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Response to Responses

Posted on 10 Feb | 8 comments
Response to Responses

Adjunct faculty abuse is, in some small ways, like global warming. Some folks have a vested interest in denying its existence. If you see a blog or website entry on this phenomenon, watch the comments sections: there are a few comments repeated over and over that need to be addressed in a forum bigger than a comments section.

One, repeated in many forms, is this one: if you don't like it, just work somewhere else.

Other ways this argument is made include "adjunct faculty know what they are getting into," "this is supposed to be a part-time job," and "the college never made any promises these jobs would lead to full-time work." This is the whole premise of a Los Angeles Times article.

Here's the thing: there aren't any other jobs. Full-time jobs across the board are on the decline. Want to be a college professor? When I was growing up, this was an esteemed and respected profession. But the point of the articles on adjunct abuse is that real jobs in education are on the decline, gradually replacing education professionals with part-timers of limited vested interest who we can treat as amateurs. And if this chases you out of the field, bear in mind that virtually all the job growth since 2008 in the US has been in low-wage occupations.

So your PhD or PsyD not only does not guarantee you a job in academics (and it shouldn't) but it doesn't even guarantee you a shot at such a job, or even really at anything but waiter or cashier. For every job available in our country, there are three job seekers. This isn't to say that three people apply for each job, because each job seeker applies for multiple jobs; it is to say that competition for work has never been so fierce.

It is a buyer's market right now. Employers can afford to be extremely selective and to offer unfair compensation. This argument is just another variation of blaming the victim.

Next on the list is this: Adjuncts don't work as hard as full-time faculty.

Variants are this: if you want the pay of a tenured professor, work as hard as a tenured professor; full-time staff do a lot more than teach class and then leave; and, I don't know how you are calculating that rate of pay when adjuncts just teach and leave.

Ask any adjunct. Chances are, they would be delighted to have the chance to work as hard as any full-time faculty. Harder, because we are struggling to escape a poverty that the real professionals do not have to endure. Again, the jobs just are not there. Adjuncts have not chosen part-time work because it is an ideal option, but because it is the best option in a range of bad options. Sure, some folks are perfectly content to adjunct as an adjunct to their real, bill-paying job. This does not make it fair to switch the majority of a workforce from professional to contingent.

Another common response: Adjuncts get lots of fringe benefits.

Here's the idea: I'm a researcher and a writer, seeking lots of peer-reviewed journal coverage. To get my research done, I work part-time at a university where I get access to all their online journals and other facilities, then I can do my research work basically on the school's dime.

The truth is, adjuncts get no benefits in terms of healthcare or retirement or job security. We are contingent, meaning we can be fired for no reason or, worse, for insidious reasons (such as advocating, unionizing, promoting other schools, etc.). We generally have access to library databases—how could we do our jobs without these? But how many adjunct faculty are actually working just for the benefits? I've known some folks who worked at clothing retailers to build their professional wardrobes. I've never met a teacher who taught for the joy of research databases.

Let's look at this rationally for slightly longer than the assertion deserves. I could get access to adequate library databases for the cost of an APA membership. That's about $150. Does it make good sense to take a job that is contingent, pays next to nothing (considering your higher education loans and professional training), offers no opportunity for advancement, and generally is unpredictable such that working other jobs at the same time is extremely difficult? For a benefit of $150?

This is akin to the claims that welfare recipients are milking the system or that paying unemployment benefits reduces the incentive to work. Adjuncts are not riding the gravy train home every night, just trying to make a living. We have faith in a system that is treating us faithlessly, that if we work hard for a few years our experience and loyalty will be dignified with full-time, professional work.

Another: The cost is too high.

One commenter estimates it would take a 30-40% increase in tuition rates to pay for all the faculty needed to keep the system working. Seems like pretty simple math: increase faculty pay by 30-40%, increase tuition that much to cover it.

But things are more complicated than this. First, as more poor people start using the system, the rates at which we subsidize public education decreases. Maybe a coincidence, maybe not. But the community college system is the front line in the fight for equal opportunity. While costs for administration increase steadily—pay for higher executives and their offices, ever-increasing administrative positions—pay for faculty steadily declines as we are all pushed into these contingent positions.

So the first step is to restore state funding for education. The second is to wonder whether the private, for-profit model of education is best suited for the public and non-profit sector. Finally, if tuition needs to go up to fairly pay faculty, it needs to go up.

Why? First, because how can we be on the front lines of equal opportunity and simultaneously exploit labor? Is this game worth the candle? Second, if we undervalue education, the whole system is unsustainable. That is, why pay for a community college education so that you can work at Wal-Mart for $8 an hour? Why get an advanced degree so you can make $17K a year teaching community college? Once people start to see they cannot get ahead even with an education, why would they continue to pursue an education?

People are indeed slow to respond to moral economic pressures. People still shop at Wal-Mart because it is all they can afford, and they perceive they can save a lot of money, even when they are aware of the business and hiring practices that are exploitive of labor. McDonalds still does pretty good business despite awareness of employment conditions and the health consequences of fast food. However, I know plenty of folks who no longer shop at Wal-Mart. I also know some who are refusing to support their alma mater because of their school's hiring practices. What if everyone knew how their faculty was paid—would this affect one's choice of where to go to school? Maybe. At least for those who could afford to choose.

What you can do:
Advocate and agitate, especially if you are full-time or tenured faculty yourself. Stop voting to add part-time positions. Vote and advocate to restore budget dollars stripped from higher education. And don't think of this as strictly a university or community college problem. This is a cultural problem that won't be solved by blaming the victims.

-- Jason Dias

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Comments and Discussions

What the hell is Jason Dias

What the hell is Jason Dias all worked up about? Get back on your medications. Go home and watch the revolution on TV.

America is the land of opportunity. The individual who is prepared to work hard can rise from poverty to prosperity.

Poverty is rooted in moral weakness. Financial success is evidence of moral strength.

America is an open society, a land of equal opportunity. Circumstances of birth, race, gender, sexual orientation, physical appearance, place of education, financial status, social network, professed allegiances are of little consequence.

Economic, educational, social and political institutions allow minorities, women, people of diversity, radical non-conformists access to opportunities without requiring that they adjust to the milieu of power and wealth.

Our nation has a lower class, a middle class, but no upper class.

Membership in the Bohemian Club is much the same as membership in 350.Org.

You can find a ruling elite in China, corruption is widespread there, and how can they have a system of capitalism that is authoritarian and doesn’t promote democracy. Here in the United States, democracy flourishes, political and economic corruption is non-existent.

Look nowhere else, we have perfected a political, economic and social system, the envy of the world.

Political and economic refugees are welcome to work here. We guarantee a minimum wage.

A tenured university professor works harder than a single parent with three kids and two jobs. The professor should be appropriately rewarded for all his published articles in a Journal read by a few dozen academics.

A doctoral degree in literature, humanistic psychology, community health brings as much financial reward and security as a doctoral degree in computer science or employment as a football coach in a PAC-12 college. (just checked, it is no longer PAC - 10).

If you are unhappy or dissatisfied, you need psychotherapy. You are responsible for your own happiness. Be a positive thinker. Let me tell you a secret. Meditate on the wealth and success you desire, it will come.

There is no alternative to capitalism's endless pursuit of growth and profit, and neo-liberalism's enlightened self interest. These two “isms” will bring progress and prosperity to all.

Ignore twenty to thirty years of stagnant wages and a growing income disparity between the wealthy 1% and the middle class, and an economy founded on a military industrial complex, and a global system of economic imperialism. There is no alternative to global capitalism.

Lets eliminate the budget deficit and reduce the national debt by cutting social welfare, social security, food stamps, aid to the elderly. Social welfare must go, but lets keep corporate welfare and wait for the trickle down effect.

We are on a steady path of progress, more will become more, evil will give way to goodness, technological miracles will replenish world resources, the internet will instill wisdom, and all those who have the most up to date smart phones or tablet will find comfort and intimacy within the digital hive.

America is the greatest nation on earth and the American myth is alive and well.

This should be a TNE article

This should be a TNE article all its own. I also thought it was serious until most of the way through, because this is exactly the sort of thing you see in the blogophere posted as serious commentary.

Jason

The scary thing is, I thought

The scary thing is, I thought you were serious until I was about half way through your post!

Jonathan Swift's satire "A

Jonathan Swift's satire "A Modest Proposal" had the same problem. People thought he was actually advocating that the Irish solve the problem of poverty, overpopulation, and starvation by eating their babies. Sadly, much that I included represents beliefs that are at the heart of American culture. JG

Capitalism is indeed an

Capitalism is indeed an unfair system. But "adjunct faculty abuse"? Seriously? I will admit, however, that you whine with style and elegance.

Whining? Not so much. When

Whining? Not so much. When I was teaching as an adjunct, I was making $1200 per 6 week course which required about 15-20 hours per week with discussion questions, office hours and grading papers. That equals out to about $10-13 per hour which is what I made BEFORE I got my MA as a supervisor in a residential treatment center when I was 23 years old. To pay an educator the same as a fast food restaurant manager is asinine & exploitative.

Standing up and telling the truth is not whining...it's courageous.

Greetings. One does try to

Greetings.

One does try to maintain a certain level of style and elegance. Thank you for noticing.

I did not address "stop whining" as an argument, as it is not really an argument at all. It contains no information or rational basis. Indeed, it is the sort of insulting comment one expects to find in the rest of the blogophere (less so here at TNE) when one has the gall to point out the system is unfair.

The numbers are strongly suggestive of the systematic abuse of adjunct faculty as an employment category, following along the national trend of the abuse of part-time employment in general. There are enough other articles on the subject I don't feel any special need to repeat them here.

Have a nice day.

Jason

Bravo! As usual, you have

Bravo! As usual, you have stated it powerfully, Jason. Thank you. It is an academic epidemic. No, make that a national social epidemic. It is an outrage! And, I am not a college professor or an adjunct with any axe to grind.

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