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Being a College Professor: What Will be the “New Normal”?

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Content originally published on data180.com. Learn more about Interfolio’s acquisition of Data180 here.

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The culture of being a traditional college professor is under pressure from a variety of fronts — stagnating wages, diminishing of tenure-track positions, and an increase of political scrutiny.  As a result, colleges and universities would do well to remember the importance of their faculty members and take steps to preserve the integrity of the professoriate within academe, according to an essay published in October 2014 by Inside Higher Ed.

The essay, “Forgetting the Faculty,” was written by Philip G. Altbach and Martin G. Finkelstein. Altbach is a research professor and director of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College; Finkelstein is professor of higher education at Seton Hall University.

The discussion details a number of ways the traditional culture of being a faculty member has been undermined by the “unbundling” of faculty responsibilities and the increased reliance on part-time, adjunct and non-tenured instructors. The authors cite studies showing that faculty members’ satisfaction and loyalty to their institutions have dropped significantly in the past 10-15 years. They also point to data showing that faculty salaries have lagged inflation and have yet to recover from the 2008 recession.

Furthermore, they say, major research universities have begun a dangerous two-tiered system in which tenure is offered only to top researchers, while faculty members with heavier teaching loads are subject to annual contract renewals.

Altbach and Finkelstein argue that in order to reduce the negative impact of these trends on the educational community, schools must begin to focus more on attracting top talent into their faculty ranks.

“Rather than constantly squeezing the professoriate and trying to ensure maximum productivity in narrowly defined areas — and ultimately blaming the professoriate for the ever-expanding list of the university system’s shortcomings — the focus should be on how to lure the best and brightest into academe, and how to create an attractive career for those who choose what used to be termed the ‘academic calling,’” they write.

Altbach and Finkelstein give several recommendations for achieving this goal. These include a return to the traditional tenure system; salaries that afford a middle-class lifestyle; strengthening of shared governance; and less reliance on part-time instructors.

The full essay from Inside Higher Ed is available here: https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/10/07/essay-way-many-reformers-higher-education-are-ignoring-faculty-role

Content originally published on data180.com. Learn more about Interfolio’s acquisition of Data180 here.