Predictors of depression, stress, and anxiety among non-tenure track faculty
Nationwide in the United States, 70% of faculty members in higher education are employed off the tenure-track. Nearly all of these non-tenure-track (NTT) appointments share a quality that may produce stress for those who hold them: contingency. Most NTT appointments are contingent on budget, enrollment, or both, and the majority of contingent faculty members are hired for one quarter or semester at a time. Significant research has investigated the effects of contingency on teaching, students, departments, colleges, and universities; however, little research has focused on the psychological experiences of NTT faculty. The current study examined perceptions of workplace stressors and harm, organizational commitment, common coping mechanisms, and depression, anxiety and stress among NTT faculty using a longitudinal design that spanned two to four months. Results indicate that NTT faculty perceive unique stressors at work that are related to their contingent positions. Specific demographic characteristics and coping strategies, inability to find a permanent faculty position, and commitment to one’s organization predispose NTT faculty to perceive greater harm and more sources of stress in their workplaces. Demographic characteristics, lower income, inability to find a permanent faculty position, disengagement coping mechanisms (e.g., giving up, denial), and organizational commitment were associated with the potential for negative outcomes, particularly depression, anxiety, and stress. Our findings suggest possibilities for institutional intervention. Overall, we argue that universities would be well-served by attending to the needs of NTT faculty on campus in order to mitigate negative outcomes for institutions, students, and faculty.
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