Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Adjuncting = Stockholm Syndrome?

Check out this enlightening conversation on how being an adjunct can lead to an academic Stockholm Syndrome. Scary.

Adjuncting and Stockholm Syndrome

"See, this misguided loyalty is what the institutions depend on to exploit you. I mean, it’s not misguided in a sense of higher moral good. But just think—you can’t keep doing good in the world as a teacher if you remain exploited indefinitely. The best good you can do is to find steady work with a liveable income. And to do that, you must be selfish."


  1. My former employer depended on this, or so I was informed by certain administrators. I had to identify with my students because we were all together in that wonderful journey of learning and success blah-blah-blah.

    The reality was that the administrators were more concerned about their reputations and getting favourable comments from students. Identification with them, or lack thereof, was more often used to justify punishing or harassing any instructor or support staff who had fallen out of favour.

  2. It's so much worse when you work for a for-profit institution. Because it isn't just a matter of exploitation, it's exploitation that is enabling some asshole like Mitt Romney take a vacation from his "earnings" by investing in my for-profit slave camp.

  3. "... it's exploitation that is enabling some asshole like Mitt Romney take a vacation from his "earnings" by investing in my for-profit slave camp."

    I am SOOO glad I'm quitting. I should buy a special 500 gig hard drive just for storing my list of reasons. New ones every day.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. When I think back to my undergrad days, I'm sure that many of my profs were concerned that their students, including me, actually learned something. I doubt, however, that they were willing to have their personal lives devoured by that, nor did I expect or demand it of them.

      When my masters at the place I used to teach at took umbrage that I might actually want to have a life of my own once I left the premises at the end of my working day, I started planning my exit. Just because I finished my Ph. D., lived alone, and wasn't dating anyone didn't give them the right to take away my private time and hand it over to my students. The kiddies couldn't have cared less how many hours I spent on their behalf, so long as they got the marks they believed they deserved for next to no effort whatsoever on their part.

  4. Yup. Someone just noticed this?

    "But when teaching well becomes an end in itself, and becomes the goal to which all else is sacrificed, including the adjunct’s economic self-protection and psychological self-care, then something is terribly, terribly wrong."

    Adjuncts in our department were expected to attend an (unpaid, of course) grading workshop during the winter break. Listening to folks go on and on about their elaborate grading habits, I reflected with astonishment on the amount of wasted work and pointless paper-pushing they do.

    Long ago -- while teaching for an actual salary with actual benefits and an actual office -- I learned that you present what the institution requires for the course and only what it requires. The more minimalist your course structure, the simpler and clearer you make your assignments and your commentary on them, the higher your students will score you on your evals.

    Students do not care what you imagine you're trying to teach them or how passionate you think you are about your job. They just want to get through the course in one piece, preferably with the highest grade possible and with the lowest hassle possible.

    1. At the place where I used to teach, we were expected to attend extra in-service courses after the students had left for the summer. They weren't mandatory but not going didn't do one's reputation there much good, particularly when it came time for one's performance appraisal.

      I went to a few of those sessions during my early years there but eventually I stopped as I found them to be a complete waste of my time. I mean, sitting in a course for several hours listening some self-appointed "expert" (who may or may not have had some actual teaching experience) babbling about, say, alternate learning styles?

      Years later, the institution adopted the ideology that there were a set number of official learning styles and the course outlines had to be changed accordingly. Those outlines went on-line and were very detailed, with each aspect set up so that each of those aforementioned learning styles were accommodated (i. e., something for those who learned visually, something for the hands-on types, and so on). Each section of the course covered by the outline had to be presented as a narrative, so some instructors turned them into story chapters. (I. "Dick and Jane discover derivatives." II. "Dick and Jane calculate their first integral." III. "Dick and Jane are excited about partial differential equations.")

      The entire process became so ridiculously bloated that the whole objective of the course was completely forgotten, buried under the requirements and the presentation of the outline itself. I heard that some of them were so elaborate that the instructors who wrote them nearly transcribed complete reference books to create the content, adding audio and video files to supplement the text. If one read the outline, one wouldn't have had to attend the lectures.

      However, it kept the institution's bureaucrats happy and was good for its public image. Yet, I don't think the students cared one way or another so long as they got their high marks for doing next to nothing.


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