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Academic Missionaries: Part Deux

March 24, 2006

I am taking some of the comments from my post on the use of adjuncts and giving them a spot in the limelight.

Vito makes the following excellent points:

UofA’s salary range is “about half what the lowest paying CCs in the area pay their adjuncts. Closer to 1/4 of the higher paying CCs in the area.” I would say that you get what you pay for…especially for-profit (an arguable term–see March Madness) universities. I don’t have first-hand knowledge of a comparison. I have taught at other institutions where the pay was comparable (I break it down to a per-hour basis, given that some courses are 6 or 5 week versus 15-16 week).

The quality of adjuncts is “abysmally low” to which he cites a personal example. My experience has been that the UofA adjuncts are on the lower end of the quality market. Another college, much to the north, seems to drink from a fresher stream. One to the South, not so fresh. So it seems to depend on the institution (dare I say the management, Dean Dad?) and the level of support. That is, if a sharp mind chooses the adjunct path, for whatever reason, and they have intellectual freedom (something the UofA doesn’t allow or encourage), then the hiring school will attract the better quality instructor. The difference seems to be one of being an instructor versus a facilitator.

Vito argues that the quality of student at UofA is lower…which I really haven’t seen. The quality of student overall, it seems, is relatively low, No Child Left Behind notwithstanding. I have been posting some plagiarism stories of late. I doubt academic dishonesty is a new phenomena, and I doubt critics who argue that it has gotten more pervasive. I think it is now easier to catch (see and the like).

Additionally, the worker of Inside the Philosophy factory (dare I say an educated Rivethead) says, right, that:

“since the adjunct is (rightly) only committed for the length of their contract, their perspective is limited and their ability to make long-term commitments to activities or committees is equally limited.” This, too, is something that I lay at the feet of administrators. It goes to how adjuncts are used. Dean Dad relates a small cc in Arizona that is staffed almost exclusively with adjuncts. Compare that with a university that employs them here and there as demand for a class fluctuates. It will depend on how the administration orients themselves to the use of adjuncts. If your entire staff is composed of adjuncts, you will, I would think, give them voice and input into the running as they are (no doubt a small town) the only game in town. If you employ them willy-nilly (for whatever reason), then of course the adjuncts would not or should not have a say as they are just passing through.

The problem comes when these two extremes are mixed. It is cheaper to employ the part-timer (no benefits–see Wal-mart) for years on end. I mean, if the instructor is desperate enough to stick around, why pay him or her more when the dollars are needed elsewhere?

The philosophical hardhat also makes the point that adjuncts can be hired because of their proximity to the hiring person. That is, while tenure track selection usually comes from a committee, hiring an adjunct can be as easy as walking out an office door and seeing who is around–actually happened to me.

The bigger question here, as I see it, is why change the current system? Market forces are shaping the institutions, and economic theory will say that the leanest and most efficient system will result.


One Comment
  1. Inside the Philosophy Factory permalink
    March 26, 2006 11:59 pm

    The only way change will come is from within the academy itself.

    The fact of the matter is that the professorate is very liberal, concerned with the well-being of the poor and working classes. Yet, they benefit from a system which systematically oppresses many for the good of the few.

    Until this is made clear and the hypocracy eliminated, nothing will change.

    Up here our CC adjuncts are covered by the same unioin and contract as the full-timers. Working toward that elsewhere can and should make things change.

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