Friday, April 22, 2016

The Misery of Adjunct Professors. From Gawker.

Being an adjunct professor at a college may be the job with the single biggest discrepancy between the (high) education level required to hold it and the (astoundingly low) level of pay. How long until this system blows up?

The rest.


  1. Damn, I really feel for the adjuncts. I was in their camp for six years, so I have felt that pain. I've been a tenured schlub for almost twenty years now, and I'll be retiring at the end of next year. Glad I'm on my way out. No small part of this equation is that we have WAY too many instructors for too few slots--Econ 101, baby. We've got too many MA's and PhD's competing for full-time gigs, and that isn't going to change anytime soon, if ever, especially when the "business model" for the uni's is to crank out more and more widgets--er--grad students every year. The overwhelming majority going into education want full-time employment, and that isn't going to happen. The best we can hope for would be a gutting of the administrative class so that adjuncts can be better compensated. I believe the Cal State system now has more administrators than profs. Could legislation force some sort of reasonable ratio?

    1. This is, indeed, the only solution that I can see: cutting off the supply of adjuncts, which means drastically reducing the numbers of Ph.D candidates, at least in fields where the Ph.D. really is primarily a teaching credential.

      But it would take a very long time for this solution to work its way through the system, and I fear that the actual result would be more and more very large intro/core courses taught by a single terminal-degreed instructor of record supervising a corps of M.A.'s or even advanced-undergraduate discussion/study group leaders (whatever happens to grad programs, we're not going to run out of advanced undergraduates in need of money anytime soon, and on-campus work does have its advantages).

      The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that public-school teaching is more and more over-supervised, leaving very little room for creativity or individual initiative in those jobs, which makes them less and less attractive to the sort of person who would get a Ph.D. (or, really, the sort of person, regardless of degree pursued or earned, whom you'd actually want in charge of a classroom). So that cuts off one possibly-rewarding escape route for people who remain adjuncts because they genuinely love teaching. Independent schools are a good alternative, but there are only so many of those.

      Students and their parents might be able to exert some influence if they started asking tough questions about how classes actually work, but they tend to become aware of the problem rather late in the game (i.e. when the students are in or nearly in college), and lose interest only a few years later (upon graduation) (unless, of course, the student decides to go on to grad school). Also, despite what they'll hear from the tour guides, they are very few places where the majority of teaching, especially in the early years, isn't done by grad students and/or some sort of contingent faculty (at fancy places, they're sometimes in post-doc-ish positions). So it's not as if they can vote with their feet, thus forcing other institutions to shape up or lose students.

      Maybe the much-coveted international students and their parents could have some influence? Anybody know Chinese, Korean, and/or Arabic, and how to work the social media in places where said languages are spoken?

  2. Gog, did you hack my Google Docs account? You've incorporated a few keywords and phrases from something I've been writing over the last few days. This is over and above Cassandra's usual tapping into my brain.

    1. What can I say, Ogre? Great minds think alike.

  3. I learned a new word today - precariat.
    According to Wikipedia, "In sociology and economics, the precariat is a social class formed by people suffering from precarity, which is a condition of existence without predictability or security, affecting material or psychological welfare. Unlike the proletariat class of industrial workers in the 20th century who lacked their own means of production and hence sold their labour to live, members of the Precariat are only partially involved in labour and must undertake extensive "unremunerated activities that are essential if they are to retain access to jobs and to decent earnings". "

    When 50 to 60% of undergraduates at Canadian universities are taught by untenured faculty of one sort or the other, by people making 25 to 50% of what a tenured employee makes (in Canada tenured profs make low $100k, teach 3 or 4 classes), the discrepancy allows the universities to spend 10% of their total budgets to get 1/2 the teaching done.

    Economics ain't being changed by 'outrage and sadness' nor by clients/parents. Decreasing the number of PhDs doesn't address the rising number of university students (supply down, demand up).
    I suggest it is governments that don't/won't live up to the basic social support research and post-secondary education for the collective good/wealth.

    Unless it is us in post-secondary, that we haven't/don't/can't make the case?