Three Faculty Communities: Academic Labor across Institutional Types.
By John S. Levin
Three distinct perspectives. Three types of institutions. Three academic communities. This is the disparate reality of full-time academic labor in public institutions of higher education in the United States.
As more and more reports on US higher education point to deteriorating conditions for faculty members and threats to their professional status, those of us who teach in colleges and universities need to undertake a detailed examination of faculty work and identity. An accurate understanding of academic labor is critical, as the claims about us can shape both policy and practice.
Notwithstanding efforts to encapsulate US academic labor—college and university faculty—in one aggregated understanding, as education professors Jack Schuster and Martin Finkelstein did in their book The American Faculty, the academic community is in fact a number of communities. These communities are best conceptualized by looking at the missions and purposes of their institutional types. The exception to this conceptualization is likely those who work part time: their labor has much in common across institutional types, with teaching as their principal activity and research and service as nonexistent or negligible. Full-time nontenure- track faculty constitute another occupational class outside the traditional notion of the academic community. For full-time faculty, a category that at many institutions includes full-time non-tenure-track faculty, the institutional context shapes behaviors and reinforces attitudes and values. In other words, full-time faculty conform to their institutional context and adopt the professional identity that characterizes their institution: research institutions are sustained by knowledge developers, comprehensive universities by knowledge disseminators, and community colleges by knowledge applicators.
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