Fall 2018

Contingent Labor

A Note from the Editor

Profession brings articles, news, and resources to all MLA members—whether you teach, write, advise students, or work in a library or an archive or a faculty development center. With this issue of Profession, we inaugurate a new, magazine-style format aimed at making the publication timelier, more useful, and more fun to read. Each issue of Profession will feature a cluster of articles on a single theme, accompanied by articles on other pertinent topics. We’ll also regularly update the site with features, including calls for papers, conference and seminar notices, and links to practical teaching and research resources. Please share your own work with us: we welcome essays, teaching resources, or notices about upcoming events, as well as ideas for themes around which we can organize future issues. The idea is to make the publication relevant and valuable to all members.

The theme cluster in this issue focuses on contingent labor in language, literature, writing, and cultural studies. Different authors use different terms, but, whether we talk about adjunct labor, contingent employment, or part-time teaching, it all adds up to non-tenure-track jobs. We bring you reflections from Lee Skallerup Bessette, who advocates solidarity among tenure-track faculty members, adjunct faculty members, and academic nonteaching staff members. Robin Sowards examines mentorship models in higher education, and Carolyn Betensky and her colleagues tell how they set out to get US News and World Report to consider faculty employment conditions in its college rankings. Emily Van Duyne wrote an influential article about her part-time teaching back in 2014, calling it “Why Buy the Cow?” Things have changed for her since then, but they have not improved for the majority of part-time faculty members. In this issue, she updates us on her status and the issues she faces from the other side of the part-time/full-time divide.

We also bring you Beth Seltzer’s thoughtful analysis of the skills in demand in one hundred job ads in the humanities; Amanda Tucker’s look at general education literature courses; a handy list of worst practices in employing contingent faculty members, from the MLA’s Committee on Contingent Labor in the Profession; and more.

We hope you enjoy the new Profession. We’ll publish new article clusters in Profession three times a year, and the site will be continually updated with timely resources, CFPs, and event notices. So be sure to check us out often. And please send us your own advice, listicles, essays, and research on topics that might interest anyone in the humanities and humanities education.