Making Progress Together:

A Plan for Improving the Employment Conditions, Compensation, and Effectiveness of Nontenure-Track Instructional Faculty at the University of Oregon
May 2004 report to the University Senate by the Committee on the Status of Nontenure-Track Instructional Faculty

Greg McLauchlan, co-chair
Kassia Dellabough, co-chair
Committee members:
Bob Bussel, Labor Education and Research Center; Georgeanne Cooper, Academic Learning Services; Robert Davis, Romance Languages; Kassia Dellabough, Academic Advising; Alison Evans, American English Institute; Greg McLauchlan, Sociology; Carl Steifbold, Biology; Rick Troxel, Exercise and Movement Science; Jonah Lee, Student Member


In its May 2002 report to the University Senate, the Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Status of Nontenure-Track Instructional Faculty (hereafter NTTIF Committee) clearly laid out the challenges and mandate before us:

While higher education today faces a number of challenges, none is more pressing than the increasing numbers of faculty members serving colleges and universities without the protections of the tenure system. The drop in public support and simultaneous increase in public demand for higher education has created untenable pressures not only at the University of Oregon but nationwide. Institutions have responded to the resulting budget shortfalls and enrollment pressures by increasing the number of nontenure-track and/or part-time instructional faculty. While this development is often discussed as part of an attack on tenure itself the situation and working conditions of nontenure-track instructional faculty are of concern in themselves and require consideration. (p. 1) and the committee continued:

Committee members wish to make clear at the outset that the NNTIF are not a ``problem"; they are valuable, experienced, and professional colleagues. What is problematic is that this cadre of colleagues is doing a large part of the front-line teaching and yet do not have equal access to the facilities and services of the institution. (p. 2)
NTTIF at the University of Oregon constitute about one-half of the instructional faculty, and teach about 40% of our undergraduate student credit hours. The NTTIF is a diverse group of workers in terms of level and type of appointment, but clearly UO NTTIF perform an essential part of the University's teaching mission and their work is critical to the success of the University.

In its first three years of work the NTTIF Committee has compiled an in-depth archive of information: about the demographics of the NTTIF labor force; about hiring, promotion, and employment policies relating to NTTIF across UO departments; about how UO NTTIF evaluate their employment conditions, compensation, and teaching roles; and about national policy debates and reform efforts at specific universities involving nontenure-track instructional faculty.

For a full picture of these issues, this year's NTTIF Committee report should be seen as a continuation of the Committee's two previous reports (both available on the Committee's website, and included as appendices here), and the reader new to these issues will gain valuable understanding by consulting these documents.

Yet we want to emphasize that we are at a crossroads, and it is time to move from study to policy action and implementation. In Part II of this report, the NTTIF Committee recommends 22 specific policy initiatives that the UO can begin to undertake to improve the working conditions, effectiveness, and compensation of NTTIF-and that we believe will significantly strengthen the University's faculty and our ability to perform our collective mission.

We propose to work with the Senate, administration, Deans and Department Heads in the coming months to refine and no doubt add to our policy recommendations, in anticipation of a final list of recommendations coming before the Senate for discussion and adoption in the fall of 2004. We also recognize that one of the strengths of the University as an institution is its commitment to faculty governance and relative autonomy of departments and units, and our policy recommendations are in many cases crafted broadly in the form of guidelines that can be crafted to suit the specific needs of individual units.


In this section we present a summary of some of the key findings of the committee from its work over the last three years. The findings are organized thematically by topic-referring to the kinds of policies and institutional innovations the UO can undertake to improve the status of its nontenure-track instructional faculty. We focus on five themes:

  • The Need for a Well-Informed and Integrated Instructional Faculty
  • The Need for an Institution-Wide Approach and ``Best Practices"
  • Creating Better Jobs for a More Effective Instructional Faculty
  • Moving Toward Greater Fairness and Equity in Compensation
  • Creating a Culture of Inclusion and Respect
  • Our findings are based on several sources: data compiled by the committee over the last three years (and reported in previous annual reports) based on national surveys and published sources; interviews with UO NTTIF, department heads, and administrators; and an extensive web-based survey of NTTIF at UO conducted by the committee in spring 2003. A analysis of survey results was provided by Vik Gumbhir of OSRL to the committee in December (see Appendix A), and the committee devoted significant time during fall and winter terms to discussing the results and incorporating these into our policy recommendations.

    Of 364 NTTIF contacted in the 2003 survey, 161 responded for a response rate of 44%. While this response rate slightly missed the number of interviews (n=187) to be considered representative of the population, the survey nevertheless provides useful information about NTTIF at UO. In particular, we note that 42% of survey respondents have taught at UO longer than seven years, while 69% of those surveyed have taught 3 years or longer. Additionally, 52% of respondents taught on average 17 or more credit hours per year, and 70% had either year-long or two-year contracts. It would be reasonable to surmise that the survey results are weighted toward that group of NTTIF for whom the UO is their full-time or primary career commitment and who have a long-term relationship with the University.

    The survey contained 57 questions and covered topics including:

  • Characteristics of teaching assignments
  • Hiring practices and employment conditions
  • Salary, benefits, and appointment information
  • Satisfaction with salary process, benefits, and employment conditions
  • Evaluation of teaching environment and professional development opportunities
  • 1. The Need for A Well-Informed and Integrated Instructional Faculty

    We were struck with how many NTTIF responded with the answer ``don't know" to important questions such as how salaries and raises were determined, whether salaries were fair in terms of comparison among those with roughly equal qualifications, and whether certain resources were available, such as funding to attend scholarly conferences. Nearly one-third (30%) of NTTIF indicated that they did not know the basis upon which their own pay raises were determined, while a similar number (35%) had no basis for judging whether salaries were comparable among those in their department with more or less equal qualifications.

    The responses to these and other questions are perhaps symptomatic of the general situation many NTTIF find themselves in, both locally and nationally. They indicate a substantial part of the instructional faculty lacks an orientation to, and awareness of, some of the basic processes and conditions of employment in the University.

    Thus, one of the overarching goals of the committee's work-and of our policy recommendations-is to facilitate a University-wide process of providing useful information to NTTIF, and to departments. We also call attention to the ongoing work by the Office of Academic Affairs which has been working with the committee and is in the process of updating the Faculty Manual regarding NTTIF policy at the UO. We believe having a well-informed and well-integrated instructional faculty will clearly benefit individual instructors and the University community as a whole.

    2. The Need for an Institution-Wide Approach and ``Best Practices"

    A second theme is the wide variation in the conditions of employment of NTTIF, and department level practices and procedures, across departments and units. For example, the percentages of NTTIF who report having received a teaching assignment on short notice vary from a low of 20-22% in the natural sciences, education, and music programs, to highs of 56% in humanities and 67% in journalism. Similarly, in response to the question ``I am satisfied with the timeliness of my contract renewal", the responses range from highs of 50% in the natural sciences, AAA, and music programs, to a low of 17% in the college of business. Moreover, we note a significant gender difference in the reporting of late notice of teaching assignments, with three times the number of women (9%) than men (3%) reporting receiving short notice of assignments three or more times.

    We recognize there are structural reasons for short notice of teaching assignments in some programs, for example with courses that are enrollment dependent for being offered. And contract renewals are sometimes dependent on budgetary uncertainties that are not clarified until late in the year.

    Yet even considering these factors, that a 50% satisfaction rate on timeliness of renewal represents the high point in a range of scores that goes considerably below this is troubling. It contributes to the perception that NTTIF are regarded as ``contingent" faculty-even those who have served for many years and who can reasonably expect their contracts to be renewed. We should be mindful of the costs of late notice in contracts and course assignments-to instructional faculty who must adjust their lives, family responsibilities, and finances on short notice, and to the teaching environment, where the quality of the teaching and learning experience can be compromised if there is inadequate time for course preparation.

    We believe there is room for progress here. After surveying departments about their NTTIF hiring and employment practices, and interviewing a number of department managers about these in detail (see NTTIF committee reports for 2002 and 2003), it became evident that the wide variation in such practices across campus has much to do with differing department histories and cultures-and the fact that many departments simply do not have adequate written policies governing hiring and employment conditions of NTTIF. For example, of 41 UO units canvassed about NTTIF policies in 2001-02, only 7 reported having written policies relating to employment of NTTIF, while 31 units reported having no written policies.

    In the absence of such policies, there can be a ``just in time" nature to NTTIF hiring and teaching notification, a lack of foresight and planning by department heads and administrators, and an ad hoc quality from an institutional standpoint regarding employment conditions of NTTIF. Thus, a central aim of our policy recommendations below is to move toward an institution-wide approach that requires all departments and units to develop comprehensive, written policies for their NTTIF hiring and employment practices.

    The development of such policies across the entire institution will be a wise investment: it will improve the morale and efficiency of NTTIF; it will save time and avoid confusion when departments change heads and new administrators are hired; it will add predictability and transparency to University and department level policies; it will improve the overall teaching environment.

    To aid departments in the development of NTTIF policy, the committee is working with the Office of Academic Affairs to develop a webpage including examples of ``best practices" currently in use by UO departments and units. The idea is that in many cases these can be readily adopted, or modified, to suit the needs of departments that still need to develop such policies.

    3. Creating Better Jobs For a More Effective Instructional Faculty

    A third theme that emerges in the UO NTTIF survey, and in numerous discussions of the situation of NTTIF nationally in periodicals such as the Chronicle of Higher Education and publications by the AAUP and AFT, has to do with issues of job security, recognition of service, and professional development opportunities. Fully one-half of UO respondents answered ``no" and another one-quarter ``neutral" to the question ``I am satisfied with my level of job security". And less than one-third of NTTIF agree that ``My years of service have been recognized in my reappointment". Furthermore, 37% of NTTIF indicate they would accept a larger teaching assignment if offered (in a sample likely weighted toward NTTIF with higher FTEs to begin with), indicating significant underemployment among UO NTTIF.

    By definition, the term ``Non-tenure-track instructional faculty" refers to a class of academic workers who do not enjoy the lifetime job security of tenured faculty members. But this has not always been the case for all faculty who have primarily teaching appointments; for example in some departments there has been a system of evaluation and promotion of senior instructors to tenured status after six years. Additionally, there are many ways in which a teaching career at the UO can involve mutual commitments between the institution and its faculty that provide greater job security, a more stable workforce, more professional development opportunities, and higher productivity by instructional faculty.

    For example, one of the committee's findings from interviews and a large base of anecdotal evidence is that there are few formal professional development opportunities provided to NTTIF, including for those who are at or near full-time status and who serve for many years. Instead of a system involving systematic review of NTTIF performance that is coupled with regularized opportunities for step increases, merit pay, and seniority status-comparable to the periodic review process of tenure-track faculty-it appears that most NTTIF receive few if any of these opportunities. And again, the variation across departments in these arenas appears to be a result of departmental history and culture, with a few departments offering at least limited opportunities here and taking a more systematic approach.

    A number of our policy recommendations are designed to improve the professional development opportunities for NTTIF. For example, we propose that departments establish a probationary period for new NTTIF after which they are reviewed and, if successful, achieve seniority status in future hiring. We believe these and related new policies will promote a work environment that is fair and that offers more opportunities for advancement and long-term commitment by instructional faculty to the UO. Such policies should also enable the University to successfully recruit and retain the most qualified instructional faculty from a wider network of applicants, and should add to the stability and retention of the UO NTTIF work force.

    4. Moving Toward Greater Fairness and Equity in Compensation

    It will surprise no-one to say that the issue of salary and benefits looms large for NTTIF. Nationally, the growing bifurcation in the faculty labor force between a tenured and tenure-track section that is relatively well-paid with comprehensive benefits, and a non-tenured section that is paid considerably less with fewer benefits, is well-documented. The University of Oregon mirrors the national trend in this respect.

    The committee would reinforce the assessment of other bodies such as the AAUP and AFT regarding the corrosive consequences of this trend for higher education. On the one hand, with the increase in a low-paid contingent labor force the institution of tenure, and ultimately the academic freedom on which it is based, is threatened. At the same time, the significant shift in teaching responsibilities to a NTTIF labor force has begun to re-define the meaning of the university teaching profession, and the career paths of Ph.D. recipients in an increasing number of fields, in a way that makes a university teaching and research career less attractive to future cohorts of graduate students.

    Thus, we would emphasize here that while the quantitative issue of financial compensation (compensation is defined as salary plus benefits) of NTTIF is important in its own right, it is also linked to efforts to improve other aspects of the status and job characteristics of NTTIF within the University. The issues of compensation, hiring and employment standards, and professional development opportunities are parts of a larger whole. We think coordinated progress in all three arenas, and narrowing of the gap between NTTIF and tenure track faculty, will be beneficial to the entire instructional faculty and to the University.

    The 2003 survey of NTTIF gathered limited salary data because more accurate and comprehensive data is available from the UO Office of Resource Management. Given that any survey is going to have a response rate that is significantly below 100%, and that we don't know the salary characteristics of non-respondents, it is far more reliable to use institution-wide data. For a broader picture of salary data for UO NTTIF, we refer the reader to Appendices A-F of the 2003 NTTIF committee report. Here we briefly summarize several salient features of the NTTIF employment and compensation situation; then we indicate the committee's recommendations for moving forward (all data from Office of Resource Management summaries provided to the committee unless indicated otherwise):

    The NTTIF Committee has taken several steps this year to make progress in the salary and compensation area. In March 2000 the Senate Budget Committee wrote a ``White Paper" titled ``A Plan for Sustained Competitive Parity in Instructional Faculty Compensation". The plan, developed jointly with the administration and endorsed by the Senate, calls for an ongoing effort to raise the average salaries of UO instructional faculty to a level of 95% of our eight OUS comparator institutions. While the White Paper was a plan to improve salaries for all instructional faculty, NTTIF were not included in the first phase of implementation, in part due to the fact there appeared to be no systematic data or method of comparison of NTTIF salary levels to those of the other institutions.

    In the first two years of implementation of the White Paper process, TTF salary levels did in fact make modest progress vis a vis our comparators, though with the Oregon budget crisis of the last two years and disinvestment in higher education we have seen some backsliding or stagnation more recently. NTTIF salaries were not the focus in this period of an institution-wide effort in the same respect, and according to the Senate Budget Committee (May 2004 report) salary levels of this group have fallen, both in relation to comparator institutions and in relation to UO TTF salaries.

    In 2004 the NTTIF and Senate Budget Committees formed a joint subcommittee to address the NTTIF salary issue and revisit the question of a creating a systematic mechanism for tracking and improving NTTIF salaries over time. After a careful analysis of the language and provisions of the 2000 White Paper (which is still in effect), the subcommittee agreed to recommend to the NTTIF Committee, and SBC, that a significant section of NTTIF be brought into the ``White Paper" process, i.e. that there be a systematic, institution-wide effort to track NTTIF salary averages and bring these up to the 95% level of comparator institutions.

    Several issues still need to be ironed out by the NTTIF committee, SBC, and administration before such an effort can be finalized and come before the Senate for endorsement.

    First, because the White Paper process is based on a comparative process that seeks to compare total compensation levels (salary and benefits), and because the basis of such comparison is based on comparing classes of faculty with roughly equivalent instructional appointments, the NTTIF/SBC subcommittee suggested that the group of UO NTTIF to be included in the White Paper process consist of those who are employed at .5 FTE and above (on a yearly basis) and who have three years of service at the UO. The NTTIF committee, and joint subcommittee, both feel this is a reasonable threshold: it includes all regular NTTIF who have made a significant career commitment to the UO and for whom the UO has likewise made a commitment, both over time and in terms of significant resources (e.g. benefits). The .5 threshold allows for cases where NTTIF might teach, for example, at .8 or 1.0 FTE for several years, but drop down to .6 for a year due to family circumstances, or because of a temporary budgetary shortfall.

    Second, we still have to identify a reliable method of comparison of salary averages of the group defined above with those of NTTIF at comparator institutions. The subcommittee will continue to work with the Office of Resource Management and administration over the spring and into the first of the fall term with the aim of arriving at a method of tracking NTTIF salary levels. This might be in relation to reasonably well-defined groups at comparator institutions, or it might be that we would track UO NTTIF salaries vis a vis UO TTF salary levels (which are subject to systematic comparison with our comparator institutions) as a proxy in case there is a lack of data for direct comparison of NTTIF salaries across institutions.

    Third, this still leaves the issue of progress on compensation for NTTIF teaching below .5 FTE. We think this will require additional kinds of data and methods of comparison. For example, many faculty in this category are paid on a per-course basis, and such pay levels vary greatly across departments at the UO, and comparison with other institutions would no doubt be difficult due to issues of differential credit hours, course workloads and job descriptions, etc. Furthermore, many adjunct instructors who teach one or several courses per year on a per course basis are individuals with careers outside the UO that are their main source of income (in some cases with salary levels substantially higher than UO's), and many such individuals teach as a public service or because it offers professional benefits, contacts, etc. We are not suggesting here that compensation issues for this group (NTTIF below .5 FTE) can be ignored or deferred, or that we should take advantage of the fact that some in this group don't rely on the UO for a significant part of their income.

    We simply indicate that a number of different policy considerations may come into play when addressing this diverse group of NTTIF. Members of the committee are well aware, for example, that in some if not many units the per-course compensation level has stayed the same for many years, and we suspect that over a longer time period the secular trend has seen a decline in compensation for NTTIF teaching as adjuncts, which does not bode well for the objectives of improving quality of recruitment and instruction, and basic issues of fairness. While many of the committee's policy recommendations in this report address hiring, work conditions, and other concerns of adjunct NTTIF, in the coming year the committee will focus its attention on salary and compensation issues.

    5. Creating a Culture of Inclusion and Respect

    As University of Oregon faculty, whether tenure-related or non-tenure instructional faculty, we share a common mission as ``a community of scholars dedicated to the highest standards of academic inquiry, learning and service". The University Mission Statement continues by emphasizing the faculty's ``commitment to undergraduate education, with the goal of helping the individual learn to question critically, think logically, communicate clearly, act creatively, and live ethically".

    Yet for many faculty-both tenure-related and NTTIF-the concept of a true community of scholars seems to be one that is at best only partially realized. We have not escaped the national trend, which has evolved toward a two-tier faculty and a two-tier system of instruction, where tenure-related faculty are focused largely on research and graduate instruction, while an increasing share of undergraduate instruction has been taken over by NTTIF. The real issue here from our point of view is not one of a division of labor-it is instead one of bridging a division within our community of scholars.

    One of our most troubling findings is summarized in a comment by a faculty member in the qualitative section of the 2003 survey:

    The worst part of being a non-tenure track faculty member is the utter disrespect from tenure-track faculty. It's discouraging to be treated as a second-class citizen after many years of a successful professional career (p. 88).

    Another respondent commented:

    What kind of representation do the NTTIF have? I understand that as an NTTIF I am not a voting member of the UO faculty. Why not? I find myself increasingly frustrated by the low pay, heavy workload, and [lack of] representation of NTTIF (p. 89).

    In short, the view that NTTIF at the University of Oregon are not regarded with the respect, and do not have opportunities for participation and status, as ``full" members of a university's faculty, seems to be fairly widespread.

    We do not have systematic survey data measuring this perception (and reality), but the evidence we have from numerous sources-interviews, experiences in departments of committee members, not to mention the large literature on the subject in relation to the academy at large-leads us to conclude that we can do better in creating a faculty culture, and institutional processes, that are inclusive and that will foster the creation of a broader university community.

    Again, we note a large variance in practices across campus here, for example in how well NTTIF are integrated into department decision-making. For example, among all survey respondents only 31% of NTTIF agreed with the statement ``I have a say in department decisions", while 57% responded either ``disagree" or ``neutral" to that question. Yet some departments regularly invite NTTIF to meetings, and include NTTIF in certain aspects of decision-making. For example, only 4% of humanities, and 10% and 12% of AAA and Journalism NTTIF indicated they were not invited to department meetings. But in the natural sciences and social sciences, this figure was 43% and 58% respectively.

    Our specific policy recommendations include ones designed to create a stronger faculty community and help bridge some of the gaps in the instructional division of labor. We propose for example that ``Departments should develop policies to include NTTIF in departmental decision-making, and should strive to include NTTIF in the departmental culture". In many cases, we can make major progress here simply by opening our dialogue to a larger group of colleagues, and by being mindful of the benefits of inclusion amidst the pressures of a hectic work schedule and time-pressures.



    All departments and units should have comprehensive, published policies detailing their NTTIF hiring practices. Such policies should, at minimum, include the following elements:


    NTTIF make a substantial contribution to the educational mission of the University of Oregon. Policies should be developed that extend opportunities for professional development to NTTIF and that implement humane, ``best practices" in employment standards. Such policies should include the following:

  • 1. Inclusion in Faculty Governance. Because NTTIF represent a significant percentage of University of Oregon teaching faculty and are essential to maintaining the high quality of education and fulfilling the University's mission, NTTIF should have representation and voting rights in the University of Oregon Senate. We recommend that during 2004-05 the committee work with the Senate leadership and the administration to develop a proposal for NTTIF representation in the Senate.

  • References

    1. American Association of University Professors. 2003. ``Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession". www.aaup.org
    2. American Federation of Teachers. 2002. ``Standards of Good Practice in the Employment of Part-Time/ Adjunct Faculty". www.aft.org/higher_ed
    3. Gumbhir, Vikas. 2003. ``NTTIF Survey Report: Summary of Results of March 2003 Survey of University of Oregon Nontenure-track Faculty". (December, 101pp.)
    4. University of Oregon Committee on the Status of Nontenure-track Instructional Faculty. 2003. ``2003 Report of the NTTIF Committee" (May). (on the Senate web page)
    5. University of Oregon Senate Ad Hoc Committee on the Status of Nontennure-track Instructional Faculty. 2002. ``2002 Report of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee" (May). (on the Senate web page)
    6. University of Oregon Senate Budget Committee. 2000. ``University Senate Budget Committee White Paper: A Plan for Sustained Competitive Parity in Instructional Faculty Compensation" (March). (on the Senate web page)


    Gumbhir, Vikas. 2003. ``NTTIF Survey Report: Summary of Results of March 2003 Survey of University of Oregon Nontenure-track Faculty". (December, 101pp.) 

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