Job perceptions of contingent and traditional faculty.
The use of contingent workers has increased in recent years, particularly within the field of higher education. In addition to the use of adjuncts to meet fluctuating demands, many universities have increased the number of full-time faculty not on the tenure-track. Relationships between job satisfaction, perceived organizational support, and quality of exchange relationships among tenured, tenure-track, and contingent faculty were examined. Traditional faculty members reported higher levels of satisfaction and organizational support, however there were few differences in perceptions of the quality of working relationships.
The number of contingent (non-tenure track) faculty has steadily increased over the past decade. Reasons frequently cited for this increase are constrained budgets and the ability to meet fluctuating demands. While the use of contingent faculty provides greater flexibility to university administrations, there have been claims that contingent faculty prefer said status because it offers them flexibility as well. The counter argument to the advantages of short-term cost savings and flexibility is that the working relationships within departments suffer. This study examines reasons for working in contingent positions and explores perceptions of job satisfaction, perceived organizational support, and quality of exchange relationships among tenured, tenure track, and contingent faculty.
Trends in Contingent Employment
The traditional employment relationship has changed over the years as employers in both the public and private sectors have continually increased their use of contingent workers. The term contingent work was introduced by Audrey Freedman in 1985 to describe the technique of utilizing workers based on the demand for services. In 1989 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) introduced a broad definition of contingent workers as "those who do not have an implicit or explicit contract for long-term employment." (Polivka & Nardone, 1989, p.11). Based upon the broadest measurement of contingent employment there were 5.7 million contingent workers in 2005 (BLS, 2005). The increased use of contingent employment is also evident within the field of higher education. According to one BLS analyst (Hipple, 2001), "Of the 621,000 contingent workers with advanced degrees in 1999, 156,000, or 1 in every 4, was employed as a college or university instructor" (p. 11). A report issued by the American Association of University Professors (2003) indicates that a generation ago non-tenure track appointments were rare, accounting for only 3.3% of full-time faculty positions in 1969. In comparison, full-time non-tenure track faculty increased to 28.1% in 1998. Adjunct appointments are even higher--up from 22% in 1970 to 46% of all faculty in 1998 (Schuster, 1998). A comparison of data from the 1993, 1999, and 2004 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty reveals that non-tenure track positions have steadily increased at both two-year and four-year public institutions (see Table 1). See issue website http://www.rapidintellect.com/AEQweb/sum2007.htm
Gender, Race, and Ethnicity of Contingent Faculty
Using data from the 1993 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty; Finkelstein, Seal, and Schuster (1998) found that women have made substantial gains in acquiring faculty positions across institutional types and program areas. Representing 41% of the total new faculty cohort, women accounted for 47.9% of new entries into research universities (an area of previous under-representation) while the new entries of women in liberal arts colleges have gained statistical parity with their male counterparts. While women may have achieved representation in universities, they are still more likely to hold non-tenure track positions.
When gender is considered, female faculty (both new and senior) were more likely to be employed in non-tenure track positions than males. Moreover, the new generation of male faculty was more likely than the new female faculty to have been awarded tenure already (29.1 versus 16.5 percent, respectively). Compared to their senior counterparts, new faculty of both genders were about 17 percent less likely to be on a tenure track (that is, either already tenured or in a tenure-eligible appointment) (p. 29).
Bradburn and Sikora (2002) indicate that as of fall 1998, men were still more likely to hold tenured positions (60%) than women (42 %). According to Parsad and Zimbler (2002), the numbers of female faculty in tenure track positions at four-year institutions has declined from 30% in 1992 to 25% in 1998. An examination of race/ethnicity also provides evidence that minorities are less likely to have tenure status. According to the U.S. Department of Education (2000), racial/ethnic minorities were less likely to have tenure than White faculty. Using data from the 1999 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, Parsad and Zimbler (2002) indicate that the gap has narrowed between most minorities and whites, however, there is still a disparity between African Americans and Whites at 4-year colleges and universities:
Racial/ethnic differences in tenure status changed somewhat between the fall of 1998 and the fall of 1992. Across all postsecondary institutions, whereas White faculty members were more likely than Asians/Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, and Blacks to report having tenure in the fall of 1992 (56 percent vs. 47, 45, and 44 percent, respectively), the tenure gap between Whites and minority groups was significant only for Blacks in the fall of 1998. These patterns held for 4-year but not 2-year institution (p. 18)
Reasons for Working in Contingent Positions
It is commonly assumed that contingent workers maintain their status for short durations; however, many workers have held their contingent status for several years. Within the field of Higher Education the average length of service for full-time, non-tenure track faculty is six years. Based upon data from the 1993 and 1998 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, the American Federation of Teachers (2003) report that one-third of full-time non-tenure track employees had worked in their current position for seven or more years. Whether the increased number and extended length of service in non-tenure track positions is voluntary on the part of the employee or the result of institutional practice is debatable. According to a study by Berger, Kirshstein, and Rowe (2001), between 1993 and 1998, 40% of all institutions implemented policies to reduce the number of full-time faculty. One strategy involves replacing departing or retiring tenured faculty with full-time non-tenure track faculty, 16% of tenure-track replacements were filled with fixed term contracts. Other strategies include downsizing the number of full-time faculty by increasing the course load, the size of classes and offering team taught courses through such methods as online or video courses, or simply reducing the number of courses offered. In contrast, some faculty actually prefer to work in non-tenure track teaching positions, often citing less pressure as a result of lighter research expectations (Fogg, 2004).
Individuals may also have other motives for selecting contingent work ranging from the need to balance the demands of work and family to the desire to gain a new skill or permanent position within the organization. In comparison to voluntary reasons for selecting contingent employment, some workers may experience difficulty obtaining a permanent position due to a poor job market or as a result of limited education and/or experience. Although contingent employment provides flexibility for many workers, there are numerous individuals unable to obtain permanent employment. In 2001, 52% of contingent workers preferred permanent employment (BLS, 2001). By 2005 the number of contingent who preferred permanent employment had increased to 62.7% (BLS, 2005).
Perceptions among Contingent Faculty
While the use of non-tenure track appointments provides a means to meet fluctuating demands under constrained budgets, there is a growing concern within the profession that the disadvantages may outweigh the benefits. This particular study examines job satisfaction, perception of organizational support, and quality of exchange relationships among tenured, tenure-track, and contingent (full-time non-tenure track) faculty members.
Contingent faculty often receive lower pay and benefits than tenured and tenure-track employees. Both adjunct faculty and non-tenure track appointments also experience a lack of job security as a result of working under short-term contracts. Moser (2001) contends that the lack of job security experienced by contingent faculty members severely limits academic freedom in the sense that many avoid controversial discourse for fear of retribution.
H1: Tenured and tenure-track faculty members will report higher levels of overall job satisfaction than full-time non-tenure track faculty members.
Perceived Organizational Support
Contingent faculty may also receive less organizational support than traditional faculty. Perception of an organization's commitment to employees and the extent to which an organization values employees is referred to as perceived organizational support (POS) (Eisenberger, Huntington, Hutchinson, & Sowa, 1986). The Coalition on the Academic Workforce survey (1999) found that many contingent faculty members, particularly adjuncts, have fewer resources at their disposal. Although all departments reported photocopying and library privileges, only 20% provided computer access and office space. The data also suggests that adjunct faculty members are alienated from the department in which they are teaching and from the academic community as a whole (Moser, 2001; Townsend, 2000).
H2: Tenured and tenure-track faculty members will report higher levels of perceived organizational support than full-time non-tenure track faculty members.
Quality of Exchange Relationships
Faculty members hired for the short term have little incentive to foster relationships with students or embrace the long-term educational goals of the university. Furthermore, the increased use of contingent faculty may increase the load of student advising, committee assignments, and university governance to full-time, tenure-eligible or tenured faculty. As a result, the quality of exchange between full-time faculty and contingent faculty may suffer. High quality working relationships have been characterized as "a mutual sense of concern for each other and a sense of responsibility for providing help when needed, and, as a result, they would provide a basis for the expectation of receiving help in return for help provided" (Anderson & Williams, 1996; 283). One might expect that the quality of exchange relationships may also be lower for contingent workers because traditional core employees may feel threatened by the organization's use of contingent workers and therefore are reluctant to provide assistance to those workers.
H3: Tenured and tenure-track faculty members will report a higher quality of exchange relationship than full-time non-tenure track faculty members.
Participants of this study include faculty members employed at a large university in a Mid-Atlantic state that serves a student population slightly over 26,000. The university is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and is classified as a Level VI teaching institution offering four or more Doctoral degrees.
The sampling frame consisted of 503 full-time faculty members classified as either contingent, tenure-track or tenured who had worked at least one year on the academic campus of the university. For purposes of comparison, the use of contingent faculty members in this particular study is limited only to those individuals classified as full-time, non-tenure track. Part-time adjuncts are excluded from this particular study due to the limited opportunities for them to engage in a variety of organizational behaviors on a routine basis. 165 faculty members returned the surveys resulting in a 33% response rate, a reasonable return for mail surveys which average between 20-40% percent with a follow-up (Nachmias & Nachmias, 2000).
Job Satisfaction was measured using the job satisfaction scale provided in the National Studies of Postsecondary Faculty. Perceived Organizational Support was measured using the shortened version of the Survey of Perceived Organizational Support (SPOS) developed by Eisenberger and colleagues (1986). Their scale has been used extensively in other studies on Perceived Organizational Support.
Quality of Exchange Relationship was measured using 3 items (#2, 3, and 7) from Scandura and Graen's (1984) original LMX scale with the language modified to reflect colleagues. The Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Scale measures the quality of exchange relationships between supervisors and subordinates. Conceptualized along the lines of mutual respect, trust, and obligation, it is believed that the dimensions of LMX are also relevant with respect to coworker relationships. Scandura and Graen's (1984) 7 item LMX scale has also been used to measure quality of exchange between team members and co-workers (Anderson & Williams, 1996; Sherony & Green, 2002), with the language of each item slightly modified to reflect colleagues rather than superiors.
Characteristics of Respondents
Forty-eight percent of the respondents were male and 51.6% were female. An examination of tenure status and gender reveals that a higher percentage of male respondents were tenured (56.3%) compared to females (43.8%). A higher percentage of male respondents were also tenure eligible (54.5%) compared to female respondents (45.5%). The most glaring differences between genders were among contingent faculty with males representing 28.6% and females representing 71.4% of contingent positions. The characteristics of the respondents are consistent with previous research that has demonstrated women are less likely than their male counterparts to hold tenure-track positions (see Table 2). See issue website http://www.rapidintellect.com/AEQweb/sum2007.htm
The majority of respondents were white (89%) with only 5% being African American, 3% representing other minorities, and 3% declining to answer. With the exception of the "other minorities" category, the representation of race among respondents is similar to the racial composition of all faculty on the academic campus of the university. Among white respondents, 61.6% were tenured, 12.3% were tenure-track, and 26% were contingent. Among African American respondents 38% were tenured, 25% were tenure-eligible, and 38% were collateral. This is consistent with Parsad and Zimbler's (2002) evidence of a tenure gap between African American and White faculty at 4-year institutions.
Sixty percent of the respondents are tenured, 13.4% are tenure-eligible, and 26.2% are full-time, non-tenure track (contingent). Thirty-seven percent of contingent faculty had taught at the university for 1-3 years and 37.2% had taught at the university for 4-6 years. Surprisingly, the majority of the non-tenure track respondents (56.4%) preferred their contingent status. Respondents categorized as non-tenure track were also asked to select their main reason for accepting contingent work. Twenty-seven percent had selected contingent work hoping that it would lead to a tenure-eligible position, and 14.6% desired to gain teaching experience. Among the other four response categories, 12.4% indicated that it was the only type of work they could find within their field and 12.2% responded that they were unable to acquire a tenure position. Only 2.4% cited monetary reasons as the main reason for selecting contingent employment. Thirty-two percent selected the response category "other" and were asked to list the reason. Although there was not a majority among the reasons cited there were frequent responses. Several respondents reported that they are not qualified for a tenure-eligible position since they did not have a PhD (some are ABD, others had no desire to pursue PhD). A few respondents indicated that they are retired and enjoy teaching. Preference for fewer job duties of collateral position was also cited as reasons for accepting contingent work. Only one person listed flexibility of schedule.
Perception among Faculty Members
Factor analyses were initially conducted for the purpose of data reduction. Principle Component Analysis of the items measuring job satisfaction, perceived organizational support, and quality of exchange relationship resulted in one component for each construct. The ten items measuring job satisfaction resulted in three factors with eigen values greater than 1 accounting for 55.6% of the total variance. The compute function was then used to create three new variables: satisfaction with workload/stay current, satisfaction with job security/opportunity, and satisfaction with total benefits.
The eight items measuring perceived organizational support produced one component that accounted for 67.4% of total variance. Factor loadings for each item ranged from .71 to .89. The three items measuring quality of exchange relationship produced one component which accounted for 66.38% of the total variance. Factor loadings were also high, ranging from .78 to .85. The compute function in SPSS was used to collapse the data and create new variables for each of the components produced through the factor analyses. Items that produced significant factor loadings on each construct were added together to produce a mean value for each case on each new variable. This practice is not unusual as data reduction through the use of summated scales is frequently used in the social sciences. Treating scaled items as having interval property, while not without critics, has also become a common practice:
A Likert-type index represents an ordinal level of measurement. The items do not really measure the quantity of a characteristic, but we can use the items to rank the cases. However, by adding together the numbers assigned to the response categories for each item, we are treating the measurement as if it were interval. This practice allows us to use more statistical techniques for analysis. Many analysts feel that treating Likert-type scales as if they were interval measures provides more advantages than disadvantages (O'Sullivan, Rassel, & Berner, 2003, p. 303).
The new variables created from the summated scales were then used to test the hypotheses that there would be differences between tenured, tenure-track, and contingent workers. Multivariate Analysis of Variance was then used to test the hypotheses that there would be a difference between tenured, tenure-eligible, and collateral faculty members' level of job-satisfaction, perception of organizational support, and quality of exchange relationships. The 3X5 MANOVA revealed that the main effect was supported, Wilks Lambda= .58, F (10, 302) = 9.24, p<.000. Satisfaction with job security/opportunity (F=27.35, p<.000) and perceived organizational support (F=3.69, p<.027) were significant in contributing to the overall effect, lending partial support to the first two hypotheses. The first hypothesis predicted that tenured and tenure-track faculty members would exhibit higher levels of job satisfaction than non-tenure track faculty members. The results provide partial support. Post-hoc scheffe tests revealed that tenured faculty exhibited a higher degree of satisfaction with job security and opportunity for advancement than tenure-eligible faculty and collateral faculty. There was a mean difference of -.6324 (p<.005) between tenured and tenure-track faculty, and a mean difference of -1.0424 (p<.000) between tenured and contingent faculty. An examination of cross tabulations on the item "Satisfaction with job security" indicates that among tenured faculty, only 1% were not satisfied with job security compared to 18.1% of tenure-eligible faculty. Not surprisingly, the level of dissatisfaction was much higher among contingent faculty of which 32.5% reported dissatisfaction with job security. Similarly, only 12% of tenured faculty report dissatisfaction with opportunity for advancement compared to 28.5% of collateral faculty. Satisfaction with total compensation and satisfaction with workload were not significant. Overall, 52% of faculty report satisfaction with salary and 80% were satisfied with benefits. Most faculty members (75%) were also satisfied with their workload.
The second hypothesis predicted that tenured and tenure-track faculty would report higher levels of perceived organizational support than full-time non-tenure track faculty members. Perceived organizational support (POS) was significant (F=3.69, p<.027) Post-hoc scheffe tests revealed a mean difference of .2083 (p<.023) between tenured and collateral faculty, with tenured faculty exhibiting higher levels of perceived organizational support than their contingent colleagues. Contrary to expectations, the third hypothesis was not supported since there were no significant differences between tenured, tenure-track, and contingent faculty perceptions of quality of exchange relationships. Most faculty members provided favorable ratings of relationships with colleagues. Eighty-five percent of the respondents categorized their working relationship with members of their department as above average. The majority of faculty members (89%) also believed that colleagues recognized their potential, and 77% believed that their colleagues understood their problems and needs.
The results of this study support previous research that has shown contingent faculty members are more likely to be minorities. Although minority representation among faculty members has improved over the years, it is still necessary to promote diversity within the field of higher education. It was also anticipated that the contingent faculty members who preferred their status, would indicate flexibility in schedule as their primary reason for accepting contingent work. Thirty-six percent of the voluntary contingents selected the category option "other." Among the respondents within this category, only one listed flexibility of schedule as his/her main reason for selecting contingent work. This is contrary to a common assumption within the field of Human Resources that one of the primary benefits of contingent work is the flexibility it provides to employees to balance competing demands in one's life. Nevertheless, flexibility of schedule is inherent in many of the other responses. For example, some employees preferred fewer job duties and responsibilities that are characteristic of collateral positions.
Contingent status as an option has become more prevalent in recent years and at Duke University, where 10% of full-time faculty members are categorized as "professors of the practice"; the option has existed for well over a decade (Fogg, 2004). In fact, there are instances in which faculty members already working in tenure-eligible positions requested this option. Some faculty members select this option when they believe that their research skills are not up to par with their teaching skills. Others have cited a sense of relief and less pressure as a reason for selecting to work in a non-tenure track capacity. Two points, however, are particularly important on Duke University's use of contingent faculty. First, "professors of the practice" are still expected to be involved in research activities even though they are mainly evaluated for their teaching. Second, they work under multi-year renewable contracts.
Not surprisingly, tenured and tenure-track faculty members were more satisfied with job security and opportunity for advancement than contingent faculty. Job security is nearly non-existent in collateral positions when faculty members are employed under annual contracts with no guarantee of renewal. This is consistent with Finkelstein et al (1998), which found that satisfaction with job security was low among new faculty entrants, 33% of whom were non-tenure track.
Tenured faculty also reported higher levels of perceived organizational support than contingent faculty members. These results were expected since university investment in professional development of contingent faculty is either nonexistent or less than what tenured and tenure-eligible faculty members receive. Contingent faculty are often excluded from committee assignments and restricted from participating in faculty governance activities. This sends a clear message to contingent faculty members that their opinions, goals, and values are not appreciated by the university. One common defense is the consideration of the contingent faculty member's time, that it would be unfair to impose the same service requirements on nontenure track employees. However, given the opportunity, many contingent faculty members would prefer to be an active participant within the university system. As a result, it may be worthwhile to develop initiatives to strengthen organizational support and commitment in an effort to promote citizenship behaviors that benefit the organization.
The lack of significant differences between the groups on quality of exchange relationship indicates that that most tenured and tenure-eligible faculty members are treating contingent faculty with respect. Overall, the results indicate that there are fewer differences between traditional and contingent faculty members than previously assumed with respect to interpersonal exchanges, illustrated by the lack of significant differences in quality of exchange relationship. Most faculty members reported that their working relationships with members of their department were average or above, however, there were less favorable responses among all levels of faculty when asked whether members of the department recognized their potential or understood their problems or needs.
Based upon the findings of this study, recommendations for improvement in higher education policies and procedures are provided. Commitment to the organization is influenced by an employee's perception of support from the organization, therefore, it would be wise for university leadership at all levels to inform themselves of the needs of individual faculty members, as well as engage faculty members to become involved in activities that provide the opportunity to influence organizational decision-making. Contingent faculty members should also be provided the option to participate in department meetings and committee service. Strengthening job security is also likely to contribute to job satisfaction and perception of support from the organization. One recommendation is to offer multi-year renewable contracts to enhance job security. Rather than working on a renewable contract from year-to-year, provide a three to five year contract for contingent faculty members. In addition to strengthening job security, multi-year contracts may instill a sense of belonging and develop at least some degree of commitment to the organization.
Readers should interpret the results conservatively as there are limitations in the current study. The sampling frame was drawn from one university thereby limiting the ability to generalize the findings. The use of a cross-sectional design also makes it difficult to control for rival explanations. Although many universities have increasingly come to rely on the use of full-time, non-tenure track faculty members, there could be any number of idiosyncrasies unique only to that particular university.
In light of the limitations of this study, several recommendations are offered for future research. First, a comparison of similar universities across states would be useful to expand research on differences in organizational experiences among traditional and full-time contingent faculty members. Second, the measures used in this study addressed behaviors directed toward the organization and colleagues, however, measures of teaching effectiveness and/or student satisfaction evaluations were excluded. It might be useful to expand the research by incorporating measures of teaching effectiveness and/or comparing student evaluations of traditional and contingent employees. Third, it has been asserted that a lack of job security among collateral faculty members threatens academic freedom, confining them to mainstream non-controversial curricula. While this is a persuasive and compelling argument, there have been few, if any, studies on contingent faculty terminations resulting from the expression of unpopular views. Research is needed in this area, particularly as the use of collateral employees has been steadily increasing over the years. Finally, it might be helpful to investigate the appropriate numeric balance between traditional and contingent faculty members prior to the tipping point of negative organizational behavior. A universal principle of an appropriate mix is unlikely to emerge. However, it might be beneficial for organizations to provide careful consideration into the advantages and disadvantages of utilizing contingent faculty, not only in the short term, but also in the long term.
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Heather Wyatt-Nichol, Stephen F. Austin State University, TX
Wyatt-Nichol, PhD, is an Assistant Professor of Pubic Administration at Stephen F. Austin State University.