“The Shady Side of Sharing: Contingent Faculty”
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (January 2017), more than eighteen percent of the American workforce consists of temporary workers. That’s nearly twenty-eight million people, or two and-a-half times current union membership. This workforce consists of temporary and part-time workers, contractors, subcontractors, vendors, and seasonal and provisional workers. What they all have in common is that their employment is unstable, dependent upon market trends and immediate employer needs. In academia, they are known as “contingent faculty” and make up seventy percent of the professoriate. Tenured faculty now account for only seventeen percent of the total. Often, contingent faculty are “shared” among institutions and treated as contract workers even though they receive a W2 at the end of the year. As contract workers, they do not receive a regular salary and are not eligible for health benefits or a retirement plan. Yet, like permanent faculty, they contribute to the intellectual life of the university by publishing in academic journals, conducting research, and bringing their extracurricular experience, whether from work or consulting, into the classroom. The problem is that, in addition to the legal battles temporary workers face in other industries (e.g., Uber and Lyft drivers fighting to be recognized as employees rather than contract workers), contingent faculty are invisible. It is not merely that they are not seen as “regular” faculty by administrators. They are not seen at all, which is why they have no voice in university governance. This is particularly telling on Jesuit campuses, where social justice is proclaimed as a constitutive part of the mission and critical thinking—praxis—as a hallmark of classroom pedagogy. This paper will explore this problem in the context of the 2017 conference theme of sustainability and business ethics. It will suggest a uniquely Jesuit solution to this often unnoticed side of the shared economy and make specific recommendations for concerned IAJBS members to pursue.