Job insecurity in academia harms the mental wellbeing of non-tenure track faculty

Non-tenure-track academics experience stress, anxiety, and depression due to their insecure job situation, according to the first survey of its kind published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology.

There were 1.4 contingent faculty workers in the USA, according to a report by the American Association of University Professors. These faculty members, such as research adjunct faculty, lecturers and instructors, are off the so-called "tenure track". They work under short-term contracts with limited health and retirement benefits, often part-time and at different institutes simultaneously. Among them, women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans are overrepresented.

Gretchen Reevy from California State University and Grace Deason from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, USA, used extensive self-report questionnaires to survey almost 200 non-tenure-track academics – mainly from medium-sized universities in the USA, and of whom around two-thirds were women. Questions focused on work-related sources of , mental wellbeing, and coping mechanisms, as well as about their background, , and income.

Almost one-third of the participants (31%) replied that the lack of job security was among the most stressful aspects of their work. Other frequently named sources of stress were a high workload; lack of support and recognition; low and unequal pay; and feeling excluded from the infrastructure and governance at their institute .

Non-tenure track faculty who wished for a permanent position, or whose family income was low, were more prone to depression, anxiety, and stress. They were also more likely to suffer from these if they felt personally committed to the institution where they worked. On average, women reported encountering more sources of stress at work than men.

The authors call on universities to attend more to the specific needs of their non-tenure-track faculty to avoid negative outcomes for institutions, students, and faculty. Suggestions include alleviating the sources of stress listed above and considering increasing the rate of hiring into more secure, tenure-track positions.

More information: Frontiers in Psychology, Predictors of depression, stress, and anxiety among non-tenure track faculty, Gretchen M. Reevy and Grace Deason, DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00701

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Are some faculty members really serfs?

Feb 14, 2012

Full-time non-tenure track faculty at colleges and universities lack a professional identity and a sense of self worth, according to interviews with these faculty members that formed the basis of a recently published paper co-authored by a University of California, Rivers ...

Why do so many women leave biology?

Dec 11, 2012

The retention rate of women in the biological sciences, both in the United States and Canada, is lower than would be expected from the number of female doctoral students who graduated within the last decade, and lower than ...

Recommended for you

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Marquette
not rated yet Aug 06, 2014
"There were 1.4 contingent faculty workers in the USA"

Only 1.4? Perhaps there's a missing number there?
Huns
1 / 5 (1) Aug 08, 2014
Tenure should be abolished. Getting rid of a tenured employee is more difficult, and this is often used by awful instructors to get away with unprofessional behavior. Some friends of mine were told by an English lit professor that they had to write essays specifically supporting her political views, and that she was tenured and had the department behind her; she basically dared anyone in the class to dissent. This is the kind of dog s*** we are encouraging.

From Wikipedia: "Without job security, the scholarly community as a whole may experience pressure to favor noncontroversial lines of academic inquiry."

What a wonderfully vague objection! Screw that. Teachers can deal with the risk of getting fired just like anyone else. If tenure is going to be held up as some kind of magical "academic freedom" protector, it must also be acknowledged that it's used to protect mentally defective instructors' tin-pot dictatorships.
zaxxon451
1 / 5 (1) Aug 10, 2014
and this is often used by awful instructors to get away with unprofessional behavior.


Your understanding of tenure (and teaching in general) is terribly lacking.
Katy1493
not rated yet Aug 11, 2014
I know that in May the U.S. economy added 217,000 jobs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Employment Situation report released on June 6. The U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6.3%, averaging 6.52% for the year seasonally adjusted.But I see the unemployment rate remains at historically high levels and there is still a huge problem. If you become unemployed, you shouldn't become depressed - it won't help. Here is good website for job hunters - http://resumewritinglab.com/ - it contains nice articles and helpful tips you can follow to overcome those difficulties and reach your goal.
Huns
not rated yet Aug 12, 2014
Your understanding of tenure (and teaching in general) is terribly lacking.

How so?