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COMMENTARY

The Drift to Temporary Faculty at Miami

By Britton J. Harwood, English

A report last year by the Miami budget office, unpublicized because the administration considers it a quick, possibly incomplete sketch, documents the loss of tenure-track teaching at Oxford. In fall 1995, continuing faculty (that is, tenured or tenure-track) taught 62.2 percent of all sections. By fall 1998, the continuing faculty had shrunk by 32 and did 13.2 percent less of the teaching.

The loss may have continued. This August, President Garland pointed to 48 tenure-track hires for the three campuses. But continuing faculty at Oxford had been cut by another 22 for 1999-2000, and faculty also retired or resigned at the end of that year. We have no report yet on how far the 48 have moved us back towards 1995 levels.

Part-timers or GAs/TAs have not replaced continuing faculty. These already did 32 percent of Oxford teaching in fall 1995, a portion unchanged in 1998 and already at the average for four-year institutions across the nation. Rather, full-time faculty off the tenure track multiplied by 51.3 percent (121 in fall 1998).

Some in this cadre, who receive benefits and better wages than part-timers, may be well satisfied. Many may not. People do not earn the Ph.D. to seek a series of untenurable jobs. Full-time temporaries typically have lower salaries than tenure-track people and get less research support. Only "continuing faculty," for instance, may receive Committee on Faculty Research grants. Temporaries are generally left out of University governance. The Faculty Assembly excludes them.

Where tenure-track faculty are highly mentored, temporaries must usually fend for themselves. If they must move on, they can hardly involve themselves with our students long term. If, to the contrary, they want and can get another Miami contract, they may be vulnerable to pressure for high grades. People here in these substandard positions are disproportionately women: 48.9 percent in 1997-98, where just 28.9 percent of the continuing faculty were women.

A certain number of temporary faculty, including post-docs, are surely necessary or desirable. But good reasons for them did not burst on the scene in 1995.

No Fiscal Necessity

Miami’s priorities can be tested by the way it uses its Unrestricted Educational and General (E&G) operating income, composed overwhelmingly of state subsidy, student fees, and out-of-state tuition. From 1995-1996 to 1998-99, while the continuing faculty shrank, E&G income rose 20.6 percent at Oxford (to $197.6 million). Where did expenditures lag behind this increase?

The category "Instruction" includes faculty compensation and other departmental outlays, like support staff salaries, supplies, and shares of some $6 million in MCIS costs. In 1995-96, Instruction was allocated 49.4 percent of E&G income. By 1998-99, this had fallen to 46.3 percent, and Instruction had lost $6.1 million in support. Faculty salaries could have been raised to the AAUP average for public doctorals with just $1.6 million of this lost money. No corner need have been cut with temporary faculty.

Where did the money go? Technology answers the question only in part, since much of its cost was paid from Instruction, which had been proportionally reduced. The deans’ offices and other "Academic Support" outstripped the 20.6 percent rise in E&G income with a 30 percent increase, mostly because $3.7 million for the administrative computing project were assigned to this category. "Scholarships and fellowships" were wisely raised by 48 percent.

But student services, even grounds maintenance retained more of their 1995-96 share than Instruction. The central administration slightly enlarged its own slice. And the subsidy to intercollegiate athletics was boosted 33.8 percent (to $6.7 million). Of the balance, an appreciable part of 1998-99 E&G income was simply reserved.

Separate from our endowment, two major reserves — the "Allocated Fund Balances" and the "quasi-endowments" — have been accumulated from public money (E&G income) over the years. The $30.7 million there in June 1996 had become $65.3 million by June 1999. While canny investing and the bull market surely helped the "quasi-endowments," a new $9 million was added from public money in June 1999 alone. Reserves fill good and necessary roles. One may doubt, nonetheless, that they should be built ever higher by giving an ever narrower portion of our income to Instruction.

Shared Governance

This August, with his usual, admirable eloquence, President Garland plumped for the tradition of shared governance. I believe him. Thus, I assume the reduction of continuing faculty derives substantially from decentralized decision making and our common inattention — not because someone said in 1995 (forgetting to tell the faculty), "Look. Of full-time faculty in public doctoral universities across the nation right now, only 80.3 percent are tenured or tenure-track. Here at Miami it’s 89.8 percent. We don’t have to do that well. We can use the money for something else!"

However this reduction happened, we who hold tenure at Oxfords should be ashamed if we ignore the situation of our temporary colleagues. Or the situation on the regional campuses. Hamilton and Middletown now rely more heavily on part-time faculty than all but a dozen of the 44 two-year campuses in Ohio. Someone on a regional campus should write about conditions there.

Date Published: 11/30/2000
Volume: 20   Number: 17

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