American Sociological Association

INEQUALITY IN ACADEMIA: New ASA Task Force Report on Contingent Faculty

Contact: Naomi Paiss, Director of Communications, (202) 247-9879,, or Johanna Olexy, Senior Communications Associate, (202) 247-9873,


As sociologists worldwide continue to study the impact of growing economic inequality across many contexts, an American Sociological Association Task Force recently released a report dealing with inequality close to home.  With the percentage of full-time tenure-track faculty falling from 42% to 28% of all instructional positions between 1995 and 2011, the growth of part-time and full-time non-tenure-track faculty in higher education has profound implications for faculty working conditions, career prospects for graduate students, undergraduate education, academic freedom, and the governance of institutions of higher education.

The task force report details the changing employment structure and the ways in which it affects faculty members, students, and the character of higher education. The report espouses a series of fundamental principles to which the ASA recommends all parties in this ecosystem commit.  The fundamental goal, it says, is to promote maximum feasible equity for contingent faculty. The report calls for a new consensus that treatment in the academic workplace should not depend on whether a faculty member is full-time or part-time, tenure-track or non-tenure-track.

Among the many proposed approaches for reaching this fundamental goal are that pay should be proportional to work done, and employment offers should be provided well in advance of starting dates.  Contingent faculty should be provided as much short- and long-term job security as possible. All faculty should be eligible for academic awards and professional development support and should be included in intellectual and social events.  All faculty should be included in institutional governance.  And academic freedom should be protected for all, irrespective of employment status.

The Task Force report also provides recommendations to the ASA itself which, like other learned societies, is grappling with material changes to the work conditions of many of its constituents. These recommendations are designed to ensure recognition of the problem of contingency in the discipline and inclusion of contingent faculty in the discipline and the association.  

“It is incumbent upon ASA to be an inclusive organization for all sociologists.  This report is a critical step in working toward that goal as it clearly illuminates the changing landscape in higher education and its implications for sociologists and sociology,” said ASA Executive Director Nancy Kidd.  “With an understanding of that context and some key recommendations for action, ASA is committed to working on its own and in concert with other academic associations to ensure all sociologists are treated with dignity and respect and are working within structural conditions that allow for expanded participation in our discipline.”

The task force was co-chaired by the late Dan Clawson and Louis Edgar Esparza, and included members Marisa Allison, Celeste Atkins, Michael Burawoy, Jay R. Howard, Penny Lewis, Ruth Milkman, Catherine Moran, Gillian Niebrugge-Brantley, Nicholas Pagnucco, and Victor Perez.  

Read the full report here.

The American Sociological Association, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.



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