APSA’s Contingent Faculty Status Committee Discusses their Past Work and Future Goals

by Catherine Guisan, Veronica Czastkiewicz, Peter Francia, Julia Lau, Susan Orr, Nathan Paxton, and Vince Stine (2018-2019 Committee on the Status of Contingent Faculty in the Profession)

In 2016, APSA established a status committee on contingent faculty in the profession, with a mixed membership of contingent, tenure-track, and tenured faculty, which joined the longstanding status committees representing women, blacks, Latinos, LGBT, and other underrepresented groups. Two long-term goals have motivated the new committee: Making contingent faculty, who constitute 2/3 of the faculty teaching political science courses in the US, much more visible both at APSA and in their home institutions, and helping to overcome unjustified inequities in compensation, job security and respect.

One reason why it is difficult to think through issues linked to contingent faculty is that this term masks much diversity in the working conditions of those concerned. Some full-timers are in secure and decently paid teaching positions; others cobble together teaching positions at several institutions to survive. Some professionals teach part-time for love of their research interests and students; however, many part-timers do so while being constrained by personal reasons and without making ends meet. Although research has shown that for one generation, many non-tenured academics are underpaid and experience minimal professional and infrastructure support such as yearly library privileges, little has changed for the next generation of contingent faculty in political science.

Thus, two of the four contingent committee members have left the academic profession since 2016. The other two remain in precarious positions. Yet all the committee members stayed for the duration of their mandates and each took leadership for at least one project. Collectively the committee volunteered well over a thousand working hours in developing and completing various projects and elevating the status of contingent faculty within the discipline. The support of APSA leadership and its dedicated staff was invaluable also, in beginning to develop creative thinking and concrete proposals for improvement of the status of contingent faculty in the profession.

The Committee met seven goals during its first full term (2016-19):

  • Organized a panel at three APSA Annual Meetings (2017-2019).
  • Completed a polling of contingent faculty in political science and analyzed the result, thanks to committee member Peter Francia, in collaboration with the East Carolina University Center for Survey Research and the APSA Research Department. See summary results of the survey here.
  • Drafted guidelines for an APSA “principled position” on the status of contingent faculty in the profession, which were developed during the 2018 APSA Diversity & Inclusion Hackathon and through further discussions. The APSA Council has reviewed the document and sent it back with comments and offer of support for further developments.
  • Contributed a Spotlight feature (8 short articles) in PS, Political Science and Politics, July 2019.
  • Developed working connections with other APSA status committees, on current and future panels, and receptions at the Annual Meeting.
  • Obtained from APSA financial resources to cover some of the committee’s activities (cost of attending annual meeting especially, upon demonstrated need).
  • Recruited outstanding candidates for all vacancies on the committee.

Names of committee members (2019-22)

  • Susan Orr, SUNY Brockport (Chair)
  • Nathan Paxton, U.S. Senate and American University
  • Veronica Czastkiewicz, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
  • Vincent Stine, George Washington University
  • Isaac Kamola, Trinity College
  • Jennapher Lunde Seefeldt, Centre College
  • Maria Isabel Puerta Riera, Valencia College

Projects (2019-20)

The first thing the committee would like to do in this new academic year is to thank the outgoing chair Catherine Guisan for her outstanding leadership and gentle persistence in getting the committee up and running. We will all miss her as she rotates off the committee but feel sure she will continue to champion the interests of contingent faculty both within APSA and the discipline more broadly.

For future goals, we will meet soon to solidify plans but we have a few ongoing projects and ambitions:

  • To continue to refine the content of the “principled position” statement and promote the “minimum standards for contingent faculty” we produced at the Hackathon.
  • To explore the possibility of a mini-conference on contingent labor within and without academia for next years’ annual meeting.
  • To continue to develop strategies to make contingent faculty better represented within APSA, in their departments, the discipline and academia writ large.

We would welcome feedback and input as we set our agenda for the coming year and beyond!

More information on the Committee on the Status of Contingent Faculty in the Profession can be found on their webpage. To get in touch with the committee, please contact Tanya Schwarz, APSA Director of Teaching & Learning, tschwarz@apsanet.org