At our fall 2022 UW-Madison Teaching Academy Members+ event our topic was “The Gigification* of UW-Madison Teaching Professionals,” meaning the progressive employment of annual contract (or per course) faculty. As ABC News in Tampa Bay recently reported, “more than 70% of professors in the Florida College System are adjunct professors. They don’t have the same job security, are paid significantly less, and do not receive the same benefits as full-time professors. That makes the position, officially, a part of the gig economy.”
We began our hour-long Members+ event with an overview of national data. For example, in a scholarly article titled, “The Gig Economy Comes to Academia,” Nelson et al. (2020) reported that “In 1975, only 10 percent of the academic labor force was full-time non-tenure track faculty. By 2015, 57 per cent of the academic labor force was contingent faculty while only 29 per cent were either tenure or tenure track.” The preface to a recent book edited by Kim Tolly and titled, The Uber-ization of the Classroom and What It Means for Faculty (which is edited by Kim Tolley) states that “One of the most significant trends in American high education over the last decade has been the shift in faculty employment from tenured to contingent. Now, upwards of 75% of faculty jobs are non-tenure track; two decades ago that figure was 25%.”
We then shared lived experiences of “gigified” faculty here at UW-Madison. A bit over half, 52%, of non-tenure track instructors at UW-Madison are Lecturers; only 13% of non-tenure track instructors at UW-Madison are Teaching Faculty, Level I; only 11% are Teaching Faculty, Level II 16% are Teaching Faculty, Level III; and only 5% are Teaching Faculty, Level IV. At UW-Madison, the Teaching Professor titles (Teaching Assistant Professor, Teaching Associate Professor, and Teaching Professor) employ less than 2% of the pool of non-tenure track instructors.
We concluded our session by discussing what we can do to increase equity regarding job security, teaching load, salary, and the like. We hope to continue this important conversation. View slides from the event.