Instructional Academic Staff at UWM

Part 1 in an AAUP Series

Instructional Academic Staff: A Primer

“Ad hocs” or “adjuncts” as they are sometimes referred to on campus, are in many cases long term, full-time employees who teach a 4-4 course workload (often along with additional courses at other institutions to supplement their low compensation). These instructors frequently teach classes on fixed term contracts that may be on a semester to semester or year to year basis, and in some cases may not know which courses they will teach until just before the semester begins. The contingent nature of some instructional academic staff renders them unable to access general layoff protections and benefits that are standard for most other university employees and workers in the private sector. For many, their working and economic conditions render them nearly invisible on campus. And although many instructional academic staff are more integrated within departments (some with the academic staff equivalent of tenure) and play an active role in governance and other teaching and programmatic pursuits, all instructional academic staff to some degree hold a kind of second class citizenship within the university.

At UWM there are 804 instructional academic staff, the majority of whom (530) have appointments of 50% or greater which is close to the number of tenure-track and tenured faculty on campus. More than 300 instructors held 100% appointments within a single unit during the spring 2016 semester. And despite an average of 7.2 years of employment at UWM, the vast majority of instructional academic staff worked on fixed-term, terminal appointments (81%), either on a semester to semester or yearly basis (indeed, nearly 40% of instructional academic staff on fixed term appointments were hired in the 2001-2010 period and regularly receive contracts that state quite explicitly of no support beyond the contract date, despite years of continuous employment). [1] Nationally, non-tenure track faculty account for 58% of all teaching/faculty positions (41% who are part-time, and 17% full-time).[2] Those who are teaching below full-time often would prefer full-time employment, and teach at other institutions in the area to supplement their income. The notion of the “adjunct” as a professional in the community who teaches one course in addition to their regular employment elsewhere, outside of teaching, is more the exception than the rule today.

Instructional academic staff provide a critical role in helping departments meet specific curricular and programmatic needs in many departments on campus, from math or English to Journalism, Advertising, and Media Studies and the professional schools. Despite the relatively low compensation they receive, and often with minimal department support, and even less security, instructional academic staff are highly committed to their students and academic fields; many hold PhDs, or are graduate students working toward their doctoral degrees, and often represent the core of lower-level course teaching in many departments. Like tenured faculty, they meet with students outside of class, write letters of recommendation, work with students in developmental courses, teach freshman seminars, participate in Living Learning Communities, and focus on intensive advising and retention strategies that are so critical in lower level or developmental courses.

And like tenured faculty, instructional academic staff frequently participate in shared governance and provide service, attend pedagogical workshops, and are often the “face” of departments for first year students. Yet, over the last year of budget cutting on campus, some administrators and budget-cutting committees have singled out instructional academic staff as an easy way to save money and cut department budgets[3]. Rather than single out this group for indiscriminate cuts, we should be supporting our instructional academic staff more fully to ensure they are successful members of the teaching faculty at UWM.


What’s in a name? AAUP national defines “faculty” as:

All those whose appointments consist primarily of teaching or research activities conducted at a professional level, including tenure‐track and non‐tenure track faculty, full‐time and part‐time faculty, and most librarians, research and teaching assistants, and postdocs. If you do the work, then you are faculty, regardless of the title assigned by the administration. [4]

Why does this matter? We should be wary of campus or college initiatives that seek to pit one group against the other as we have become far too familiar with ‘divide and conquer’ strategies in Wisconsin. This only serves to distract us from the true story behind our fiscal emergency: the dramatic retreat of state support for public higher education in Wisconsin and ideological attacks on academic freedom. But it is also the case that the long-established acceptance and promotion of contingent instructional staff in the academy has in many ways contributed to the overall weakening of tenure protections we see emerging today across campuses. The “flexibilities” and “savings” derived from maintaining a contingent workforce of instructional staff are only the most recent “efficiency.” To ensure that we create a strong defense against attacks on tenure and academic freedom and indiscriminate cuts, we need to speak as one voice, and as one faculty.

To that end, the national AAUP and local chapters have defined a broader set of principles and policies to be considered AAUP-Compliant that relate specifically to instructional academic staff:

  1. providing paths to tenure for teaching-intensive faculty/instructional academic staff
  2. participation in shared governance at both department and college/campus levels
  3. academic freedom, which rests on economic security and due process protections
  4. compensation that is equitable

On all four of these key areas, UWM comes up short. This academic year, our local UWM AAUP chapter will document specific working conditions at UWM for instructional academic staff and highlight issues and AAUP specific policies related to job security and contracts, workload issues, and equitable compensation, with the larger goal of educating the UWM community about these issues and advocating for better working and economic conditions for all instructional academic staff at UWM.

And to continue this discussion, please attend the Instructional Academic Staff Information Session with AAUP National Thursday, Oct. 20 at 4pm in AUP 116.


[1] ASC report on instructional academic staff appointments, Aug. 24, 2016. as_doc_103_ias_report

[2] Barnshaw, J. 2016. “Facilitating institutional improvement through enhanced benchmarking,” Academe, March-April, p.6.

[3] Michael Atteberry, “Ad Hoc, Lecturer Jobs Could Be Targeted To Fill UW-Milwaukee Budget Deficit,” Media Milwaukee, December 6, 2015,

[4]; The UWM AAUP has broadened the definition of One Faculty to include graduate students and academic staff in support services.