingent faculty is minimal.  The Department of Education provides some basic demographic data through the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) and previously collected more detailed information through the National Study of Postsecondary Faculty (NSOPF).  After 2003, however, funding for the NSOPF ceased, and the department has not created an alternative instrument to gather information about the characteristics, work patters, and working conditions of higher education's faculty workforce.  As a result, the large and growing majority employed in contingent positions is renedered largely invisible, both as individuals on the campuses where they work and collectively in the ongoing policy discussions of higher education."

The Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook description of the working conditions of college faculty contains the following brief description:

"Postsecondary teachers’ schedules are generally flexible. Postsecondary teachers need to be on campus to teach classes and keep office hours. Otherwise, they are free to set their schedule and decide when and where they will prepare for class and will grade assignments.

About 29 percent of postsecondary teachers worked part time in 2010. Some postsecondary teachers work part time at several colleges or universities."

The Department of Labor has gotten the numbers terribly wrong.  Prospective graduate students who are considering careers teaching college, state and federal legislators, university administrators, the media, and the public all rely upon data provided by the Department of Labor.  By continuing to promulgate factually incorrect information, the Department of Labor is complicit in obfuscating the wholesale abuse of contingent faculty in higher education in America that includes the denial of a living wage, health insurance benefits, and a pathway to a secure and stable economic future that is extolled by so many as being the prize of higher education.

Stop denying a middle class existence for part-time faculty through the publication of factually incorrect information.  The public has a right to know.


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