Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reg W.: What I Did for National Adjunct Walkout Day.

I have never in my career worked part-time. And my department does not make much use of adjunct or contingent faculty.

But after having read an article in my college paper, I've discovered that English and Math, especially the first year courses, are taught by part-timers so widely here that nearly 60% of our freshmen finish those important requirements without ever having been taught by a full timer, tenure-track, or tenured professor.

With that information and some national articles, like the one I note below, I went to my classes yesterday to teach them what I knew about the widespread usage of part-timers in colleges across America.

And my students beat me to the punch. Obviously - but somehow lost on me - they knew about it, and had much to say about the adjuncts they had met, primarily again in English and Math.

"My guy was good, but he worked 30 hours a week at a coffee shop, so he never got our work graded in time."

"I had a nice lady in Math but she sometimes had to leave class 15 minutes early because she taught a class in [another town nearby]."

"The adjuncts I've had have all been terrible."

It was if a light appeared in my brain that I'd dully not noticed all of these years. I admitted to my students that I didn't know enough about it, but that what I'd read - as a parent of a future college student (I hope...) - scared the hell out of me.


"I love every aspect of teaching," [Leleua Loupe says.] "The interaction with students, the research in my own field. I feel I'm contributing to creating a better world." It's that love of her profession that keeps her going, despite the obstacles she faces. Hers is a familiar story - that of the freeway flyer. Today she teaches on just two campuses -- five classes a semester at Cal State Fullerton, and one class at Mount San Antonio College. But there have been years where it was three campuses, and even more classes.
In the hierarchy of academia, lecturer positions are sometimes described as stepping stones to eventual tenure, and lecturers themselves denigrated as less experienced or knowledgeable faculty. This clearly doesn't fit Loupe's professional profile. Growing up between Seattle and Honolulu, she started in community college in Hawaii, did archeological field work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and then got bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees at the University of California in Riverside, in public history resource management. Since receiving her PhD in 2005 she's written books and many journal and encyclopedia articles, recorded oral histories, and presented papers "all over," she says. That, however, didn't get her tenure. That's no surprise, given that institutions of higher education now employ far more non-tenured faculty than tenured.



  1. An all-too-typical story. Some clever economist needs to add up the productive human-hours lost (and the environmental cost, and the additions to the horrible traffic tangles endemic to many of our metropolitan areas) of having adjuncts freeway-flying from place to place, rather than consolidating each person's work on a single campus. Just turning extra driving hours into office hours could make a lot more help available to struggling students -- well, assuming there were offices for the adjuncts to use, and the students weren't too busy scuttling from school to work to come to office hours. On the other hand, we'd probably need fewer campus parking places. When you think about it, it's amazing how much the current adjunct-heavy system is built into the campus infrastructure, or lack thereof, at this point. But we have to start untangling the whole mess somewhere, and turning part-time lines into full-time ones, though not a complete solution -- as I can attest from my position as a full-time contingent faculty member -- seems like a logical place to start. Where to find the money for that is the next question, and no, I don't have an answer, but I do believe that administrators who seem to be able to find money for pet initiatives and outside image/branding consultants and executive-level salaries for upper administration could figure it out if they really put their minds to it -- which probably means making lowering the percentage of classes taught by part-time faculty a major goal or "benchmark" or whatever term serves as a carrot these days.

    1. Not to mention the lost efficiency that comes from having fewer and fewer faculty who can take on administrative roles, committee work that requires institutional memory and committment, advising that requires continuity and awareness of structure, reporting and assessment analysis...

    2. Not to mention the human cost! It is outright shameful to treat human beings in this way, because it's just plain wrong!

      Of course, anytime I think of the moral dimensions of university education, I stop myself short: who do I think I'm kidding? That went out with in loco parentis, about 50 years ago. Kudos, Reg, on taking a stand here.

  2. Reg, thanks for this link. The first comment after the post is appallingly tone-deaf. I hope Leleua Loupe joins us here (if she hasn't already).

    1. Do you refer to the comment by Sean H? That's gotta be parody. At least I hope it is. There's a Sean H on TV that I can't always tell if real or Poe's Law,

  3. Even though this post didn't get 18647 comments, I'm glad it's up today. Reg, I'm glad you talked about the adjunct issue with your students, especially since it doesn't affect you directly.