Histories of Contingent Faculty

Solicited by the OAH Committee on Part-Time, Adjunct, and Contingent Employment (CPACE) Endorsed by the OAH Graduate Student Committee, LAWCHA and WHA

Friday, March 31, 2023, 1:30 PM - 3:00 PM

Type: Roundtable Discussion

Tags: Labor and Working-Class; Professional Development; Teaching and Pedagogy


Contingent faculty make up almost three-quarters of higher education’s academic workforce. This casualization of academic labor—i.e., increasing reliance on term-by-term adjuncts, longer-term non-tenure-track faculty, and graduate student workers—has existed long enough that it has its own complex history. This roundtable invites scholars and activists to discuss research about contingent faculty in higher education, with an emphasis on accounts about the history of precarious academic labor and efforts to organize contingent faculty, graduate workers, and allies. During this state-of-the-field discussion, participants will share their research, offer observations about recent interpretations of this history, and suggest paths for future research.

Session Participants

Chair: Eric Jon Fure-Slocum, St. Olaf College
Eric Fure-Slocum teaches History as a long-term contingent faculty member at St. Olaf College (Minnesota). He also taught as a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Oslo, Norway (2003) and at West University in Timişoara, Romania (2022). A historian of the 20th-Century United States with an emphasis on labor and urban history, he is the author of Contesting the Postwar City: Working-Class and Growth Politics in 1940s Milwaukee (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and co-editor of Civic Labors: Scholar Activism and Working-Class Studies (University of Illinois Press, 2016). Current projects include Contingent Faculty: A Labor History (co-edited with Claire Goldstene, forthcoming at the University of Illinois Press) and Constraining Egalitarianism, 1944: Race, Property, and Democracy in the Wartime American Neighborhood, City, and Nation (in process). In addition to helping organize non-tenure-track faculty at St. Olaf, Eric co-founded the Labor and Working-Class History Association’s (LAWCHA) contingent faculty committee, co-chaired the Organization of American Historians’ (OAH) contingent faculty committee, and recently joined the OAH’s executive board.

Panelist: Claire Goldstene, Independent Scholar
Claire Goldstene taught U.S. history as a contingent faculty member at the University of Maryland, University of North Florida, and American University. She served on the board of New Faculty Majority and currently co-chairs the Committee on Contingent Faculty for LAWCHA and serves on their board. She has published on contingent faculty issues in Thought & Action, Working U.S.A., and Dissent and is co-editor, with Eric Fure-Slocum, of Contingent Faculty: A Labor History (University of Illinois Press, forthcoming). She is also the author of  The Struggle for America’s Promise: Equal Opportunity at the Dawn of Corporate America and is currently working on a book about free speech in the early 20th century United States.

Panelist: William Herbert, National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions
A graduate of the University at Buffalo and the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva University, William A. Herbert is a Distinguished Lecturer and Executive Director of the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions, Hunter College and a Faculty Associate at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. Prior to joining the Hunter College faculty, Mr. Herbert was Deputy Chair and Counsel to the New York State Public Employment Relations Board and a labor and civil right lawyer for over two decades. His research and scholarship focus on higher education faculty and graduate assistant unionization and collective bargaining; labor history, law, and policy; and location privacy inside and outside the workplace. Mr. Herbert’s research and scholarship focus on higher education faculty and graduate assistant unionization and collective bargaining; labor history, law, and policy; and location privacy inside and outside the workplace. His recent publications include chapters in Joshua B. Freeman, City of Workers, City of Struggle: How Labor Movements Changed New York, (2019) and on the history of contingent faculty in bargaining units in Contingent Faculty: A Labor History (2022) edited by Eric Fure-Slocum and Claire Goldstene. His current research examines the origins and history of the CIO’s State County Municipal Workers of America. Mr. Herbert is an editor of the treatise Public Sector Labor and Employment Law and has authored articles on public sector labor law and history, card check certification, electronic voting, and electronic privacy. 

Panelist: Dorothee Schneider, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
Dorothee Schneider is a historian of labor and immigration who taught at the University of Illinois for almost three decades, retiring as Teaching Associate Professor in 2019. From 2013-2019, she helped organize and lead the Non-Tenure Faculty Coalition, (Local 6546, AFT) at the University of Illinois. She now lives in Philadelphia, where she is active on behalf of refugees, the preservation of a historical library and supporting a team of community historians in the city.

Panelist: Naomi R Williams, Rutgers University
Naomi R Williams received a PhD in U.S. History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. An assistant professor at Rutgers University's School of Management and Labor Relations, Naomi's primary research areas include U.S. working-class history and politics. Their research examines the ways working people impact local and national political economies and the ways workers participate in collaborative social justice movements. Naomi engages working-class history in urban settings, looking at low-wage service work, industrial employment, and workers in higher education. They are currently revising a book manuscript, Workers United: Race, Labor, and Coalition Building in Deindustrialized America, on the transformation of class identity and politics in the late-20th century.