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Society for Ethnomusicology Resolution on Contingent Academic Labor
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Contingent Labor encompasses faculty who are part-time or adjunct, full-time non-tenure track, or postdoctoral teachers / research fellows with teaching responsibilities. Contingent faculty may have long-term relationships with their host institution or short-term, occasional contracts. The principles in this document apply to contingent labor in the broadest sense, in the belief that there is still much to be done in ensuring fair employment practices.

The Problem

In 1975 full-time non-tenure track faculty and part-time faculty together comprised 43.2% of the faculty workforce (excluding graduate student employees); in 1993 the percentage was 57%; and in 2011 it was 70.2%. In that time, part-time faculty almost doubled, from 30.2% of the faculty workforce in 1975 to 51.1% in 2011, whereas full-time non-tenure-track faculty grew much more slowly, from 13% to 19.1%. In 2011 full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty comprised just under 30% of the faculty workforce, across all disciplines and degree-granting institutions, nationally (a loss of 27%). (Statistics compiled by the AAUP using US Dept. of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics, IPEDS Fall Staff Survey.)

According to the AAUP report “Tenure and Teaching-Intensive Appointments,” the majority of teaching-intensive positions are now given to contingent faculty (http://www.aaup.org/report/tenure-and-teaching-intensive-appointments). As a result, contingent faculty with teaching-intensive appointments have less (or no) time for professional development or continuing research, which over the long term reduces their effectiveness in the general advancement of knowledge. Despite extensive student contact, contingent faculty with teaching-intensive appointments rarely have the time for student advising and therefore have a lower level of campus engagement.

The widespread reliance on contingent faculty has dire consequences for tenured faculty. Full-time non-tenure track faculty generally do not do institutional service, so that the shrinking core of tenurable faculty are burdened with rising service demands. A world-class system of higher education requires a strong, united, and engaged faculty that receives the support necessary to carry out its professional responsibilities (http://www.academicworkforce.org/CAW_Issue_Brief_Feb_2010.pdf).

In ethnomusicology, these trends are especially pronounced. Our field’s marginal existence in the academic hierarchy leaves our traditional teaching and research responsibilities especially vulnerable to this accelerating trend in academia. Furthermore, our own field’s reliance on contingent labor, especially for the teaching of part-time “world music” ensembles, has reinforced artificial divides between teaching theory and practice, as well as research and performance.

Goals of SEM’s Committee on Academic Labor

  • Develop a position statement on the crisis of contingent labor that recognizes national, international, and institutional differences regarding tenure and social infrastructure.
  • Create a “Statement of Principles Regarding Contingent Faculty” (below), to be published on the SEM website and circulated to music programs; advocate for those principles.
  • Engage with other organizations, such as the Coalition on the Academic Workforce and higher education societies (e.g., College Music Society, American Anthropological Association, American Musicological Association)
  • Create information that can be used to inform graduate students about contingent labor issues.
  • Within SEM, liaise with the Ethics Committee, the SEM Council, Program Directors and Chairs, Student Union, and other interested parties, and report to the Board of Directors.

Statement of Principles Regarding Contingent Faculty

The Society for Ethnomusicology urges fair and equitable treatment for all faculty members across the academic workforce. SEM embraces the Coalition on the Academic Workforce’s motto of “One faculty serving all students.” Recognizing that contingent faculty make indispensable contributions to their institutions, we commit to the following principles:

1.      Fair and equitable compensation, including medical and retirement benefits.

a.       Minimum levels of per-course compensation for all faculty members serving off the tenure track that are equal to those of tenure-track faculty members so that all faculty members have the support necessary to devote the time and effort required to teach college-level courses. To ensure fairness and transparency, compensation levels should be a matter of public record.

b.      Access to health and retirement benefits through the institution for all faculty who teach 50% or more of a full teaching load.

c.       Compensation of faculty for work outside of the classroom, including student advising, committees, and other service work.

d.      Regular support for professional development in regard to teaching skills, new course creation, scholarship, and occupational promotion.

e.       Access to administrative and technical support from the department and institution.

f.        Fractional positions for faculty who may wish to remain part-time over the long term, including fully proportional pay, eligible for tenure and benefits, with proportional expectations for service and professional development.

2.      Pathways to job security for teaching service in excess of a defined number of years.

3.      Enfranchisement to participate in the work and life of the department and institution, including curriculum planning, student advising, and shared governance.

4.      Academic freedom, including freedom from retaliation, in all teaching and research.

5.      Support for professional development, including institution-based research grants and financial support for conferences.

6.      Annual performance evaluation, merit-based pay raises, and periodic market-based salary adjustments.

7.      Access to administrative and technological support services, adequate office space, library, and other campus privileges.

8.      Conversion of contingent appointments to appointments eligible for tenure, with only minor changes in job description.

9.      Limiting use of contingent labor and avoiding new off-track hiring, except when such hires are genuinely special appointments or for short duration.

10.  Support of contingent workers’ right to unionize.


The Society for Ethnomusicology is committed to reversing the shrinkage of tenure-track positions. As we work toward that goal, it is imperative that we ensure fair labor practices for the non-tenure-track faculty who now hold the majority of teaching positions. We also recognize that we must be responsible in training future doctoral students in the realities of the academic marketplace whether in tenure-track positions, as contingent labor, or even nonacademic, public-sector positions.


The SEM Core Principles rely heavily on the following sources:

American Anthropological Association http://sunta.org/files/2010/12/Resolution-on-Contingent-Part-time-Academic-Labor.-.pdf

American Association of University Professors Guidelines http://www.aaup.org/issues/contingent-faculty/resources-contingent-appointments

Coalition on the Academic Workforce http://www.academicworkforce.org

For further information please contact Sandra Graham, Chair, SEM Committee on Academic Labor, sgraham@babson.edu


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