I have created a petition addressed to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis requesting that the DOL revise and update their characterization of the profession. Please take a moment to add your name to the petition.Setting background for his petition, Matt explains, reposting from his akronadjunct blog,
How can our own government get it so incredibly wrong? The U.S. Department of Labor publishes occupational outlook data in its Occupational Outlook Handbook. This publication (available online at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/) reports median and average salaries for various occupations along with details about types and amount of education typically required to enter professions, typical working conditions, total number of jobs, growth or contraction outlook, etc.
The DOL OOH (pronounced “doooh!”…the L is silent) identifies the median salary for college professors (i.e., postsecondary teachers) to be $62,050. The median wage is the wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey.
Anyone with even a modicum of understanding of the labor dynamics at play in higher education knows that this representation by the Department of Labor is, on its face, absurd. The Coalition on the Academic Workforce just released a report entitled A Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Members in which it concluded the following:
Part-time faculty members’ responses to the CAW survey confirms much of what has been reported anecdotally. Part-time faculty members demonstrate a level of commitment to teaching and to the institutions that employ them, but this commitment is not reciprocated by those institutions in terms of compensation or other types of professional support. Pay per course is strikingly low, especially in the light of the professional credentials and length of service of many of these faculty members. It is therefore not surprising that more than half of part-time faculty respondents reported an annual personal income of less than $35,000, and two-thirds reported an annual income of less than $45,000.Some may challenge these findings on the basis that it was not a scientific sampling–though the survey did receive nearly 30,000 responses, with two-thirds of these coming from individuals who identified themselves as contingent academic workers in higher ed in the fall of 2012. I would challenge anyone who may object to the results of the survey to expend the resources necessary to obtain a more scientific sampling. But this is unlikely. Why? Because the situation as portrayed by the CAW survey likely understates the case. And no one who has an interest in challenging the CAW survey results is interested in uncovering even more damning numbers.
The CAW survey also identifies the number and proportion of contingent faculty working in America:
According to data from the United States Department of Education’s 2009 Fall Staff Survey, of the nearly 1.8 million faculty members and instructors who made up the 2009 instructional workforce in degree-granting two- and four-year institutions of higher education in the United States, more than 1.3 million (75.5%) were employed in contingent psitions off the tenure track, either as part-time or adjunct faculty members, full-time non-tenure-track faculty members, or graduate student teaching assistants.It is clear from this data that the DOL’s median salary numbers are undoubtedly high. Furthermore, the descriptions of the profession are laughable. Here’s what our government has to say about the working conditions of college professors (Source: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Postsecondary-teachers.htm#tab-3):
Postsecondary teachers’ schedules are generally flexible. Postsecondary teachers need to be on campus to teach classes and keep office hours. Otherwise, they are free to set their schedule and decide when and where they will prepare for class and will grade assignments.
About 29 percent of postsecondary teachers worked part time in 2010. Some postsecondary teachers work part time at several colleges or universities [emphasis added].
Most graduate teaching assistants work part time while also studying for their degree. The number of hours they work may vary, depending on the institution and their particular assistantship.Okay. So the DOL thinks that 29% of America’s 1.8 million faculty work part-time. So that would be 522,000. According to the CAW survey, more than 700,000 of all faculty in the United States are part-time, with more than 300,000 additional faculty working contingently. Only about half a million are tenure-track, with the balance comprised of graduate assistants, post-docs, and “others.”
As you can see, the Department of Labor has gotten the numbers almost exactly backwards!
It’s amazing, really, to think about just how badly informed our leaders are when it comes to understanding the role of contingency in higher education. Even the Vice President of the United States can’t get the figures right. You may remember that he famously blamed faculty for rising cost of college tuition.