Wrapping the ‘Precarious’ and ‘At-will’ labels on 150 million USA Workers

“Are Adjunct Professors the Fast-Food Workers of the Academic World?” Is this provocative, evocative, adversarial, or emblematic of an age of casino capitalism, corrupted Admin Class, and a see/ hear/speak no evil compliant groups of people who are in the 20 percent? Not One Percenters, for sure, these destroyers of community, of sanity, of democracy, culture, our futures, but still, VPs and provosts and HR personnel and Presidents and others in the pencil neck-data-software-bean counter class who make more than $120 K a year, and have with the flick of their mouse wrists, people’s lives in the balance.

Too bad they never meet punks like me at cocktail parties. Really. These people are either smug (easily defeated in any argument) or slithering toward the greasy little Eichmann brand of human (easily pushed into their racism and classism boxes). They see right through us, the ones on the front line, hustling, working our butts off, and, alas, paid like peons (and, that racist thing, peon, is how they divide and conquer us, some of us, wanna be bourgeois!). They may not recognize what it means to bear witness, but we sure as hell can make their days and cocktail hours unbearable.

I know it sounds harsh, tough, lone wolf-like, and even anti-education and anti-scholarly, but what do we have to lose? What?

These people are not our friends, our allies or our brethren. They exist on other planes of existence, and they are what keeps consumerism spinning and our hamster wheels greased.

I’ve said much of what follows in two articles and two comments (one, at the Chronicle of Higher Education, is mine) at many conferences, in front of Prez’s and VPs and other honchos, on the streets, and in writing, here , too at DV. But I will let some fine adjunct say it verbatim below in one article, and let the Chronicle of Higher Education go into the part-time or adjunct bill of rights legislation put forward in California, that Jerry Brown “kill all teachers and all sanity” state.

There are all sorts of various movements around education, the failure we’ve built in for young people to even attempt to enjoy and absorb and participate in a real education, one where the bias and prejudice and old time religion are imploded with every sort of intellectual and political Claymore mine imaginable. I have students who do not like reading, who do not like thinking, who do not like trying and experimenting. I have students struggling to find themselves, to break out of the parents’ mold, to envision a new day. Most students want to be what the Media-Culture-Vanguard-Corporation-Software tells them to be.

We humble adjuncts are rising up like frozen mammoths, but that rising is in tandem with neoliberalism’s plagues, the disease of profit for a few, the sickness of community collapse, the pathogen of dumber and dumber and the more illogical after the greater illogical, this continuous stream of meaningless and meaningless phlegm;  junk and consumption products like a solar shower . . . .  Until, what is it we can give and do to build community, what can we do to survive multiple gunshot wounds to the soul and society and systems? Students would not even think of how to take the standard bearer and rip it free and point the standard into the force corporations, into the heart of the paving and building industries, into the brains of the polluters and miners and the mass of them. This is the community bill of rights, a city and county power to keep in check all profiteers, and to place the standards and regs WE envision through this home-rule model, a community bills of rights, that forces the pigs of profit to listen to our community standards for zero tolerance for pollution, zero tolerance for wrecking the landscapes, the water, air, food. Ya think?

We’re getting more stories about the failure of education from the students’ point of view and the adjunct faculty’s POV; however, this is the reality of 24/7, nano-attention spans:  stories . . .  and more of them . . . are stories that end up in the whirlpool of gigabyte nothingness and fluttering into  cloud servers that float our histories into the stratosphere, into complete ionization, vanishing.

Here:

My comment, then another, then the story we are commenting on:

Whew, so much to comment on both around the article and some of the comments. This is not a difficult learning curve, however, for anyone working today in the USA. Anyone working in education, in any field, as a worker, laborer, professional, a PMC, AKA, professional managerial class individual, we know how precarious our lives are in a world where Social Security is attacked, unionizing is considered treason, health care for all paid for by our society is considered socialism, and where the backbone in our society is constantly attacked, eviscerated and pulverized by the vanguard, the financial felons and the mundane and complicit press/slash/media.

Current and past economic policies rammed down our collective throats by the One Percent and a good chunk of the 19 percent at the top of their feeding pool have brought us to the edge of this precipice: precarious work for the majority; youth disenfranchised through outsourcing, cutthroat-sourcing, and debt-futures; a continuous attack on communities, big and small, trying to build the safety nets of a society with 77 million baby boomers and 79 million millennials almost forced to face off in a dog-eat-dog world of fighting for the last good job in a pool of 1,000 applicants.

This is not an exceptional, powerful, worthy society, and so many people I work with, write about and teach know it, but they have been colonized by the spectacle and consumerism and a representative democracy that is run by a very few ethically-empty interlopers.

I’ve been teaching since 1983, at the college level. Teaching at four schools in while still a graduate student, in El Paso, and working part-time as a journalist and consultant and organizer and community activist. This was my foundation, when college was populated with, oh, around 30 percent part-time faculty or non-tenure track. Go 30 years into the future, now, and it’s 75 percent NTT and PT. This has been a project of neoliberalism, stupidity by our under-experienced, under-educated, undermining politicians. This project has been led by Administrators and HR folk and all these hangers on who have created a higher ed system of paper pushers-data hoarders-software lovers-technology fiends-anti-teacher/faculty leaders (sic).

Here we are, paying people with PhDs diddly squat; pushing youth into debt for barista jobs; gutting culture, threading reading abilities (AKA critical and participatory thinking), jettisoning history for a chance at meaningless apps for the even more meaningless IT-Digital Hells to Extinction.

So, fun stuff here trying to coalesce a very splintered, dichotomous rag-tag group of people, adjuncts, freeway fliers, migrant workers, or as Pablo Eisenberg calls us, “The Untouchables” . . . . in a caste system that has paid off for a few, including tenured faulty, on the backs of real education, the majority educators, and students . . . . Our collective futures are in the sewer.

So, those futurists and politicians and business class and corporate superstars in our respective states do not have the answers to these problems because they have not coalesced themselves around the people with the answers — educators, in the trenches, on the front lines, or, call us adjuncts.

We face a president who wants more college-educated youth, more community colleges doing these fantastic things, yet in a state like Washington (blue, the last time I checked the mainstream mush), well, we have anti-union Amazon and Boeing, and we have false labor stats about an improving economy and with that improvement (sic) less funding for the 34 state community and technical colleges, fewer students this fall than last fall, and so adjunct jobs are on the chopping block.

Continuous cycles of boom or bust do not make for a underpinning of success for two or five or even one generation out.

So here we are, with hyperbole, out-of-touch thinkers, in 2014, believing adjuncts in the million-plus do this because we are hobbyists, or have some fist-full of dollars buried in our backyards, or that belief people working fast-food jobs are not in need of living wages, or that all those health care workers and service workers are just “doing it as a summer job or while educating themselves in school.” We pay the real people nothing and the nothing people real bucks. Welcome, capitalism, free-wheeling markets, with steer wheels thrown out the window and blind pilots drinking away . . . .

This is a complicated picture, tied to many economic lies, and many failures by the political class, the lobbyists and the so-called leaders in our states who come aboard education boards and conferences with almost zero experience in this field. The solution to this might be rattling more than just the cages of capitalism. Maybe we need a reinvention of what work is, what duty is, and what value we place on the skills, trades and proclivities of people who actually build community away from the all-mighty profit margin and casino/slash/predatory free marketeering.

Paul Haeder

**********

It is good to see that there is at least some interest in the predicament adjuncts or (to use the euphemism) contingent faculty find themselves in, which is part of the predicament of higher education itself in declining Western civilization in the early 21st century. I won’t tell my life story, except to note that I walked away from an adjunct position that paid me $2,200 per course at best for four courses per semester after seven years at the institution; at one point I was teaching six philosophy courses spread out over three campuses. This after over a decade of bouncing from university to university to university, moving every year to three years, for over a decade before. I am now outside academia, still doing intellectual writing (building a small, home-based business while living very frugally on an inheritance and an investment), accepting my status as an outsider and preparing to let the chips fall where they may.

What we need is a national conversation on what we want the future of higher education to be, as well as how the people in it are going to be treated. Does American society really want an educated citizenry? Based on observation, I’d say No. Thinking people are not wanted by government because they can see through the BS spewed by the average member of the political class; nor are they wanted by corporations because they tend to ask questions about priorities and externalities. Thinking people don’t simply bow to authority. This may explain why the country has been gradually choking its own capacity to educate for as long as I can remember, turning public schools into obedience factories where teachers teach to the test; students come to college unprepared to do what used to be considered college-level work and graduate with five to six figures of student loan debt because they haven’t been taught the first thing about personal finance.

If the U.S. really wants an educated citizenry, institutions are going to have to pay for it. From what I can gather, adjuncts are slowly getting organized and preparing to fight a system that’s left them no alternative — although it’s bound to be slow and very precarious going as most of these people know they can be replaced on a whim and don’t want to be forced to become unemployment statistics.

Steven Yates

The California House of Representatives (sic), the bill, the politician Schakowsky:

H. R. 675
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES>

Ms. Schakowsky introduced the following bill; which was referred to the , and in addition to the Committees on, and, for a period to be subsequently determined by the Speaker, in each case for consideration of such provisions as fall within the jurisdiction of the committee concerned

A BILL — Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act of 2013

To extend protections to part-time workers in the areas of employer-provided health insurance, family and medical leave, and pension plans.

The story:

An ‘Alarming Snapshot’ of Adjunct Labor”

By Syndi Dunn

When Rep. George Miller, a Democrat from California, launched an online forum asking adjuncts to submit stories of their working conditions, contingent faculty greeted the effort with cautious applause. Finally, a national public figure was speaking up about higher education’s deepening labor gap. But would the talk lead to any substantive action?

Weeks after the forum’s submission deadline, that has yet to be determined. But today Democrats in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on which Miller serves, weighed in with a 36-page report detailing its findings.

The report draws on 845 stories submitted by adjuncts in 41 states over the course of six weeks. For the most part, it echoes news articles and other recent research on adjunct labor: “Contingent faculty often earn low salaries with few or no benefits, are forced to maintain difficult schedules to make ends meet, face unclear paths for career development, and enjoy little to no job security.”

But it also suggests a possible solution: passage of the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act of 2013, a bill introduced last February that would, among other things, extend Affordable Care Act coverage mandates and family and medical leave protections to part-timers. (The bill was referred to a House subcommittee in April and has languished since.)

This is just one idea, though, and there’s no indication that the bill will soon make headway. Miller said in a statement that he plans to work with fellow committee members, universities and colleges, and contingent faculty to posit more solutions to the “troubling issues.”

The report’s findings will help guide those discussions, said Julia Krahe, communications director for the education and workforce committee.

‘Just-In-Time Professor’

Miller said that the report—“The Just-in-Time Professor: A Staff Report Summarizing eForum Responses on the Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education”—is “in no way an exhaustive account of the circumstances of adjunct faculty,” but it raises “some serious concerns.” It pairs data gathered from the forum entries with anonymous quotes from the respondents.

The respondents, despite varied education and work backgrounds, submitted stories that were largely consistent, Krahe said. While some said their employment situation was better than others, citing union contracts or access to benefits, most shared the same difficulties.

Highlights from the findings include:

Contingent faculty often have low pay and few, if any, benefits. Of the 845 forum respondents, 166 supplied information on how much they are paid per course. Most respondents indicated they made between $2,000 and $3,500 per three-credit hour course. Of the 152 respondents who listed their estimated annual teaching salary, the average was $24,926.

More than 60 respondents reported salaries that would put them beneath the federal poverty line for a three-person family. Some respondents said they were on federal assistance programs like Medicaid or food stamps. One added: “During the time I taught at the community college, I earned so little that I sold my plasma on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pay for [my child’s] daycare costs.”

On top of low pay, 75 percent of the respondents who discussed the topic said they did not receive benefits—either because their employer didn’t offer them or because they were otherwise ineligible. One adjunct wrote: “The health care plan that I could buy into costs more than my take-home pay on even a good year. My retirement plan is to work until they bury me.”

Most respondents teach several courses per semester and travel among several institutions. Nearly half of the adjuncts who specified their course load taught either two or three three-credit-hour courses per semester. But because some respondents took on many additional courses, the average course load is just over three.

Those instructors are also teaching at multiple universities at a time. Of respondents who gave information about the number of schools they served, 48 percent taught at two institutions, 27 percent taught at three, and 13 percent taught at four or more. Most identified themselves as “freeway flyers.” One respondent said: “My commute at the highest point was 900 miles per week; at the lowest it was only 550 miles per week.”

Adjuncts lack job security and predictable schedules. 95 percent of respondents who spoke on the matter said they had no job stability and did not know whether they would be teaching courses from one semester to the next. Furthermore, some adjuncts said they often find out if they have a course just days before the semester begins.

More than 100 respondents said they have never had sufficient time to prepare for their courses. One wrote: “I taught four courses in the fall, but was not told until the day before spring semester started that I wouldn’t have any classes for the spring. I was unemployed with no notice.”

Adjuncts report receiving little professional support. Several problems were cited frequently: a lack of administrative support, difficulty securing copies of required textbooks and students’ email addresses, limited access to professional-development courses, and inability to participate in departmental meetings.

One adjunct recalled: “Although I’ve been at my … very decent university job for the past 15 years, a tenured professor asked me, ‘So, you’re teaching for us this semester?’ Why am I not part of this ‘us’ after so much dedicated teaching, year after year?

- See more at: CHE.

This is a good piece, quick, to the jugular, fine, refined, easy to swallow, dear public!

When Rep. George Miller, a Democrat from California, launched an online forum asking adjuncts to submit stories of their working conditions, contingent faculty greeted the effort with cautious applause. Finally, a national public figure was speaking up about higher education’s deepening labor gap. But would the talk lead to any substantive action?

Weeks after the forum’s submission deadline, that has yet to be determined. But today Democrats in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on which Miller serves, weighed in with a 36-page report detailing its findings.

The report draws on 845 stories submitted by adjuncts in 41 states over the course of six weeks. For the most part, it echoes news articles and other recent research on adjunct labor: “Contingent faculty often earn low salaries with few or no benefits, are forced to maintain difficult schedules to make ends meet, face unclear paths for career development, and enjoy little to no job security.”

But it also suggests a possible solution: passage of the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act of 2013, a bill introduced last February that would, among other things, extend Affordable Care Act coverage mandates and family and medical leave protections to part-timers. (The bill was referred to a House subcommittee in April and has languished since.)

This is just one idea, though, and there’s no indication that the bill will soon make headway. Miller said in a statement that he plans to work with fellow committee members, universities and colleges, and contingent faculty to posit more solutions to the “troubling issues.”

The report’s findings will help guide those discussions, said Julia Krahe, communications director for the education and workforce committee.

‘Just-In-Time Professor’

Miller said that the report—“The Just-in-Time Professor: A Staff Report Summarizing eForum Responses on the Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education”—is “in no way an exhaustive account of the circumstances of adjunct faculty,” but it raises “some serious concerns.” It pairs data gathered from the forum entries with anonymous quotes from the respondents.

The respondents, despite varied education and work backgrounds, submitted stories that were largely consistent, Krahe said. While some said their employment situation was better than others, citing union contracts or access to benefits, most shared the same difficulties.

Highlights from the findings include:

Contingent faculty often have low pay and few, if any, benefits. Of the 845 forum respondents, 166 supplied information on how much they are paid per course. Most respondents indicated they made between $2,000 and $3,500 per three-credit hour course. Of the 152 respondents who listed their estimated annual teaching salary, the average was $24,926.

More than 60 respondents reported salaries that would put them beneath the federal poverty line for a three-person family. Some respondents said they were on federal assistance programs like Medicaid or food stamps. One added: “During the time I taught at the community college, I earned so little that I sold my plasma on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pay for [my child’s] daycare costs.”

On top of low pay, 75 percent of the respondents who discussed the topic said they did not receive benefits—either because their employer didn’t offer them or because they were otherwise ineligible. One adjunct wrote: “The health care plan that I could buy into costs more than my take-home pay on even a good year. My retirement plan is to work until they bury me.”

Most respondents teach several courses per semester and travel among several institutions. Nearly half of the adjuncts who specified their course load taught either two or three three-credit-hour courses per semester. But because some respondents took on many additional courses, the average course load is just over three.

Those instructors are also teaching at multiple universities at a time. Of respondents who gave information about the number of schools they served, 48 percent taught at two institutions, 27 percent taught at three, and 13 percent taught at four or more. Most identified themselves as “freeway flyers.” One respondent said: “My commute at the highest point was 900 miles per week; at the lowest it was only 550 miles per week.”

Adjuncts lack job security and predictable schedules. 95 percent of respondents who spoke on the matter said they had no job stability and did not know whether they would be teaching courses from one semester to the next. Furthermore, some adjuncts said they often find out if they have a course just days before the semester begins.

More than 100 respondents said they have never had sufficient time to prepare for their courses. One wrote: “I taught four courses in the fall, but was not told until the day before spring semester started that I wouldn’t have any classes for the spring. I was unemployed with no notice.”

Adjuncts report receiving little professional support. Several problems were cited frequently: a lack of administrative support, difficulty securing copies of required textbooks and students’ email addresses, limited access to professional-development courses, and inability to participate in departmental meetings.

One adjunct recalled: “Although I’ve been at my … very decent university job for the past 15 years, a tenured professor asked me, ‘So, you’re teaching for us this semester?’ Why am I not part of this ‘us’ after so much dedicated teaching, year after year?

- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/292-an-alarming-snapshot-of-adjunct-labor#sthash.l9hpvZp0.dpuf

When Rep. George Miller, a Democrat from California, launched an online forum asking adjuncts to submit stories of their working conditions, contingent faculty greeted the effort with cautious applause. Finally, a national public figure was speaking up about higher education’s deepening labor gap. But would the talk lead to any substantive action?

Weeks after the forum’s submission deadline, that has yet to be determined. But today Democrats in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, on which Miller serves, weighed in with a 36-page report detailing its findings.

The report draws on 845 stories submitted by adjuncts in 41 states over the course of six weeks. For the most part, it echoes news articles and other recent research on adjunct labor: “Contingent faculty often earn low salaries with few or no benefits, are forced to maintain difficult schedules to make ends meet, face unclear paths for career development, and enjoy little to no job security.”

But it also suggests a possible solution: passage of the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act of 2013, a bill introduced last February that would, among other things, extend Affordable Care Act coverage mandates and family and medical leave protections to part-timers. (The bill was referred to a House subcommittee in April and has languished since.)

This is just one idea, though, and there’s no indication that the bill will soon make headway. Miller said in a statement that he plans to work with fellow committee members, universities and colleges, and contingent faculty to posit more solutions to the “troubling issues.”

The report’s findings will help guide those discussions, said Julia Krahe, communications director for the education and workforce committee.

‘Just-In-Time Professor’

Miller said that the report—“The Just-in-Time Professor: A Staff Report Summarizing eForum Responses on the Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education”—is “in no way an exhaustive account of the circumstances of adjunct faculty,” but it raises “some serious concerns.” It pairs data gathered from the forum entries with anonymous quotes from the respondents.

The respondents, despite varied education and work backgrounds, submitted stories that were largely consistent, Krahe said. While some said their employment situation was better than others, citing union contracts or access to benefits, most shared the same difficulties.

Highlights from the findings include:

Contingent faculty often have low pay and few, if any, benefits. Of the 845 forum respondents, 166 supplied information on how much they are paid per course. Most respondents indicated they made between $2,000 and $3,500 per three-credit hour course. Of the 152 respondents who listed their estimated annual teaching salary, the average was $24,926.

More than 60 respondents reported salaries that would put them beneath the federal poverty line for a three-person family. Some respondents said they were on federal assistance programs like Medicaid or food stamps. One added: “During the time I taught at the community college, I earned so little that I sold my plasma on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pay for [my child’s] daycare costs.”

On top of low pay, 75 percent of the respondents who discussed the topic said they did not receive benefits—either because their employer didn’t offer them or because they were otherwise ineligible. One adjunct wrote: “The health care plan that I could buy into costs more than my take-home pay on even a good year. My retirement plan is to work until they bury me.”

Most respondents teach several courses per semester and travel among several institutions. Nearly half of the adjuncts who specified their course load taught either two or three three-credit-hour courses per semester. But because some respondents took on many additional courses, the average course load is just over three.

Those instructors are also teaching at multiple universities at a time. Of respondents who gave information about the number of schools they served, 48 percent taught at two institutions, 27 percent taught at three, and 13 percent taught at four or more. Most identified themselves as “freeway flyers.” One respondent said: “My commute at the highest point was 900 miles per week; at the lowest it was only 550 miles per week.”

Adjuncts lack job security and predictable schedules. 95 percent of respondents who spoke on the matter said they had no job stability and did not know whether they would be teaching courses from one semester to the next. Furthermore, some adjuncts said they often find out if they have a course just days before the semester begins.

More than 100 respondents said they have never had sufficient time to prepare for their courses. One wrote: “I taught four courses in the fall, but was not told until the day before spring semester started that I wouldn’t have any classes for the spring. I was unemployed with no notice.”

Adjuncts report receiving little professional support. Several problems were cited frequently: a lack of administrative support, difficulty securing copies of required textbooks and students’ email addresses, limited access to professional-development courses, and inability to participate in departmental meetings.

One adjunct recalled: “Although I’ve been at my … very decent university job for the past 15 years, a tenured professor asked me, ‘So, you’re teaching for us this semester?’ Why am I not part of this ‘us’ after so much dedicated teaching, year after year?”

- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/292-an-alarming-snapshot-of-adjunct-labor#sthash.l9hpvZp0.dpuf

“Are Adjunct Professors the Fast-Food Workers of the Academic World?”

By James D Hoff who teaches writing and literature in New York City. H’s a PhD in English Literature.

I am what’s called an adjunct. I teach four courses per semester at two different colleges, and I am paid just $24,000 a year and receive no health or pension benefits. Recently, I was profiled in the New York Times as the face of adjunct exploitation, and though I was initially happy to share my story because I care about the issue, the profile has its limits. Rather than use my situation to explain the systemic problem of academic labor, the article personalized – even romanticized – my situation as little more than the deferred dream of a struggling PhD with a penchant for poetry.

But the adjunct problem is not about PhDs struggling to find jobs or people being forced to give up their dreams. The adjunct problem is about the continued exploitation of a large, growing and diverse group of highly educated and dedicated college teachers who have been asked to settle for less pay (sometimes as little as $21,000 a year for full-time work) because the institutions they work for have callously calculated that they can get away with it. The adjunct problem is institutional, not personal, and its affects reach deep into our culture and society.

Though there are tens of thousands of personal stories like mine of economic hardship and lives ruined or put on hold, it is not to these stories that we should turn when we consider the exploitation of adjuncts in academia, but to our universal sense of justice. For the continued exploitation of adjuncts is, to put it bluntly, nothing less than unjust. Here’s why:

1. Using adjuncts devalues higher education

According to the American Association of University Professors, adjuncts and other contingent employees made up 70% of the faculty at American universities and colleges in 2007. Though the numbers differ drastically from one campus to the next, all but the most elite college students are being taught by overworked and underpaid adjunct lecturers. These faculty are essentially paid contractors, who come in, do a quick job, and then head out. Maintaining high standards and expectations, performing research, and providing honest and accurate assessment under such conditions is incredibly difficult, and the continued use of adjuncts is destroying the integrity and value of higher education.

2. Paying adjuncts less creates a hierarchy within academia

It is unjust because it creates an ugly hierarchy within academia that mirrors the increasingly gross divide within American society. While the private sector has seen a startling loss of living wage jobs, the erosion of benefits, and the destruction of unions, academia has undergone its own slow transformation. While the average faculty member makes anywhere between $60,000 to $198,000 a year (frequently for a course load of two or three courses per semester) most adjuncts are paid somewhere between $2,500 to $4,000 per course. They also have little to no control over their course assignments, except to refuse offered courses (which can lead to less work and less pay) and they have absolutely no job security, meaning they are subject to sudden termination at the whims of department chairs and administrators, without any explanation or any process for grievance or appeal.

3. Universities spend more on administration than teachers

It is unjust because it takes power away from the practitioners of higher education – teachers and researchers – and puts it in the hands of administrators. While the academe has become increasingly reliant upon temporary and disposable adjuncts, who live in constant fear of poverty, the administrative classes within those institutions have steadily grown. As Benjamin Ginsberg documented in The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All-Administrative University and Why It Matters, between 1985 and 2005 administrative spending increased by 85%, while administrative support staff increased by a dramatic 240%. Meanwhile spending on faculty increased by only around 50%. Such wasteful spending on non-essential staff is out of proportion to the actual goals of academic institutions, which are charged to teach and research, not administer.

4. Using adjuncts betrays the students who are most in need

The students who frequently need the most help – poor and working class students, first generation college students, and students of color – are also the ones most likely to be taught by adjuncts. It is no accident that the increased use of adjuncts followed quickly on the heels of a massive shift in the demography of college attendance in the late sixties and early seventies. As more and more working class people and people of color began attending public universities in California and New York, state funding was quickly reduced. Rather than continue to offer the best to these students, universities decided instead to expand the use of adjuncts. Just as the doors of academia were opened to the most underprivileged students, the feast of knowledge that lay behind was quietly hidden from view, and the paper plates and frozen dinners brought out instead.

5. Under-paying adjuncts makes full-time teaching unaffordable

Lastly, it is unjust because it cynically manipulates the better angels of the human spirit – the desire to help and to share one’s interests and values, to cultivate meaningful relationships, to inspire, and to teach – in order to save a few bucks. Like federal and state governments, which are expected to subsidize the wages of full-time fast food workers, adjuncts – who frequently subsidize their earnings with other jobs – are voluntarily underwriting the institutions they work for. Though many of these adjuncts would be thrilled to dedicate themselves exclusively to teaching, few of them can, because none of them can afford to.

Many people ask me why, given all of this, I would continue to work as an adjunct, but that is the wrong question to ask. The work I do is important, it’s what I was trained to do, and there’s a clear and growing demand for it. Rather than asking why adjuncts don’t find other work, or why they don’t “just quit” as so many well-meaning commentators have suggested, people should instead be asking colleges and universities why they think it’s OK to pay so little for such important work.

 

Paul Kirk has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington Read other articles by Paul.