Faculty From Underrepresented Groups Come Up Short in Tenure Appointments

The American Association of University Professors has released new data on the status of college and university faculty in the United States. The report also documents historical trends in faculty appointments since 1987.

The academic workforce has shifted from mostly full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty to mostly contingent faculty, including full-time non-tenure-track, full-time with no tenure system, and part-time faculty. Specifically:

* Over two-thirds (68 percent) of faculty members in U.S. colleges and universities held contingent appointments in fall 2021, compared with about 47 percent in fall 1987.
* Nearly half (48 percent) of faculty members in U.S. colleges and universities were employed part-time in fall 2021, compared with about 33 percent in 1987.
* About 24 percent of faculty members in US colleges and universities held full-time tenured appointments in fall 2021, compared with about 39 percent in fall 1987.

Faculty from underrepresented groups were more likely than faculty overall to hold part-time positions. Half of all faculty from underrepresented groups were part-time in 2021 compared to 44 percent of White faculty and 26 percent of Asian faculty. Some 37 percent of all faculty from underrepresented groups held tenure, compared to 45 percent of White faculty and 47 percent of Asian faculty.

The report concludes that “tenure is the primary means of protecting academic freedom and exists not only to protect individual faculty members but also to benefit students and serve the common good by ensuring the quality of teaching and research in higher education. Overreliance on contingent appointments, which lack the protection of tenure for academic freedom and the economic security of continuing appointments, threatens the success of institutions in fulfilling their obligations to students and to society.”

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