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2 Reasons to consider adjucting a dead-end choice

December 5, 2008

Both of my source materials today come from InsideHigherEd.com, the first from here and the second here.

I will start with the latter:  If you are still in graduate school, stay there and take some business or computer courses.  That is, don’t matriculate with a liberal arts/humanities degree and hope to get any sort of teaching job.  Why?  There aren’t any.  Even though a recession typically sees a spike in returning to school (hiding out, they used to say), the numbers of open positions in the humanities is dwindling.

How can that be, I go to the former link: the intro paragraph, well written and succint, says it well enough to be quoted in its entirerity:

The use of adjuncts is well known among academics, but many believe that these instructors are utilized primarily in certain areas (such as the humanities) or certain types of institutions (such as community colleges). But a report being released today by the American Federation of Teachers suggests that the breadth and depth of adjunct use is greater than many realize — such that they are teaching a majority of public college and university courses, and are a major force in a wide range of disciplines.

By outsourcing the work to adjuncts (a well-documented trend of the last decade), institutions (and not just the lowly CC) are moving their percentage of TT positions to, on average, about 41%.  This number is not going up–neither is the percentage of non-tenured faculty (20%).  What will grow is the percentage of contingent positions (my term, not the articles) that is cited as non-TT (20%) and the euphemistic “graduate employees” (19%).

While the article is more concerned with rectifying the situation (get out the word of the horrible current state, provide calculations and examples of how paying for better teaching helps the entire institution down the road, etc.), I care more for, at this point, my bottom line.

Will universities choose to pay more for services they can get cheaper?  A Liberal dream that will not play out.

Will there be a dramatic shift coming?  Yes, but not in the way most people will want.  Until the tipping point of poor education (adjuncts, on the whole, because of the institutional lack of investment in them, do not provide the same level of performance–this it not a knock on them) becomes such that students demand more, the status quo will continue.

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2 Comments
  1. katmeyster permalink
    January 3, 2009 6:20 am

    My Community College has approximately 67% of the classes taught by adjuncts. Of course it always comes up as a problem, but I don’t see anyone planning on doing anything about it. Lately the administration has been complaining about students who come to college unprepared and they feel they have to work with the high schools. Apparently we have so many students not passing classes, and taking remedial classes over and over, and the state is noticing our dismal progress. But (watch our for rant here) are the adjuncts ever part of the discussion? Do we even know they have programs to deal with first year students? We are the instructors of these students, and yet we are completely invisible to the administration. Gee, I wonder if that could be part of the problem? The bottom line is, they can’t afford to acknowledge us. I remain unacknowledged and treated like crap. Thanks for letting me rant. Can’t wait for the next semester.

  2. Janet Weiss permalink
    January 29, 2009 5:14 am

    I agree with much of the article above, except the last line, which is full of crap. The line in question reads: “adjuncts, on the whole, because of the institutional lack of investment in them, do not provide the same level of performance–this it not a knock on them.” That is a bunch of bologna. Everyone knows that it is receiving tenure that often spoils professors, turning them into turgid and bitter teachers who feel they can teach in the sloppiest manner possible because the administration is powerless to get rid of them. Of course, anyone who lived through the tenure-track cuts of the 1980s knows that nobody, not even tenure tracks, is immune from getting cut when the financial chips are down for the university. In addition, the article above does not mention the fact that adjuncts often teach classes that the effete tenure track professors refuse to teach, such as introductory classes or “applied” classes in composition, etc. So the subject matter that adjuncts teach … and hence, their style of teaching it … cannot be accurately compared to the “sexier” material tenure tracks teach.

    Nevertheless, we must all acknowledge that teaching adjunct is a dead-end in the long run, and that no university you are working at as an adjunct will EVER hire you as a tenure-track prof if you are applying from the adjunct pool. It just does not happen. And that’s too bad. University’s miss out on some damn good hires because they can’t envision their adjuncts as prospective professorial material.

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