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Paperback | $18.00 Short | £12.95 | ISBN: 9780262515986 | 208 pp. | 6 x 9 in | 8 figures, 1 table| January 2011

Essential Info

Off-Track Profs

Nontenured Teachers in Higher Education


Much attention has been paid to the increasing proportion of non-tenure-track faculty—adjuncts, lecturers, and others—in American higher education. Critics charge that universities exploit "contingent faculty" and graduate students, engaging in a type of bait and switch to attract applicants (advertising institutional standing based on distinguished faculty who seldom teach undergraduates), and as a result provide undergraduates with an inadequate educational experience. This book, by two experienced academic administrators, investigates the expanding role of part-time and non-tenure-track instructors in ten elite research universities and the consequences of this trend for the quality of the educational experience, the functioning of the university, and the excellence of the academic environment.

The authors discover, to their surprise, that the existing data on the workforce in higher education is ambiguous (different institutions use different terms for non-tenure track instructors; some even omit them from faculty data reports), making comparisons suspect. Many academic administrators are unaware of the tenured/nontenured breakdown of their own faculties and the hiring practices of their own universities. The authors look closely at the teaching workforce at Berkeley, Illinois, Michigan, Virginia, Washington, Cornell, Duke, MIT, Northwestern, and Washington University, believing that these outstanding universities provide a strong test case of resistance to pressures on the traditional tenure system. They describe hiring trends and what drives them, explain why they matter if we want to improve undergraduate education, support collegiality on campus, trust in academic governance, prevent the erosion of tenure, and preserve America's global leadership in higher education.

About the Authors

John G. Cross is Senior Vice President for Administration and Finance at Bloomfield College.

Edie N. Goldenberg is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the University of Michigan and Director of the University's Michigan in Washington Program.


"Off Track Profs is a 'must read' for anyone interested in the growing use of non-tenure-track faculty at major universities and the implications of this growth for collective bargaining in higher education, for the quality of undergraduate education, for the future supply of new PhDs in academia, for academic decision making, for governance, and for the tenure system."
Ronald G. Ehrenberg, Director, Cornell Higher Education Research Institute

"Cross and Goldenberg convincingly demonstrate that, despite the best of intentions, university budgetary systems have ratcheted up reliance on off-track faculty in even the most prestigious universities. They then explain the need for more careful consideration of the consequences for undergraduate and graduate instruction and the clear threats to academic governance and academic freedom that threaten to derail the universities along with the faculty."
Ernst Benjamin, Former Secretary General, American Association of University Professors

"One of the most critical issues facing today's university is the rapid growth in the use of non-tenure-track faculty in undergraduate instruction, now exceeding 50% in many institutions. Cross and Goldenberg's book provides not only a thorough documentation of this trend, but, more significantly, addresses why it occurs and what should be done about it. It should be required reading not only by academic leaders and governing board members, but as well by those concerned with higher education policy and the future of the American university."
James J. Duderstadt, President Emeritus and University Professor of Science and Engineering, University of Michigan

"Quietly, one decentralized hiring decision at a time, the shape of the faculty in research universities is undergoing a revolution, as academic appointments off the tenure track proliferate. While some see this trend as driven solely by financial stress, the authors of this subtle and nuanced volume describe a more complex process, involving increased specialization of faculty roles. They raise all the right questions about how to evaluate this shift away from the tenured teacher-scholar model, and what this movement may portend for academic freedom, educational quality, and undergraduate teaching. Faculty members, department chairs, deans, provosts, presidents, and Board members will find this slender volume both thought-provoking and disturbing."
David W. Breneman, University Professor and Director, BA/MPP program in Public Policy, Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, University of Virginia

"This important book examines the unexamined and often hidden secret about American research universities todaythe increasing portion of undergraduate education that is provided by non-tenure-track faculty. This is not a muckraking book by outsiders who don't understand the academy; it is a serious analysis by respected administrators. It does not seek to return to some long-lost golden age. Recognizing that non tenure-track faculty 'have become an essential resource for research-intensive campuses,' Cross and Goldenberg call upon administrators to develop more robust management information systems that enable universities to make conscious and thoughtful decisions about who teaches what to whom and for what reason. Presidents, provosts, and deans who care about planning for a healthy balance between research and teaching in their universities should read this book."
Robert M. Berdahl, President, Association of American Universities