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Rhetoric Society of America - Statement Regarding Contingent Faculty

RSA Statement Regarding Contingent Faculty

On Thursday, May 31, the Board of Directors of the Rhetoric Society of America met to discuss the business of the Society. At that meeting, the Board entertained a report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Contingent Faculty, chaired by Glen McClish. Immediate Past-President Greg Clark commissioned the committee in early 2018 to investigate the needs and interests of non-tenure track faculty in rhetorical studies.

The ad hoc committee, composed of Glen McClish, Diane Davis, Lisa Flores, Greg Clark, and Ron Green, provided its findings to the Board and recommended the approval of a statement that recognized the crucial role that these faculty play in fulfilling the missions of our departments. The RSA Board of Directors voted unanimously to support the statement that appears below. A copy will be placed on the Society's website, and we encourage individuals and departments to use it as they discuss the employment terms and expectations of contingent faculty.

I thank the committee for its work and commend the statement to your attention.


Kirt Wilson
RSA President

RSA Statement on Contingent Faculty

Current trends in higher education in the United States have resulted in increasing turns away from a predominant emphasis on the hiring of tenure-line faculty and toward growing reliance on contingent faculty, including part-time adjuncts, full-time instructors and lecturers, and graduate assistants. Across many—if not most—institutions, the practices and procedures, both formal and informal, pertaining to the hiring and employment of contingent faculty differ from those of tenure-line faculty, with contingent faculty typically facing issues of equity and insecurity. Given both the growing centrality of contingent faculty and the considerable evidence of inequity, the Rhetoric Society of America advances this statement.

Policies concerning the rights and working conditions of contingent faculty are highly dependent upon local conditions. State laws, as well as institutional and department rules and traditions, significantly shape the hiring, evaluation, and retention of all faculty, as well as their day-to-day working conditions. Therefore, the Rhetoric Society of America's Statement on Contingent Faculty sets forth a series of general recommendations based on disciplinary understandings of rhetorical pedagogy, best practices, collegiality, and fairness/equity, with an understanding that local laws, policies, and differences in expectations necessarily militate against uniformity and require flexibility.

Class size: Departments should maintain manageable enrollment caps on writing and public speaking/argumentation classes, which because of significant grading loads and unusually high contact hours with students are inherently labor intensive. Following the Conference on College Composition and Communication's guidelines, we recommend no more than 20 students per college writing course and no more than 15 per basic writing class. Likewise, we recommend no more than 22 students per public speaking course. We note that although the issue of class size in writing and public speaking courses is relevant to all college teachers including graduate student instructors, contingent faculty are particularly burdened by overly large classes because they are typically assigned a disproportionate number of these labor intensive courses.

Multiclass and multiyear contracts: Departments should award contingent faculty with successful teaching records multiple-class contracts (with health benefits) when classes are available. Furthermore, they should be provided with full-time contracts whenever possible, which will enable them to avoid the practice of freeway flying cobbling together multiple part-time positions at multiple institutions. Freeway flying is an unsustainable practice, both environmentally and personally. In addition, RSA urges institutions to provide successful contingent faculty with multiyear contracts with transparent review and evaluation processes and timely contract renewal that enables them to plan their work lives in a manageable fashion. Like multiclass and full-time contracts, multiyear contracts significantly enhance job security for contingent faculty and reduce the likelihood of freeway flying.

Conditions of hire and employment: Departmental practices and procedures for hiring as well as assigning teaching and service responsibilities for contingent faculty should parallel as closely as possible those of tenure-line faculty. It is especially important that the academic freedom of contingent faculty be respected.

Working conditions: Departments should provide contingent faculty with working conditions that facilitate effective instruction and instructor morale, including adequate office space, mail boxes, access to phones, library privileges, and appropriate clerical support. Whether instructors teach one class or a full schedule, they require office space to conference with students, prepare for class, grade student work, and confer with colleagues. In order to maintain pedagogical currency and advance in the field, contingent faculty should be provided reasonable access to professional development opportunities, such as funds for travel related to professional conferences and ongoing research projects.

Summer work and other extra duties: Departments should prioritize qualified contingent faculty over tenure-line faculty for summer teaching assignments and other academic year or summer positions which provide additional pay. Furthermore, departments should develop policies for providing stipends to contingent faculty who assume extra work on behalf of the unit, whether in the summer or during the regular school year.

Professional titles: Universities should consider assigning successful contingent faculty enhanced titles, such as Teaching Professor or Professor of Instruction, when such titles would be more appropriate to the work they actually perform. Wherever possible, such titles should be accompanied by substantive improvements in compensation, job security, working conditions, and/or teaching load. However, even where such improvements are not possible, enhanced titles should be considered wherever they might provide a level of prestige and dignity not inherent in standard titles, such as contingent faculty, lecturer, or adjunct.

Submitted to the RSA Board: 5/1/18
Approved without amendment or revision: 5/31/18

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