• December 17, 2014

Why Don't We Insist on Equity?

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Brian Taylor

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Brian Taylor

A new contract between United Steelworkers and Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle manufacturer, will reduce its full-time payroll at one plant and instead add, as its needs arise, "casual" workers who will make $18.50 an hour to full-timers' $31. What made that agreement—along with similar ones between the International Association of Machinists and Mercury Marine, and between the United Auto Workers and Kohler, maker of plumbing fixtures—worthy of front-page coverage in The New York Times?

It's reporter Louis Uchitelle's explanation that those contracts have legitimized two-tiered wage scales. Once seen as an emergency measure to be taken only in hard times, those wage scales are now being made permanent.

Even scarier is Uchitelle's forecast that the lower-paid tier of the scale could become "the only tier once all the veterans have left or retired."

All of this should ring a bell in academe. In a further parallel to our own industry, with our well-known glut of new Ph.D.'s, Harley-Davidson's chief executive said: "The simple economic fact is that we overproduced and now we have to burn off the excess."

In the higher-education business, such burning-off measures already are fairly permanent. That's why Barbara Bowen, president of City University of New York's Professional Staff Congress, gave a speech last summer in which she said that faculty unions for full-timers need to start negotiating contingent issues first—before tackling the full-time issues. Speaking at a conference at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, she said that contingent employment in academe is already twice what it is in any other industry, even retail.

But she acknowledged that knowing what needs to be done and convincing full-time faculty members to do it were two different things. And in early November, her membership voted 3 to 1 to reject four specific proposals for pay parity, job security, and promotion, as presented by their adjunct and contingent counterparts at the union's Delegate Assembly. (The union's negotiations committee did accept some of the proposals in a modified form: For details and an incisive overview on the status and working conditions of adjuncts at CUNY and elsewhere, see this November 19 article in SocialistWorker.org.)

The ranks of the nontenurable have more than doubled since the introduction of temporary teaching positions as an emergency measure in response to stagflation in the mid-1970s. Contingent faculty members now make up 73 percent of the nation's professoriate, according to figures from the U.S. Education Department.

So why can't faculty members hang together on equity issues? What can stop this trend that has already divided and is about to conquer us?

We can continue to play the myopic game of those who created the two tiers in the first place by focusing on the differences between faculty members. The status quo is tough to buck: A former adjunct I know who, after 20 years in that role, finally won a tenure-track job, used to question the pay differential between full-time and part-time instructors. Now, suddenly, he can appreciate how full-time status brings immeasurable benefits to education because you have "opportunities to really sit down and discuss pedagogy with colleagues, whether it is casual lunchtime conversations, attending seminars and conferences, or part of the tenure process." Even people who should know better get drawn in to the same old rationalizations.

But what if, instead, we were to insist—in our requests to deans, in our contract negotiations, and, yes, even in our casual conversations at lunch or elsewhere—on identical standards to evaluate faculty members, regardless of their full- or part-time status?

What if we insisted on the same standards for pay, benefits, security, and professional advancement as well as for credentials and performance? What if we refused to speak the two-tiered language at all—except to insist on equivalent compensation for equivalent work? Wouldn't equity rob management of the incentive to rely on adjuncts anymore? Of course it would.

Not insisting on equity limits our role to nodding and smiling in the ever-more-urgent conversation about how to save higher education. As the president of the United Steelworkers' Milwaukee local, whose membership voted 53 percent to 47 percent to approve the two-tiered contract with Harley-Davidson, admitted, "We ended up accepting their agenda."

The implications are disheartening enough for a product that pretty much stands for proud individualism. But is what's good for the Electra Glide, the Softail, and the Fat Boy, not to mention for outboard engines and bathroom fixtures, good for future generations of American minds? No.

A mind is not a faucet, although in just the way a faucet can be turned on or off, minds can be opened or closed. Students' learning conditions are their teachers' working conditions—not 27 percent of their teachers' working conditions. As Cary Nelson, president of the American Association of University Professors, wrote in September, "The only goal worth fighting for is full justice for all who teach." As long as we're having to strip down to essentials, let's strip down to that one.

Steve Street, a lecturer in the writing program at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, has taught writing and literature in colleges and universities since 1980, never on the tenure track. He writes occasionally for the Adjunct Track column.

Comments

1. 11159786 - December 03, 2010 at 06:52 am

Cary Nelson has it exactly right from an ethical point of view. However, colleges and universities are businesses and therefore focus on the "bottom line". The contingent faculty are like scabs and those with tenure (or on the tenure track) are like union members with jobs for life (or hoping for such). Only when we realize this situation might we be willing to fight for the common good cause- not just for selfish reasons but for the sake of our educational system.

2. quidditas - December 03, 2010 at 07:26 am

"But she acknowledged that knowing what needs to be done and convincing full-time faculty members to do it were two different things. And in early November, her membership voted 3 to 1 to reject four specific proposals for pay parity, job security, and promotion, as presented by their adjunct and contingent counterparts at the union's Delegate Assembly."

It is this deeply ingrained supremacist attitude on the part of the tenured in academe that makes me pretty certain that nothing will be done until nearly everyone in academia is levelled DOWN.

The tenured are welcome to demonstrate otherwise but it seems to me we been waiting for the tenured to do so for a whole generation already, just as we have been waiting for the tenured to address the educational crisis amongst their grad students more generally.

It is disgusting that, for example, the most notable response to the needs of grad students for alternative employment has taken place entirely outside academia, in the form of a e-mail list started by a former Ohio State grad student. There is nothing that rivals this e-mail list ON anybody's campus. It seems to me THIS student is a loss to academia, and those who grabbed the golden ring are largely a waste.

Instead, what we get from them is inarticulate sophomoric whining about "the corporatization" of the university and endless displacement of blame onto "the administration"--as if academic administration was not in fact the job of tenured faculty, a job they largely failed to do.

Needless to say, at some point the protests of the tenured that they represent the educational interests at the university ring completely hollow and that VERY well known hypocrisy just further undermines not only their position but that of their students as well.

What we then get are complaints that tuition paying students have dared decide to consider themselves "customers" who, unlike funded grad students and the adjuncts some of them became, can actually start making demands on them.

Go on--cry me a river.

3. hariseldon - December 03, 2010 at 08:19 am

As an adjunct myself, I'm totally baffled by all of this. On one hand, I'm acutely aware of the fact that I'm making, at best, the hourly wage of a McDonald's worker, while the department chair (rumored to be a worse teacher than I) makes well into the 6 figures. On the other, given the dire finances of many universities, I just don't know how they could afford to hire all of the adjuncts full time. Should ALL of us work for McDonald's wages?

Also, nobody has ever adequately explained to me where all of the money goes. If students pay $36 K per year tuition and take 4 courses per semester for both semesters and professors teach 4 courses per semester for both semesters and if there are 10 students per class, each professor is responsible for $360 K of revenue. And that doesn't count alumni giving, summer school tuition, and maintenance of matriculation fees. Hopefully, someone else will explain to me what I am missing.

4. tuxthepenguin - December 03, 2010 at 08:21 am

I know that most readers will call me a troll. Feel free to ignore this comment if you don't like reality.

Dear Adjunct: You went to graduate school in spite of the many, many, many, many warnings out there about the job market. You were told many, many, many, many times how bad it is, and you went to grad school anyway.

I'm tenured. I avoided the humanities because I actually listened to the advice of my undergraduate professors. I suppose I could have said I have a calling to the humanities. I didn't.

There's nothing I can do to help you. I suppose I could threaten to quit my job, but that would be a strange thing to do. I care more about supporting my family than I care about adjuncts.

If adjuncts were paid more, it would mean higher tuition. No, I'm not going to fight for higher tuition. If I have to choose between helping someone who, purely out of arrogance, did not listen to the warnings, and a single mother of three trying to improve life for her kids, I'll go with the latter.

5. snapcase - December 03, 2010 at 08:58 am

Er, hariseldon -

If students pay $36K per year, that doesn't equal $360K of revenue for only the courses you teach. Students will be taking 4-5 courses each semester - so you need to rethink your figures. Still, I see your point. I think WAY too much money goes into administration, sports and the country clubization of the University.

6. sherbygirl - December 03, 2010 at 09:03 am

Tenured and tenure-track professors still have the idea that those who are not on the tenure-track aren't good enough, and thus don't deserve the pay that they receive. TT=professional success. Adjunct=professional failure. Why should they advocate for those who obviously just can't cut it.

And tuxthepenguin? Burrying your head in the sand dooms all of higher education into further irrelivance. You can do something that doesn't involve quitting your job. How many administrators who are making high six figures at your institution? How many vice-presidents/associate vice-presidents/etc, do you need? What do they even do? How many highly paid "consultants" does your institution bring in every year? How many basketball/football coahces are making millions? How many new buildings are being put up with names of corporate donors?

We can pay adjuncts at the same rate as professors if we force the institution to value the educators, not the administrators, corporate insterests, and the sports "stars." That won't happen when people like you just dismiss the issue because, hey, I have my job.

Shame.

7. daschell1 - December 03, 2010 at 09:54 am

As an adjunct (5 years and counting) and someone who came to my Ph.D. late in life (at age 54), I have followed these discussions with interest but never felt compelled to comment before today. Two of the previous comments, however, do not reflect MY reality at all.

Commenter #4: Unfortunately I was NOT told about the job market (my area is history). Never. Perhaps I failed to ask the right questions, but after all I was the student who needed to be informed, not the teacher. I was perceptive enough to know that I wasn't about to get a job at some Ivy, but it never occurred to me that there wouldn't be some rural state school (such as I attended as an undergraduate) that would welcome me.

Today when one of my students suggests that they are thinking of going into graduate work in history I immediately forward them my copy of Thomas H. Benton's "Just Don't Go..." articles. I tell them that if they still want to go that route, so be it, but I want them to know some facts that I was never told.

Commenter #1: As an adjunct I am NOTHING like a scab! I worked in industry for twenty years between my failed attempt (in the 1970s) to get a job in secondary education social studies and my current situation in adjunct land. While there, I was a union official for years and know what a scab is--one who crosses a picket line to try to take the job away from a full-time worker who is striking to improve his or her job situation. Adjuncts as peons? Perhaps. As scabs? No. Don't insult 70% of the profession with such nonsense.

One "good" sign in this abysmal situation (from the adjunct point of view) is that at least some in academe are coming to the realization that being an adjunct does not mean something is "wrong with you," anymore than the fact that a worker is currently unemployed means that s/he is worthless. Additionally, as one who teaches at three community colleges (and enjoys teaching survey courses to those who are not majoring in the field), I am glad that community colleges' worth is finally being recognized in some quarters. I've often thought that the only reason we wear name badges at the AHA is to let others know if we are worth talking to or should be shunned as one of those "two year college people." At least THAT seems to be changing.

8. quidditas - December 03, 2010 at 10:14 am

"Tenured and tenure-track professors still have the idea that those who are not on the tenure-track aren't good enough, and thus don't deserve the pay that they receive."

Well, increasingly the tenured aren't good enough either because the best students are taking a look around and leaving. This is certainly going to assist the eventual levelling DOWN of everyone.

It's no secret, and "the administration" can tap the actual statistics quicker than you--ever try to get information out of a central office?

9. daschell1 - December 03, 2010 at 10:18 am

As commenter #7--now that my blood pressure has gone down a bit--I may have been a bit harsh to commenter #1. That poster may not have intended to imply that adjuncts WERE scabs, merely that administrations try to USE them as such. If so, my apologies for coming across as harsh. My point remains, however, that the position adjuncts are forced into cannot be considered scabbing as most labor people know the word.

10. 11223435 - December 03, 2010 at 10:19 am

Dear #6, one must agree with all the moral arguments here--
and I do--but how will any TT faculty, esp the ones not unionized, "force" any realignment of salaries? I'd like to see it happen, and perhaps I'm naive about all the wonderful methods available to TT faculty to force this to happen. ...and I don't think for a moment that many faculty unions are going to strike over this. A 3 day walkout? And, some more arithmetic, please: how will cutting Saban's salary down to something more reasonable (and I'd love to see that happen, and while we're at it, to Spurrier, too, and while we're at it, let's force Paterno to retire, for heaven's sake, and I have a list of college and university presidents whose pay I'd like to personally slash)--sorry,lost it there--how will any faculty ensure--force--the savings to be spent in any way said faculty expects?

11. demery1 - December 03, 2010 at 10:26 am

Poorly paid and abused adjunct faculty should quit their jobs and reenter the labor market. They should also make it clear that their reasons for quitting relate to inequity.

If someone has been working in a crappy job for 10 years with little hope for advancement or improvement of their poor wage, QUIT! Take the job at the restaurant or retail outlet or a call center. Fewer martyrs would make for a smaller labor pool, which would increase incentives.

12. quidditas - December 03, 2010 at 10:56 am

"If someone has been working in a crappy job for 10 years with little hope for advancement or improvement of their poor wage, QUIT!"

I agree no one should be an adjunct. The traditional part-timer was someone working outside academia, who taught value added courses bringing that outside experience into the classroom. Such persons did (and occasionally still do) command a premium for their teaching.

Not so today's cheap adjunct replacement for traditional full time postitions, done just to be cheap and not for any educational rationale. Maybe MAYBE it helps hold down tuition costs but this is a short term logic that does long term damage, and there may be better ways to hold down tuition costs.

Not to mention that tuition costs have NOT been held down.

13. quidditas - December 03, 2010 at 11:02 am

"The traditional part-timer was someone working outside academia, who taught value added courses bringing that outside experience into the classroom. Such persons did (and occasionally still do) command a premium for their teaching."

Oh, and did I mention that such teachers were favored by students? Now, who couldn't have predicted that? So, maybe today's adjuncts really should leave and come back later.

Keep that levelling thing going.

14. camgray - December 03, 2010 at 11:12 am

As an administrator, I do get tired of being attacked as if I neither earn nor deserve my salary. I worked as an adjunct both full and part-time in my field and I have worked in professional and administrative positions in universities, non profit and business organizations. I have to say that the skills that I use in those positions are more diverse than anything I used in the classroom. I write more, research more, negotiate more, serve multiple customers, and make faculty and student service programs happen. I write and manage grants, I advocate for faculty, and I attend a myriad of conferences that are dull, do not allow me any creative outlet, but are essential for the work that I do. I manage budgets (and sometimes have to say "no") to ensure we have enough to meet our strategic objectives and that it is as fairly distributed as possible (a thankless task, I assure you!)

The faculty with whom I work are wonderul people and teachers, and have shared that they wouldn't trade their lives in the classroom for what I do for any amount of money. There are hundreds of people qualified to teach the basic classes I taught as an adjunct, there are not nearly as many who have the experience, education, and skillset to do my job and even fewer who want to leave teaching to do it. (I came into the job after three failed searches, so I know).

Administration is not your enemy. The economy is, the shift in the value placed on liberal arts is, and the reality that there are a lot of people who like being in the classroom and would do it for almost nothing just to have the job (and yes, there is work) of educating students. I do believe the adjunct situation is something we must work to fix, but attacking tenured faculty and administration as a bunch of bloated good-for-nothings is not going to help your bargaining position.

15. hamsandwich - December 03, 2010 at 11:13 am

My perspective is from the sciences, so it may not compare with the humanities situation very well... But for those of us in any sort of research, I do NOT think that tenure-track or tenured faculty should make the same as the non-tenure track.

We can all sit around and cite personal anecdotes of the TT or tenured prof who's lazy, stupid, etc. But in my experience, those of us on the tenure track or with tenure are responsible for more, manage people, work longer hours, and have had to do more to get where we are than the non-tenured folks. And because I write grants, support jobs for people and they don't, I provide more value to my institution. And I get paid more. Not a hard concept to grasp.

#3 - do you think that all your dept chair does is teach? I DOUBT it. There's a good reason, I would imagine, that he/she makes more than you do. My dept chair makes almost 2.5 times what I, as a tenure-track PI in a med school make. But our job descriptions are very, very different. She is a manager of many people, handles budgets, makes big decisions, and carries a load of responsibility that I don't. I would love to make her salary, sure. Who wouldn't? But I have a lot of work to do to get there, and haven't yet paid my dues. And whining about the inequities of life is not going to get me there, and I imagine it won't help you much either.

And for the poster who thinks we should cut the pay of admin and sports coaches? Good luck, you're living in fantasy land with that one. You do remember that administrators make all the decisions, right (esp with regard to money)? And I guarantee that most of the highly-paid coaches bring more money and recogintion to their school than most humanities profs do. Hence, they have more value. See a theme here?

16. tappat - December 03, 2010 at 11:15 am

Tenure all the adjuncts who deserve tenure right now. Plenty do deserve tenure right now, others, of course, do not. Tenuring those who deserve tenure right now would provide equity, in the biggest and simplest way, WITHOUT moving toward getting rid of tenure, as the proposal made by Mr. Street does. If non-tenured, at-will instructors had identical everything (except tenure), then why would we want anyone to have tenure? Of course, it is only tenure that provides the real, substantive qualities we value of a genuine, academically free professoriate.

17. bowl_haircut - December 03, 2010 at 12:49 pm

@camgray:

Thank you for your candor.

While I am sensitive to the fact that an "us-versus-them" mentality does little as a rhetorical strategy or bargaining chip, what if the cold hard truth of the matter is that academic middle-management has in fact become a "bloated good-for-nothing" segment of the academic population? Realizing the limitations of anecdotal evidence, can you _honestly_ say that every admin on your campus earns their low-six figures?

18. pierce_library40 - December 03, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Many of the above comments take place in a reality-free, fact-free context.

19. kmessina - December 03, 2010 at 12:49 pm

Well said camgray. Keep doing the great work you do.

20. weather123 - December 03, 2010 at 01:01 pm

I landed a full-time adjunct job after graduating top of my class at an ivy school. I don't know how long I will remain in this position. But it didn't take long to see how exploitative it can get. Something needs to be done. I teach more classes, have higher percentage student enrollment, have done more presentations, and get paid almost half of tt-track faculties. I am under pressure to secure my own funding to renew this pitiful contract, hence, I have to attend all those weird fundraising events and faculty meetings--where nothing new happens. People here talk about how students cheat, but forget that they themselves are cheating on their adjunct colleagues.

21. bowl_haircut - December 03, 2010 at 01:37 pm

You know what we need. We need a website like snopes.com, but one dedicated to debuking academic urban legends rather than the regular kind.

Hey! I think I might get to work on that...

22. goxewu - December 03, 2010 at 01:37 pm

There seems to exist--surprisingly, in the 21st century--that exploitative labor practices are justified because the people in those jobs chose to be take them.

As for administrators not being adjuncts' enemies: They certainly aren't their friends, either. camgray might take a look at some readily available stats about the percentage increase over the last decade or so in the number of middle-management positions in higher ed relative to that of full-time faculty. Do schools really need a Vice-President for Parking Lots (East Campus), an Assistant Provost for Intramural Basketball Referees?

23. goxewu - December 03, 2010 at 01:38 pm

Sorry: "There seems to exist...the idea that exploitative labor practices..."

24. pierce_library40 - December 03, 2010 at 01:48 pm

#23--Oddly enough, a quick Googling for these positions does not reveal their existence. I suspect you were engaging in hyperbole, which does not help your argument. Perhaps you could specify the positions you're indicting in a more fact-related way?

25. 11223435 - December 03, 2010 at 02:11 pm

Lots of "why."

Nothing about "how."

26. camgray - December 03, 2010 at 02:18 pm

bowl_haircut: I wish I made low six figures. I do not. Rhetorical strategy or not, the truth is that you clearly feel that your administrative team doesn't deserve to be compensated at the level they are. Not knowing your school, I can't address that. Either your school is poorly run or you don't understand what your administrators do.

There is no administrative and tenured faculty secret society where we all agree to just keep adding staff and decreasing adjunct pay while giving ourselved raises. Thanks to the many requirements of coordinating organiztaions, accrediting bodies, federal reporting requirements, state funding, diversity, technology, etc. it now takes more "management" to run a university and keep it in line with the rules. Every day legistlatures create new regulations to which we have to adhere and new funding formulas based on different crieria. Every year private schools are given stats that show higher levels of competition for students that want certain services, majors, etc. Every year universities make grants more important to funding and tenure. The truth is you need a middle manager to oversee these things, as that is not what faculty do. It takes middle managers to oversee institutional research, student services and counseling, distance eduation, financial aid, technology, accreditation, fundraising and on. And if you think they hire a new administrator each time duties are added, you are mistaken. Most of the time we just have our job duties altered to include whatever new requirements have come down the pipeline. My job has expanded massively from what it was when I took it, and I don't see a pay raise in sight.

The days of "enroll, teach, publish, graduate students" are gone. But before you run around your campus hacking at administrators, be certain you have all of your facts straight about what it takes to run an institution of higher education in the new millennium and know what "bloat" you want to cut and how you will accomplish whatever it is that is no longer staffed because you can't find someone who would rather do 10 jobs at once while managing a staff of 15 people at the same or similar pay to what they made teaching students in the classroom.

27. hariseldon - December 03, 2010 at 02:47 pm

The current "business model" for the university is clearly broken. Many faculty are unhappy, many administrators are unhappy, students are paying through the nose for an education that many employers feel is inferior, etc. American research
universities are built on the model of the German university, back in the days when research was inexpensive and tuition was not a problem for the elite families whose children were being taught. Now, however, people have to almost literally sell
their souls to get an education, even at a good state school.

Much of the students' tuition is squandered on things that are not essential to a university's core educational mission, such as fancy architecture, sports teams, extensive grounds, etc. Yet, at the same time, when I tutor, as I sometimes do, I am struck with how little is really needed. In these days of the ubiquitous
internet, even research libraries are not really required!

I could therefore imagine a university that, on one hand, takes
inspiration from CostCo - absolutely nothing inessential to its mission (even to the point of bare concrete floors, cinder block walls, etc.), but elaborate technology in support of the mission, and (usually) high quality merchandise at low prices.

But part of what universities sell is intellectual cachet. Therefore, the only way that my "CostCo U" would work is if a bunch of leading scholars signed on from the beginning, generating
enough press to attract some of the more talented incoming freshmen.

What do other posters think?

28. sherbygirl - December 03, 2010 at 02:53 pm

So, camgrey, you're saying then that it just "happened" that adjuncts took over campus and became the majority of the workers teaching the students? Speaks well of us all. At least a conspiricy sounds like SOMEONE knew what they were doing. Instead, despite trying to help us understand that admins aren't the bad guys, you've made yourselves look incompitent. And I do not excuse TT faculty in their role in all this. Most faculty willingly gave over more and more of their responsibilities outside of prestige making research over to administrators and adjuncts.

As for those asking what faculty can do: start getting REALLY involved in adminstration again. Used to be that upper and mid level administrators were academics, not an admin class whose higher education degrees are in higher education administration. Universities weren't founded by administrators, they were founded and flourished because of academics. Faculty need to learn about how their university works and then take it back, however they can.

But you're right, who has time to do that when we're busy teaching 10 courses and three different schools and TT faculty are too busy doing the important research that hamsandwich points to to justify MASSIVE pay inequity? Keep on keepin' on.

We can throw our hands up and say, hey, there's nothing we can do. Or, we can actually, I don't know, try to do something.

29. bowl_haircut - December 03, 2010 at 03:26 pm

"bowl_haircut: I wish I made low six figures. I do not. Rhetorical strategy or not, the truth is that you clearly feel that your administrative team doesn't deserve to be compensated at the level they are. Not knowing your school, I can't address that. Either your school is poorly run or you don't understand what your administrators do."

There may be a third option: namely, that there has been a great deal written in recent years about the management of institutions of higher ed. It's not inconceivable that someone outside of academic administration would be aware of--or even quite knowledgeable about--this discourse. (Rhoades and Slaughters' _Academic Capitalism_ immediately comes to mind as a fairly comprehensive theoretical exploration of these very issues.)

As to your point about the overwhelming bureaucratic and organizational demands made on admins, I'd like to think I'm somewhat sensitive to this "fact" of 21st-century higher education. If you feel, as I do, that the historical function of the university has been hijacked by, among other things, this every-intensying imperative to do more with less, to constantly play catch-up with the edicts of know-nothing state legislators, and to increasingly turn colleges and universities what one author called "retirement spreads for the young," then perhaps our time would be better spent discussing and debating how we might work together as faculty AND administrators to interrogate and problematize such measures.

You point out in your initial post that we should not fall prey to this "us versus them" mentality. Quite right. But it works both ways.

30. weather123 - December 03, 2010 at 03:30 pm

What's even worse is when those TT faculties engaged in "important" researches hire grad students to do basic research for them. The one I know even used his grad student's research proposal to score a book deal. It doesn't happen all the time, but still happens... and there you have a chain of exploitation.

31. 11223435 - December 03, 2010 at 03:32 pm

Quick--tell me the difference between someone who indulges in a completely unexamined conspiracy theory to explain the state of things--and how that's different from someone who believes in intelligent design?

Just tryin' to change the subject.

32. art_professor - December 03, 2010 at 04:41 pm

I have trouble understanding what "insisting on equity" actually means in practice.

It's like in a recent faculty senate meeting in which the Union representative - doubtless thinking himself a noble warrior - informed the faculty that "the union would no longer accept any more state budget cuts to education."

I had to keep myself from laughing. It's like the joke about the British policeman to the thief running away from the crime - "stop, or I'll stay 'stop' again!"

33. rear_view_mirror - December 03, 2010 at 06:02 pm

Re: comment #14 You must have read all of these examples of slavish praise from your faculty on ratemyadmins.com.

34. alleyoxenfree - December 03, 2010 at 06:38 pm

[Edited for personal attack. -moderator]

Many, if not most of today's adjuncts, not only weren't warned about poor job prospects, they were specifically recruited with rosy statistics about all the retirements that would be happening in their fields and the dire predictions of what would happen to those fields if worthy souls didn't get studying and get those Ph.Ds. Speaking for myself and all those I went to grad school with, this was our situation - and we finished without the hand-holding that goes into today's job market. What a surprise to find that academia is a beast that is cannibalizing from within, and the last holdouts are those like yourself who have some deep-seated psychological need to feel superior to your peers - so much so that you are willing to go down with the ship (or field).

35. hoppingmadjunct - December 03, 2010 at 06:57 pm

The URL for that incisive article on CUNY adjuncts and their union mentioned in the article is here: http://socialistworker.org/2010/11/19/cuny-adjuncts-deserve-better

To commenter #16, who understood that "the proposal by Mr. Street" means getting rid of tenure, no, that's a misunderstanding: equity in job security, academic freedom, and professional advancement means exactly what you say, tenuring all adjuncts who deserve it and, further, setting up ways for entering part-time faculty to know they're eligible for tenure, too, after the same kind of scrutiny of and commitment from others. Equity of track, call it: all faculty on the same one.

To 11223435, on what can tenured faculty do, and to commenter #32 on what "insisting on equity" mean: if your department hires adjuncts, vote to tell your dean you won't accept another full-time line until equity's established, until the people you walk the same halls with and teach the same courses as make for them what you do. Name them (after learning their names, if necessary!) and figure out a formula for balancing teaching-only duties with teaching-plus-others, so that the former aren't hugely out of whack. Appoint someone to research such formulae. Google the Canadian Association of Universities' formula for balancing regular academic staff salaries with contract, per-course salaries. Precedents are out there: commit yourselves to finding a suitable pattern for your own department to follow. Every department in every school is different. Do your own arithmetic. Draw up a plan to present to the dean. Put this on the top of your agenda -- ahead of requests for more full-time lines, national searches, Christmas parties, etc.

To taxthepenguin: It's not "purely out of arrogance" that those grad students who ignored the job-market warnings persisted but also or instead out of the very qualities our educational system so sorely needs to instill: idealism, passion, dedication to a cause beyond personal advancement, altruism.... True, many of these are archaic concepts, I guess.

About the scabs/aduncts analogy: true, both are widely held in contempt. But where scabs's work undermines the position of workers protesting unfair job conditions, adjuncts' unfair job conditions enable the positions of others who work, face it, if not less, under less duress.

And to everyone: remember, that's vastly less. In 2008, US New & World Report estimated that a tenure-line faculty member cost a school $8000 per course as opposed to an adjunct faculty member's$1800.

So it's not hairs being split, in adjuncts' complaints.

36. va_adjunct - December 03, 2010 at 10:29 pm

2 solutions:

Accreditation boards that valued VERY small adjunct/TT ratios. That would force more FT hires to address enrollment demand.

US News and World Rpt make adjunct/TT ratios a measurable part of its rank system.

Now, are these even possible?

37. quidditas - December 03, 2010 at 10:56 pm

"As an administrator, I do get tired of being attacked as if I neither earn nor deserve my salary. I worked as an adjunct both full and part-time in my field and I have worked in professional and administrative positions in universities, non profit and business organizations."

I've worked in administrative positions myself, worked in editorial and sales positions in educational publishing, and have been a tuition paying graduate student as well as a TA (which I may do again despite my better judgment).

And let me tell you--of all the people I've met in my works and days, the one and only group with a critical mass of people that have thoroughly disgusted me is the tenured academic welfare queenage. (This includes upper admin in higher ed, which I also find to be a singularly narrow pain in the *** for the business world, but relative pikers nevertheless).

There are some stellar exceptions among academics, but not nearly enough to not consider the class a serious managerial problem. And for a group that considers itself the core of the university and of American intellectual life, they have an oddly intellectually weak analysis of their own workplace despite their proclivity for whining about it to anyone who will listen to them, including their own students.

"You know what we need. We need a website like snopes.com, but one dedicated to debuking academic urban legends rather than the regular kind."

No, what we need is a Wikileaks for all those things it's too impolitic to expose with your name attached to it. The kiddies at RateYourProfessors dot com just ain't got the goods.

Come on--you know you got the local department sociopaths in your sights. Everybody has them.

38. rear_view_mirror - December 03, 2010 at 11:10 pm

From post #14: "The faculty with whom I work are wonderul people and teachers, and have shared that they wouldn't trade their lives in the classroom for what I do for any amount of money."
But *you* traded their situation for yours. So, you are a saint. Thanks for the laugh.

39. weather123 - December 04, 2010 at 02:22 am

#37, Yes, we need Wikileaks for academia. It's the end of semester and my head explodes when I think about all the sh**ty things I have seen this year.

40. wdabc - December 04, 2010 at 02:29 am

You are right to ask where all the money goes. Many classes can be taught with 200-300 students without loss of quality and an increase in revenue.
Advice to the adjuncts--refuse the job. Force the hand of management to hire full time faculty. If you think there is status in being a professor, you are wrong. I've seen respectable people working at McDonalds and not so respectable people working at universities. After witnessing unspeakable atrocities at universities, I am ashamed and embarrased by the people I have known in the academe for all of these years.

41. jffoster - December 04, 2010 at 08:11 am

Hoppingmadadjunct (35) has let his anger get the better of his senses, Here's one example:

"To 11223435, on what can tenured faculty do, and to commenter #32 on what "insisting on equity" mean: if your department hires adjuncts, vote to tell your dean you won't accept another full-time line until equity's established, until the people you walk the same halls with and teach the same courses as make for them what you do. "

That'll really ffighten the dean. A dean in the real academic world and not hoppingmad's fantasy will be delighted and give the regular line to some other department. Or give it back to the Provost as evidence of his good faith budget cutting. And if I were that dean, re hoppingmad's last sentence in the pgf quoted above, I'd offer to reduce that regular's salary to that of the adjunct.

Folks, if you really think that conversion of adjunct positions to regular faculty positions is going to happen on anything approachintg a 1 : 1 ratio, you live on some other planet. It'll be, if it happens at all which it probly won't, more like 3 to 1 or 4 to 1 and the result will be 2 o3 3 adjuncts unemployed.

Be careful what you ask for. You might get it.

42. rear_view_mirror - December 04, 2010 at 09:04 am

"A new contract between United Steelworkers and Harley-Davidson, the motorcycle manufacturer, will reduce its full-time payroll at one plant and instead add, as its needs arise, "casual" workers who will make $18.50 an hour to full-timers' $31."
If you were to tell all "adjuncts" that henceforth they will getting compensated 60% what tenure track teachers get, you would suddenly have a group of very happy "adjuncts."

43. notsurprised - December 04, 2010 at 12:04 pm

Dear author,

You ask, "So why can't faculty members hang together on equity issues? What can stop this trend that has already divided and is about to conquer us?"

You and many, many others are looking at a lot of these problems the wrong way. Let me throw another variable in the mix, and from a rare perspective.

I am one of the "absurdly lucky" ones: I was hired right out of grad school into a tenure track job (humanities) at an ultraelite place, where I'm now tenured. My heart goes out to many ajuncts in my field, very much so, who I watch struggling year after year and accepting unacceptable wages to do the same job I do.

The difference is, at least in my opinion, I would never have accepted the wages my friends do to stay in my field. I don't see academia as a higher calling, a religious vocation, a political opportunity, and so on. I see it as a job. I like it, very much. And I'm very good at it, which is one reason I like it. Maybe these adjuncts are as good as I am, maybe not.

But if I didn't get paid as I do, I would certainly have taken a different career. No way would I work for what they do. By and large my friends who accept adjunct work won't look elsewhere, no matter what. Many are in their late 30s or even 40s, traversing the country year after year, to take anything that comes up. If anything, they are proving (to me, to us, to deans, to everyone) that we could literally pay these people absolutely anything, and they'll still take the job.

That is what keeps getting overlooked: people who will be a professor at all costs vs. those of us who would just as soon go and do something else if the terms become too unfavorable. There will certainly be sympathy from my end, but probably not solidarity.

That's not a management problem. That's an employee problem. Adjuncts are the ones who should simply refuse to take the jobs. That is the only way out.

44. mochacoffee - December 04, 2010 at 01:06 pm

Dear "absurdly lucky one,"

What's new? Your "perspective" is not "rare" or "different." Every smug "academic welfare queen"-cum-apologist says pretty much the same thing. Interestingly, you remind me of my student, who would summarize what everyone in class discussed for weeks and wonder whether he sounded smart enough to deserve an A. If he gets an A, yes, that makes him the "absurbdly lucky one." ;)

45. stinkcat - December 04, 2010 at 01:21 pm

"But if I didn't get paid as I do, I would certainly have taken a different career."

This is the only real solution to the problem. Those evil administrators don't pay new finance professors $100k+ because they are generous, they pay them the big money because they know that if they offer too little prospective faculty will work someplace else.

46. hoppingmadjunct - December 04, 2010 at 02:39 pm

To jffoster, #41:

True enough that PT-to-FT conversions wouldn't take place at a ratio of 1:1, given budget constraints. That's why to avoid the PT/FT language. Instead, why not make the course the basic unit of salary compensation for teaching duties, so that all who teach the same courses are compensated the same?

True too that more equity for adjuncts would mean fewer adjunct positions on the whole; with a modicum of care, lost positions could be absorbed through attrition. And it'd put an end to the two-tiered cycle before it's leveled DOWN, as quidditas (#1 above) says. And with equity for adjuncts -- including equity of job security, academic freedom, benefits, and promotion -- education would be better, since teacher working conditions are student learning conditions,

Also see an ongoing blog on the dynamic between faculty and deans and what faculty can do: http://chronicle.com/blogs/old-new/a-call-on-faculty-to-%E2%80%9Cpush-back%E2%80%9D-on-administration/87

47. tecumscheh - December 04, 2010 at 02:54 pm


Very early in this discussion an adjunct professor asked some simple questions, among them how would Universities ever PAY for such equity? This isn't an overly simplistic question at all--it's one of the only ones that acknowledges that we are not working in a vacuum, but in a political economy. The hiring of contingent faculty was (as the original article reminds us) a kind of "emergency" measure; then, for state universities experiencing continuing erosion of support from their legislatures, this practice became a means of survival. Exploitation, yes, but the alternative was to raise tuition EVEN faster than it was raised, and just exclude an even larger segment of students than we have by now from the possibilities of higher education. Any solution to the problem short-sighted states like my own have created at least in the public education system has to take into account budget limitations that have resulted from a sordid history of disinvestment in higher ed in this nation. Doubling the salary of 70% of a faculty at any institution will cost a whole lot more than the elimination of a handful of not-so-productive administrators, aging TT professors, or over-paid football coaches.

48. rear_view_mirror - December 04, 2010 at 03:29 pm

tecumscheh: Or you could ask how society will pay for the basic needs of destitute elderly folks who, when they were able to work, made a living as college teachers.

"Doubling the salary of 70% of a faculty at any institution will cost a whole lot more than the elimination of a handful of not-so-productive administrators, aging TT professors, or over-paid football coaches."

This is probably why many among the elite feel the need to paint adjuncts as second rate scholars. Because they expect that without that perception, tenure could, well you know...and of course the charge may even be true if one has been beaten down by years of drudgery, lowered expectations, and eroded self esteem. Therefore, everyone believes adjunct pay should go up, *as long as it never does.*
This is exactly how classism works, and why it works so perfectly in academia.

Stinkcat: Re "Those evil administrators don't pay new finance professors $100k+ because they are generous, they pay them the big money because they know that if they offer too little prospective faculty will work someplace else."

But who decides where the money goes? Isn't that one of our most frequent complaints about Congress, that they vote themselves a pay raise.

49. notsurprised - December 04, 2010 at 03:30 pm

Hi Mochacoffee,

You say, "What's new? Your "perspective" is not "rare" or "different." Every smug "academic welfare queen"-cum-apologist says pretty much the same thing. Interestingly, you remind me of my student, who would summarize what everyone in class discussed for weeks and wonder whether he sounded smart enough to deserve an A. If he gets an A, yes, that makes him the "absurbdly lucky one." ;)"

I'm not totally sure I follow either point you're making (too many quotation marks, etc.) but I gather you think I'm smug about my job. If so, I'm sorry for that. It's not smugness. It's being realistic. I didn't read every comment on here to see whether anyone had said the same thing I had. My point is simply that these articles asking for academic solidarity or complaining that we can't just find the money for tenuring everyone are never going to get anywhere, mostly because (1) I won't do my job for less money than I do it, although I could of course be instantly replaced if I left, and (2) adjuncts will work for foodstamp wages.

Point (2) is the one that has to change. (1) shouldn't really concern anyone -- who cares if I quit? -- except that I'm trying to gently suggest that trying to achieve solidarity among all faculty, especially tenured ones, isn't the way to go, probably ever. People in group 1 don't feel any solidarity with group 2; whether we should be in these respective groups is a separate question. It's basically a matter of those who want a union of all, versus those of us who think a union isn't necessary because we'd just as soon change careers.

50. rear_view_mirror - December 04, 2010 at 04:06 pm

notsurprised, from the article:

"Even scarier is Uchitelle's forecast that the lower-paid tier of the scale could become "the only tier once all the veterans have left or retired."

This is how the author suggests that solidarity may be group 1's best option.

51. notsurprised - December 04, 2010 at 04:15 pm


"Even scarier is Uchitelle's forecast that the lower-paid tier of the scale could become "the only tier once all the veterans have left or retired."

This is how the author suggests that solidarity may be group 1's best option.

***
Rearviewmirror,

Why is that either (1) scary, or (2) not a good option? If it's true that adjuncts are just as good as me (to pick a convenient example), then it doesn't matter if I leave, from the students' perspective. They'll get just as good an education.

And if all these adjunct profs get paid less, that will be a good thing again from the students' perspective, because then universities won't have to pay big salaries, as they do to me and people in my position. So tuition costs get held down rather than go up.

The only group this is bad for is the adjuncts, but only in the sense that things won't get better for them than they are now. Once adjuncts realize this, they can start to leave their fields for other careers. That will force universities to start offering perks again -- like bigger salaries, like tenure, like sabbaticals...

See where this is going?

I certainly don't think I ought to feel any special solidarity among the ranks of the tenured as against the adjuncts, if that's what you're implying. Even post-tenure I've found that competition doesn't let up among tenured faculty (for better titles or better jobs elsewhere). And once we all leave or retire and aren't replaced, so what? That's not our problem anymore.

52. readandwept - December 04, 2010 at 05:16 pm

Re: "(The union's negotiations committee did accept some of the proposals in a modified form: For details and an incisive overview on the status and working conditions of adjuncts at CUNY and elsewhere, see this November 19 article in SocialistWorker.org.)"

The link seems to be missing.

53. hoppingmadjunct - December 04, 2010 at 06:43 pm

To readandwept: right, the link's missing; check comment #35 for the URL.

54. shaolinbruce - December 04, 2010 at 09:41 pm

I think a comment by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) best sums up the reason for the lack of action by faculty, both tenured and non-tenured, on the issue of equity:

“Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.”

55. tusculumlibrary - December 04, 2010 at 10:47 pm

hariseldon and snapcase,

One of you is wrong. Does this change the mind of either of you:

If, in a year, 8 profs teach 8 courses each to 10 students, then
these 80 student generate 80*$36K in tuition, which is
$360,000 per prof, and take 8 courses.
If even 25% of this went to prof salary, this would average $90,000 per prof.



56. rear_view_mirror - December 04, 2010 at 11:33 pm

Re: #51. From what I read on these fora, some tenured people are scared that tenure will disappear. Certainly one of the tenured people I know has been worried about this for some time, or says so. Maybe he just hates me because I create downward pressure on his salary.
Maybe even that they will lose their pensions. I don't know if it's possible. If adjuncts unionize, the system could go bust maybe.
You seem to see market forces as the solution to everything. Fine, but how does accreditation figure into this? College is a necessity to society, isn't it?

57. depakartso - December 05, 2010 at 07:33 am

"Wouldn't equity rob management of the incentive to rely on adjuncts anymore? Of course it would."

Possibly -- but my guess is that it would also be the death knell of tenure (or any form of job security absent a union contract). Management (AKA the admin.) would insist on their right to hire and dismiss flexibly, and everyone would wind up in the same boat -- paid more, probably, than adjuncts are at present, but certainly less than tenured full-timers now get. Hardly a deal that any tenured or tenure track person is likely to regard with great enthusiasm.

58. notsurprised - December 05, 2010 at 08:15 am

#56: The fear that tenure will disappear for those who have it is nutty. Universities would be slammed with so many expensive lawsuits that it wouldn't be worth it; at least that's what I assume will happen. In the long run it'll be cheaper to keep all tenured folks around till we die off or leave for other jobs and just not replace us. So that concern seems pretty unfounded.

Are colleges necessary to society? I don't know, honestly. I go back and forth on that.

59. beck6818 - December 05, 2010 at 11:37 am

@tuxthepenguin

You're ignoring the way the University is changing. You're right. I was warned. I went anyway. But that is rather beside the point when considering the fate of higher education. The fact is, as the article points out, it is not simply that people are complaining more now. It is that non-tenure-track/part-time employment is quickly overtaking full-time/tenure-track work. This has a lot of severe ramifications for how higher ed operates and the quality it offers its students. You may not be willing to raise tuition, but why should you be any more willing to sacrifice quality for students by ensuring that universities are always obtaining the cheapest teachers possible?

60. profdave - December 05, 2010 at 02:38 pm

jffoster: "A dean in the real academic world and not hoppingmad's fantasy will be delighted and give the regular line to some other department. Or give it back to the Provost as evidence of his good faith budget cutting."

What? You mean there are institutions where academic managers control staff lines? Not at my college. The Vice President of Academic Affairs owns the lines. We have more VPs than Deans. In fact, last I heard, we have 3 "schools" and 2.5 deans.

61. profdave - December 05, 2010 at 02:45 pm

rear_view_mirror: "College is a necessity to society, isn't it?"

Now there's an interesting question. American society holds college as the key to the middle class, but employers are less and less impressed with the products turned out by colleges. A college degree, like any other credential, is a filter by which the overwhelming number of applications for a diminishing job pool can be reduced without effort.

With our elites trying to drive the middle class into extinction, who really needs or wants a key to be there any more? Who wants or needs a massive debt load at a young age while trying to start a family and enter the shrinking labor force?

Maybe college has already outlived its usefulness. Other socialist states with increasingly fascist governments historically have devalued higher education (in some cases even purging intellectuals who appear to threaten the agenda). Maybe the cycle is repeating and higher education will simply price itself out of existence, with the whining and infighting among "professionals" proving its ultimate uselessness.

62. rear_view_mirror - December 05, 2010 at 03:24 pm

Re #49 "(1) I won't do my job for less money than I do it, although I could of course be instantly replaced if I left, and (2) adjuncts will work for foodstamp wages."

No disrespect to you, nor doubt of your sincerity, but this (1) may be an unsubstantiated claim. The fact that you are a well paid tenure doesn't prove you would not accept a substantially poorer offer under any circumstances. What if a wave of arson destroyed your campus and bankrupted its insurer? Or your department lost accreditation? I point this out because I believe the dynamic of some people who accept poor pay and some who never would is not present to the extent thqt you maintain.
What has really happened is that management has systematically degraded a segment of the teaching profession to cut costs/ raise cash, and simultaneously misaligned the self interest of the two labor groups.

63. notsurprised - December 05, 2010 at 03:59 pm

Hi Rearviewmirror,

You ask, "No disrespect to you, nor doubt of your sincerity, but this (1) may be an unsubstantiated claim. The fact that you are a well paid tenure doesn't prove you would not accept a substantially poorer offer under any circumstances. "

That's not what I said; I never said "under any circumstances". Arson, locusts, blood rains, etc. -- those are sort of a different thing, aren't they? And lost of accreditation won't happen to my department, at least not at the ultraelite where I work.

And that's one reason I took the job I did. I really do only mean that when I finished my degree, I was young enough and profit-motivated enough absolutely to think about careers in other fields. I still do, though of course less now that I've got tenure.

If more of my friends did the same, they'd be in a better spot, too. But many of them have finished ph.d.s at ultraelite programs, sized up the awful market, and then decided that adjuncting is a better alternative to doing *anything* else. I'm not talking about MacDonalds or Starbucks. I literally mean anything else. And, I should add, this isn't a case of them having big loans to repay: in my field, everyone does their ph.d. on fully-funded programs + stipends.

I'm no machiavellian and wish there were work at great wages for all these people. But honestly, what is a manager supposed to do in this situation? Pay everyone big money because it's a nice thing or even a moral thing to do? That's just not the world we live in.

Finally, you refer to 'the two labor groups'. This is the right forumlation. Tenured and adjunct profs really are two separate groups; that's what getting them to team up in the name of solidarity isn't likely to happen. Again, this may be highly regrettable. But it is the reality.

64. rear_view_mirror - December 05, 2010 at 04:44 pm

Is the question "what should management do" or is it "what should we expect them to do, given what we have been seeing?"
I don't fault management for not paying everyone what the most well paid are getting. I fault them for paying abysmally badly much of the time. And there is this:

http://chronicle.com/article/Conditions-Imposed-on/125573/

which is hardly a counterintuitive conclusion.

65. categorical - December 05, 2010 at 07:56 pm

"Finally, you refer to 'the two labor groups'. This is the right forumlation. Tenured and adjunct profs really are two separate groups; that's what getting them to team up in the name of solidarity isn't likely to happen. Again, this may be highly regrettable. But it is the reality."

I think that this is wrong, what some tenured faculty might believe or want to believe, but wrong. There is one labor group and two castes, and in this market the distinctions between them are often arbitrary.

66. butteredtoastcat - December 05, 2010 at 08:37 pm

When there is inequity, the "winners" have to believe that they are justified in their positions. Tenured professors are no different from anyone else in justifying their luck in being chosen for tenure track positions over other applicants with the same (or better) qualifications.

We can all admit that hiring committees have biases and, often, the new hire is a compromise that everyone can live with as opposed to being the best person for the job. Or sometimes, the new hire is actually the worst person for the job but has an "in" with a department or dean that others don't have. There is a lot of guilt and insecurity behind the belief of the tenured (and soon to be tenured) that they are more deserving. Often, the part-timers are far better teachers and are (or would have been) better researchers.

The guilt of the tenured makes them uncomfortable, and they have to insist to themselves, and to the part-timers, and to everyone else, that they really deserve what they got. To do this, they have to trash part-timers. If the part-timers weren't so smart, so good, so top-notch, why didn't they get a tenure track position? Logical fallacies, anyone?

The truth, dear tenured and tenure-track faculty, is that tenure will eventually go the way of the well-paid UAW jobs and the comfortable livings they guaranteed. States like Louisiana are already questioning tenure in a serious way. As state budgets get more impoverished and startes looking where to cut, the questioning of tenure will accelerate. Remember, in companies looking to cut, the first place they go is the long-term, older, more expensive workers. Right now, the state can't do that at the universities, and they are cutting part-timers. But eventually this will change.

State universities will be the first to feel the pain. Get ready for it. The model of the university is shifting. Also, watch what is happening in K-12. Some of the K-12 "reforms" of the past 20 years are making their way to the community colleges right now. Privatized vocational models, like the University of Phoenix, are the future, at least for state universities.

The lesson, tenured faculty, is "There but for the grace of God, go I."

Your ass may be covered for now, but yours may be the last asses out the door with complete tenure and benefits.

67. upallnight - December 05, 2010 at 10:57 pm

In the last year, I attended a conference of college and high school teachers. I enjoyed myself. We could talk for hours with total strangers about our courses, our experiences, our students, on and on. And then it dawned on me why teachers are paid so poorly. It is a job that some would do for free and some people do for pretty close to free. This is why the pay is so low. Departments can always find someone to take the paltry money, no matter how small it is. I suspect that there are some who would pay a department just to allow them to call themselves an instructor and let them mold young minds. Being on stage in front of a class is quite appealing to some.

After having this rather disturbing realization, it then occurred to me that the situation will only be righted if the issue of quality is raised by those who pay the tuition -- parents and/or students. I personally think that there are some great adjunct instructors out there. But there is also a lot of folks who are not providing the most up-to-date, rigorous courses.

You get what you pay for; but students' parents are paying without any knowledge about who is actually teaching their children.

In my department, we have one adjunct instructor whom all the students adore. He gives mostly As. His tests are impossible to fail. He gives out his home number. All the students ask him for letters of recommendation and he sends out the same letter for every student, thus causing some of the students who apply to the same programs not to be admitted.

The students have no idea that they are being short changed. The tenure-track faculty don't like the situation, but we have no say. The department head decides. The department head is not interested in the quality of our undergraduate education.

I wish some parent would raise the issue. Their opinion would count more than the faculty at my institution.

68. gslonka - December 05, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Is anyone responsible for the admission departments that (at some school) too often accept individuals without any credentials? Eve more so, they are not willing to look into their admission procedures or at the degrees they provide to those who cannot be provided with one. Credentials are so easy to check these days, yet, foreigners still get accepted regardless of the realities (such as the fact the graduate has no undergraduate education!)

Is anyone responsible for this? How are things like this happening?

Such foreign "undergraduates" keep getting loans and paid for by our tax money, with no knowledge to offer, they still are the American success? Where is the ultimate responsibility if the schools would not want to listen?
Dr. Ricci

69. hariseldon - December 06, 2010 at 04:02 am

Though "notsurprised" is tenured, and I'm a lowly adjunct, I'm more sympathetic to his posts than any of the others, with the possible exception of my own. Perhaps he was so successful at least partly because he's saner than many of us? If so, good for him!

70. hariseldon - December 06, 2010 at 04:14 am

I was the adjunct quoted "In the Comments". As it happens, the same day that I wrote that quote, I received notice that a piece that I submitted to the Chronicle for pay was rejected. Kind of like the whole adjunct/tenure thing, no? It's just like "notsurprised" said, why pay when I'm idiot enough to give it away for free? And at 4 in the morning, yet!

71. rear_view_mirror - December 06, 2010 at 05:19 am

Re: #65 Good catch categorical. Accordingly, in #62 instead of "what has really happened is that management has systematically degraded a segment of the teaching profession to cut costs/ raise cash, and simultaneously misaligned the self interest of the two labor groups" I should have said "management has segmentized the teaching profession, and systematically degraded one segment."

Harsiselden : Sanity is mental health condition; honesty in a discussion is something else. Notice in #63 he says "I'm no machiavellian and wish there were work at great wages for all these people. But honestly, what is a manager supposed to do in this situation? Pay everyone big money because it's a nice thing or even a moral thing to do? That's just not the world we live in."
But he should know from #42 that I am not advocating that everyone get paid the same; I am advocating more responsibility and a more enlightened attitude from administrators, which would result in rejecting the practice of very low pay for some teachers.

72. rear_view_mirror - December 06, 2010 at 06:03 am

Upallnight, re this "After having this rather disturbing realization, it then occurred to me that the situation will only be righted if the issue of quality is raised by those who pay the tuition -- parents and/or students. I personally think that there are some great adjunct instructors out there. But there is also a lot of folks who are not providing the most up-to-date, rigorous courses."
You might be interested in http://chronicle.com/article/Meet-the-Parents/125468/ and also the link included in #64.
Lastly, who are the people who would teach for free? I have been in academia a long time and have never met a single one.

73. mitya1102 - December 06, 2010 at 01:52 pm

I'm not sure of the solution. Adjuncts are mistreated--no doubt. And there are so many willing to do it that the mistreatment won't end anytime soon. But if we make the use of adjuncts more legitimate or more acceptable, then the tenure-track positions are likely to disappear only that much faster. Take my institution as an example. Every semester we have a hard time finding enough adjuncts to teach our classes, in part because we pay so little ($2000/class). If we paid, say, twice that, then two things would happen: adjuncts would come out of the woodwork, and the administration would feel better about themselves. Give no benefits to those adjuncts, and they end up making $32K/year (we teach a 4/4). That's not bad, and the school can get 5 adjuncts for the price of 4 TT profs (not to mention the thousands saved in benefits). Sounds awful. TT profs would be gone in a decade.

74. formerprof05 - December 06, 2010 at 05:31 pm

I agree with camgray (#14) above. When I was an academic vice president, I tried to raise adjunct salaries to be equivalent to full-time salaries on a pro-rated bases (and allowing for differences in qualifications relating to rank) in order to remove the financial incentive to hire more adjuncts. I failed, because there just wasn't enough money to allocate that way.

As camgray points out, the adversarial and vitriolic condemnation of administrators by faculty won't get us very far. The problem is difficult, and choices are limited by many societal factors beyond our control. And, like camgray, I worked much harder and at more diverse tasks as an administrator than I ever did as a faculty member. I finally had to quit because of the workload. Are there lazy administrators? Yes, but in my experience most were not.

75. abichel - December 06, 2010 at 06:21 pm

tuxthepenguin - you are a true horse's ass. Tenure may grant you life-long employment, but there is always cancer...

76. rear_view_mirror - December 06, 2010 at 07:52 pm

#74 Please, you have got to be kidding. This is the same bogus argument that "notsurprised" has on his mind. We don't have enough to pay adjuncts the way we pay tenure trackers, so the only sensible thing to do is keep giving them $2000 per course while administrators make six figures.
Oh, and I know administrators who left the job for teaching too. Why, because as former administrators they got boosted salary for teaching. I don't know your exact situation, of course. I'm just saying, do you actually expect us to go for an explanation like yours. Give it up.

77. hoppingmadjunct - December 06, 2010 at 07:59 pm

#11 demery1 says: "Poorly paid and abused adjunct faculty should quit their jobs and reenter the labor market. They should also make it clear that their reasons for quitting relate to inequity.If someone has been working in a crappy job for 10 years with little hope for advancement or improvement of their poor wage, QUIT!"

This does make some sense, except that adjuncts quitting en masse is about as likely a solution as the tenured standing up en masse for adjuncts, and this way we can preserve the principle that quitters never win, and winners never quit, which is more or less the principle underlying all those new stadia and coaches' salaries, no?

78. staffmember - December 06, 2010 at 08:04 pm

#72: I admit that I have twice taught for free at the institution where I am a staff member. It's funny to think that folks would tell me that I am devaluing teaching by doing so, since I value teaching (and being taught) so much.

79. weather123 - December 06, 2010 at 08:04 pm

The disparity of treatment between full-time adjuncts and administrators/tt faculties is obscene, once you know what it is all about. Nothing justifies the level of exploitation and mistreatment that adjuncts go through.

80. categorical - December 06, 2010 at 08:33 pm

The whole thing is ideological to the core: academic labor and the knowledge and disciplinary bases that it supports are under wholesale attack, especially in the humanities given the proportions and trends in ft and pt hiring; adjunct/contingent labor is the frontline. If you don't care about the treatment of adjunct/contingent labor, don't be surprised if your discipline doesn't survive past your retirement.

81. bowl_haircut - December 06, 2010 at 10:40 pm

Bravo #s 76 and 80!

#76) In my experience, the vast majority of administrators tend to exploit this particular rhetorical advantage for all it's worth (i.e., "I've been on the inside of the decision-making process. I know what sorts of sacrifices have to be made on a daily basis. There's simply nothing we can do about the adjunct situation"). And then they go quietly back to making their 6 figures, with the early retention bonuses, the clothing allowance, etc.

#80) I've preached for years that if you don't have the interest/guts/time/soul to engage academic labor issues, you simply don't belong in the academy. This is everyone's problem. It's as simply as that.



82. monikwee - December 07, 2010 at 02:31 am

The idea that there are those of us out there who are adjuncting merely for the prestige of being called "professor" is laughable. I would not continue to endure this abuse just for the thrill of telling people I am a professor. Having adjuncted for several years now, I can attest that there are those of us who might consider other careers, but I keep going because of the carrot that is constantly being dangled in front of my face. I have been living with the hope that if I just keep teaching as an adjunct, I will get the prize I have been working for since I began graduate school: the tenure track job. As each year goes by, I worry that the job will not appear, but what else can I do? With a Ph.D. in history and the current state of the economy, I honestly don't feel that I am qualified to do anything else besides teach, research and write.

I don't think that adjuncts should be paid the same as full time, but we should get paid at least something resembling a living wage. TT faculty are paid for office hours, committee meetings, etc. At my current institution, I am ONLY paid for the time I spend in the classroom. All the hours of grading and preparation are things I do on my own time. I am not even afforded an office where I can meet with students, instead i am relegated to a storage closet in the division office where I share a computer with 37 other adjuncts. I am forced to meet with students in the cafeteria, the library, any other place on campus. And who ultimately suffers? The students. While we are forced to teach at 2 or 3 different campuses just so we can pay our bills, time that should be spent on preparing our lectures or grading papers is being spent driving to different schools. And after all of this, I do not even know if I will be given a class to teach next semester. In some cases, I do not even find out until the week before classes start. When I say we need equity, I don't mean the same pay, I mean the same respect.

Maybe I was an idealist for believing that if I paid my dues long enough I would get the job I have been dreaming of, but I don't think I should be punished because I do serve a very real purpose in the academic world. If colleges can't operate without us, why don't they treat us that way?

83. hariseldon - December 07, 2010 at 03:53 am

minikwee: "but what else can I do? With a Ph.D. in history and the current state of the economy, I honestly don't feel that I am qualified to do anything else besides teach, research and write."


monikwee, if you had what it took to get a PhD in ANYTHING, you are DEFINITELY more than qualified to work outside academia! When I left academia to go into the world of finance, I learned that all those people busy making paper airplanes in my high school classes wound up in banks (This, by the way, is the real cause of the financial crisis: the guys at the top were, among other things, too STUPID to see the coming problems. OK, they might have been venal, as well, but there was much more pants-on-backwards stupidity there than most people realize.).

Another option is high school teaching. It pays better and there is more job security. Or corporate training? Someone has to teach, say, insurance salesmen about complicated new policies, their tax implications, etc.

The problem is that WE HAVE ALL BEEN BRAINWASHED (except, of course, notsurprised, who has the sense not to be a prof unless it's worth it for him. OK, notsurprised, you might be good at your field, but I continue to believe that part of what got you tenure is that you have more sense than the whining adjuncts on this page, possibly including me. I'm sure that your good sense helps you do higher quality research. This certainly is the story with the academic stars I've known personally.).

84. barbarapiper - December 07, 2010 at 06:05 am

Steve Street is not listed in the SUNY/Buffalo directory, but is listed as a lecturer in the writing program at Buffalo State College, which is a different institution. The adjunct issues at SUNY/Buffalo are different from the adjunct issues at Buff State, though there are obviously some general adjunct issues that are common to all institutions.

85. notsurprised - December 07, 2010 at 07:32 am

#83, I can't agree with you more, and not just because you say nice things about me. When I read this comment,

"With a Ph.D. in history and the current state of the economy, I honestly don't feel that I am qualified to do anything else besides teach, research and write..."

...my heart freezes. I have so many friends who think the same thing. This is INSANE. 83 is right! A Ph.D. in history and you can't think you're qualified for ANYTHING? I think you're probably qualified for zillions of things, or at least smart enough to learn them quickly enough that you're a viable candidate for all sorts of jobs. Have you thought about going to the career services center at the university where you work? They won't want to help you -- at least they don't around here, because they say they're only mean to serve undergraduates -- but if you catch them on a slow day I bet they will. Just sit down with some of these people and ask, What can I do? The people in charge meet with students in exactly this situation every single day of the school year, many many times.

I realized a problem last year when a grad student of ours 'washed out' of the market, meaning he couldn't land anything (anything he would take, that is -- not the exploitative, dead-end stuff he certainly could have gotten). He was terrified of going and doing to career services but came back with the biggest smile on his face I'd seen in a very long time. I realized something. The difference between undergraduates and recent Ph.D.s is that most adjuncts have postponed this conversation for 6-10 years; they are functionally 'growing up' around age 30/35 rather than 22. (Please don't take that phrase in quotes the wrong way, anyone -- I sincerely mean no disrespect.) But because many entered grad school probably right after college or pretty quickly after, they managed to put off the 'what do I do with my life' freakout that most everyone else has to go through.

One last point and I'll shut up. I've been on many a search committee at my ultraelite in the last 7 years. I don't know if our practice is true most places, but our committees are almost always more interested in candidates right out of grad school than those who have been adjuncting for more than a couple of years. (My field isn't English, but it is humanities.) Right or wrong, the sense is that Ph.D.s have an expiration date on them. Right or wrong, the sense is that if you were going to get a TT job, you would have already gotten one by now; and if not, why should we take a chance?

If this is news to anyone who has been adjuncting for 4 or more years and dreaming of a TT job, I feel sorry for you. But you ought to know it. And anyone who knows differently should pipe up and tell me I'm wrong, because as I say, maybe our experience isn't typical.

86. rear_view_mirror - December 07, 2010 at 09:52 am

#73: Interesting. We can speculate and I suppose no one knows for sure what would happen. I think in general, administrators would kick and scream before letting tenure go away, because having a workforce with better status and salary helps them (administrators) to justify what they get.

87. stinkcat - December 07, 2010 at 10:07 am

What about working in industry for a few years, getting an MBA and then applying for a job in a business school? It probably wouldn't work for the elites, but there are plenty of smaller schools that only pay $50-$60k to start that are desperate for faculty members. It would seem to be clearly preferable to the permanent adjunct track.

88. stinkcat - December 07, 2010 at 10:09 am

Of course, I imagine some would be offended at the very thought of teaching in a business school, since business schools are often thought of as a right wing plot to infiltrate the academy.

89. bowl_haircut - December 07, 2010 at 10:48 am

"Of course, I imagine some would be offended at the very thought of teaching in a business school, since business schools are often thought of as a right wing plot to infiltrate the academy."

Aren't they?

90. stinkcat - December 07, 2010 at 11:04 am

I prefer to think of it as adding ideological diversity to the university. And since conservatives have been historically discriminated against, I think starting off assistant professors at over $100k per year does help redress some of the harm done.

91. mercy_otis_warren - December 07, 2010 at 11:06 am

@85, notsurprised: "I've been on many a search committee at my ultraelite in the last 7 years. I don't know if our practice is true most places, but our committees are almost always more interested in candidates right out of grad school than those who have been adjuncting for more than a couple of years. (My field isn't English, but it is humanities.) Right or wrong, the sense is that Ph.D.s have an expiration date on them. Right or wrong, the sense is that if you were going to get a TT job, you would have already gotten one by now; and if not, why should we take a chance?"

I'm tenured in the humanities at an R-1, and I almost entirely agree with this. In every search committee on which I've served, we have looked very skeptically at those who have been out for, say, 4 years or so without having landed a TT job (in the absence of postdocs, that is). Let me add quickly that this isn't arbitrary or cosmetic--instead, my experience is that those who have been out for that long do *not* have publication records commensurate with the lag. Yes, yes--if you're teaching a lot you're too busy to do research. But my department expects its hires to do research amid committee assignments, advising students, serving the field, (yes) teaching, and a bunch of other explicit and implicit duties adjuncts avoid entirely. If you haven't been active for the four years since you've finished, it's simply too risky to think you're going to start now.

This touches upon butteredtoastcat's angry claim that those hired for TT jobs probably have an in with the dean, and don't deserve their jobs, and are actually less qualified than the eventual PTs who were overlooked. In my experience, those we've short-listed are quite comparable in their backgrounds and research/teaching profiles. And those short-listed candidates have ended up with TT jobs *somewhere*. In a job pool of 100 in a year with ten jobs, it's number fifteen on the list, or number fifty -- and, trust me, there's a big drop off between number three and number fifty -- who end up as adjuncts.

notsurprised, you've been a voice of sanity up there, and I appreciate it. Whether any of the PTs listen -- rather than calling the tenured academic welfare queens and hoping we get cancer -- is another thing entirely.

92. weather123 - December 07, 2010 at 11:17 am

Mercy_Otis_Warren, are you...notsurprised? You sound like identical twins.

93. bmljenny - December 07, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Is anyone surprised that one group of people will not fight for the rights of another? Really? You do realize that our national motto (formerly E Pluribus Unum) is currently "I Got Mine, Jack?"

94. notsurprised - December 07, 2010 at 12:50 pm

"Is anyone surprised that one group of people will not fight for the rights of another?"

Your characterization of higher pay, an office, and permanent tenure as "rights" exactly illustrates the problem.

95. rear_view_mirror - December 07, 2010 at 01:48 pm

#91 is a pretty good summary of how to deliberately create the economic underclass of teachers with no good options but to muddle through or leave academia. I wouldn't keep saying this if people didn't keep changing the subject back to tenure: if colleges treated "adjuncts" more sanely, things would be better all around.
It's not really about the "rights" of a person who accepts a teaching job. It's about doing good business with the customer (student.)

96. supertatie - December 07, 2010 at 02:00 pm

Wow, I am surprised that certain points have not been made here. (Apologies if I accidentally overlooked them). Here's my take:

1. I have three words to explain all this: It's. A. Bubble. Yes, a "bubble," as in real estate, dot.bomb, financial sector. The costs of higher education have been rising faster than inflation for at least two decades. Bubbles burst in the real world, and prices have to come down. But people have TENURE in academia, and so the prices are being kept artificially high. But that cannot be kept so indefinitely. Instead of arguing that adjuncts should have the same pay as TT faculty, TT faculty should realize that the whole system is getting ready to collapse. And collapse it will. When it does, all of the high salaries people have complained of here: tenured faculty, administrators, coaches - will come crashing down. And in some cases, the institutions themselves will come down we well.

2. As the tuition has skyrocketed, students (and parents) have demanded more and more goodies as part of the package. When I think of what passed for a recreational athletic facility where I went to college (old, sweaty equipment that the football team was done with, and a track), I have to laugh. What do the students have now? Multi-million-dollar health clubs with tanning facilities, espresso bars, and lit palm trees. Wide plasma screens in their apartments. Well, what do you think they're going to want when tuition, room and board are $50,000+ each year? And then there are the offices that require all of the administrators: counseling offices, diversity offices, student health offices, dispute resolution offices, academic advising offices, sexual assault officers, substance abuse offices - and who-knows-how many more. Do you think that your faculty can do all that?

3. And what of the faculty? I was chatting with a tenured colleague recently who bragged about her home institution's continued progress to "slough off" teaching onto adjuncts, clinical faculty, and other "alternative" faculty members. Why? So she and her colleagues could do more research. It is this that stunned me most by its absence in this conversation. Over the past 40 years or so, professors have shrunk their teaching loads, while enrollment has increased dramatically. All because we supposedly value "research." (And we clearly value it more than teaching, at least if "value" is measured by what we ask - and pay - people to do.) WHO DO YOU THINK IS GOING TO DO ALL OF THAT EXTRA TEACHING? The adjuncts, the part-timers, etc., of course. In that vein, those who have observed that adjuncts should simply refuse to do the work are onto something. What would happen at most large schools if adjuncts went on strike? The whole institution would have to shut down.

All of this, as another poster noted, is an unsustainable business model. It is unsustainable at publicly funded schools because plummeting tax revenues will make it impossible. It is unsustainable at private schools because they are simply pricing themselves out of the market.

In the housing bubble, prices collapsed once people realized they could no longer "buy and flip," and the loan monies dried up. In academia, prices will collapse once a critical mass of the public realizes that (a) you don't need all this "stuff" to get a good education, (b) most schools are overprices, (c) most of what professors should be paid to do is teach, and (d) truly superior researchers are a rare breed.

As with the other meltdowns, if we blind ourselves and refuse to make the hard decisions ourselves, those decisions will be made for us by reality.

97. shantesmalls - December 07, 2010 at 02:17 pm

Thank you all for your comments. I enjoy a vigorous debate and it's been helpful to read as I am on the job market right now. Has anyone discussed the possibility of universities hiring more Full-time lecturers/instructors? This is obviously another level that gives non-TT people a living wage and benefits, without giving them tenure, but contracts instead. My university, a R-1, which union-busted the hell out of our grad student/adjunct/TT coalition (they kind of laughed us out of countenance), offers TT jobs, Master teacher jobs, lectureships/instructorships, fellowships and adjuncts. I'm not sure how these different levels affect one another, but they offer an alternative to the dualism and inequity of TT vs Adjunct-only. Do other people have experiences with these tiers and how they affect one another and the job experience?

My experience adjuncting at a smaller institution was abysmal and I decided I would go back to non-profit/foundation work (vomit) rather than do that again. But I'm lucky. Even in this economy, I'm in a resource-rich part of the country and am fairly willing to work in other industries other than the academy. I, too, was instructed not to adjunct too much (even while completing my diss), as some search committees looked down upon it. I was fairly shocked to discover this, but I took the advice.

From what I can tell at my own university, there is a significant amount of bloat. For instance, do we need giant flat-screen TVs on every floor of the main library to tell us what floor we are on and what books are housed on said floor? While there are small, sleek Dells on one side of a communal study table, the other has the largest iMacs you can find. I love me my school, but I see some areas where the cosmetic costs can be trimmed. We've restructured admin, staff, and faculty as well.

The last item of pay equity: I am floored at that the gender pay inequity is still so pronounced at some schools (most). It seems that that we might want to look at that as well as we approach how to spend more wisely in our industry.

98. amnirov - December 07, 2010 at 05:38 pm

It is not an issue of either rights or equity. I am a tenured member of the faculty and I do not feel that the adjunct faculty have met the criteria I have met in order to enjoy my pay, teaching schedule or benefits. And yes, I did a turn as an adjunct, but I published, presented, won grants, and clawed my way up. If adjuncts are unhappy, let them do the same, but they certainly don't have a "right" to a position they have not fairly earned.

99. hoppingmadjunct - December 07, 2010 at 05:41 pm

No one with experience in academia disputes that hiring committees prefer newly credentialed applicants to those with adjunct experience. It's the assumptions that need examining: that familiarity with the academic culture's a detriment, that the complex art of teaching -- which Roger Rosenblatt, for one, says took him twenty years to fathom, let alone master -- is best approached as a blank slate, that no matter the institution's flaws its procedures are still dead accurate, etc. It seems as if hiring committees are mostly concerned with groomability: who will follow the very narrow course of How We Do Things Here with the least objections? For that, other perspectives than wide-eyed naïveté about the institution's own are problematic. But the problems are with the institutions, not the people who've served them.

100. notsurprised - December 07, 2010 at 09:27 pm

"No one with experience in academia disputes that hiring committees prefer newly credentialed applicants to those with adjunct experience. It's the assumptions that need examining..."

The cynical assumptions you list certainly aren't the ones that impinge on discussions I've participated in. The problem is that for the first few years out of grad school, you're all potential, as far as research is concerned. But after a few years adjuncting, you're no longer all potential; you're a known quantity, and you're known to be a teacher rather than a researcher. So time to look elsewhere for someone who meets the research needs we have in mind.

This is what I find so troubling in general -- the naievete of those who accept adjunct or lecturer jobs year after year, without realizing that precisely by doing so, some windows of opportunity close on you. I have one friend in particular who accepted a job as lecturer at an ultraelite university and has worked there for 5 years. (For paltry pay, I should add.) This friend was so taken with the possibility of working in this elite environment that s/he didn't bother looking elsewhere for employment (though was encouraged to do so by the rest of us). So after five years of teaching full time, this person has no publications to speak of. And to a bigger, brighter place looking to fill its t/t job, a five years post-ph.d. with no publications is not someone that seems like the best investment, precisely because all of us have been through tenure, and all of us know exactly how challenging meeting the requirements will be. So on to the next candidate, who may not be any better, but isn't at least a known quantity.

These are the kind of considerations that tend to go on in the searches I've been in. And I have to say, by and large they make sense to me. The silliness about 'groomability' or blanddness has never been raised, and never tacitly assumed.

101. rear_view_mirror - December 08, 2010 at 12:49 am

#96: "Exceptional researchers are rare... most of what professors should be paid to do is teach." http://chronicle.com/article/We-Must-Stop-the-Avalanche-of/65890/
Or the other familiar scenario: the older tenure coasting into retirement, no longer doing research. Not sure I blame him, really. The ignorant, FOX news watching, no-critical thinking public knows the same thing he does: why knock yourself out to write something that no one needs, for a shot at additional recognition that he doesn't need, for money he already has?

102. hariseldon - December 08, 2010 at 02:02 am

I'm still waiting for someone to comment on my proposal (#27) for a "CostCo" type University, whereby disgruntled faculty from other universities pool their resources and start an institution that is devoted to TEACHING and nothing else. CostCo has absolutely nothing inessential to its mission (even to the point of bare concrete floors, cinder block walls, etc.), but elaborate technology in support of the mission, and (usually) high quality merchandise at low prices. So it should be possible for a teaching cooperative to gain accreditation and provide inexpensive but good education, and leave ancillary services to others. A major city certainly has whatever is needed for residential study --- nearby restaurants, living quarters, medical facilities, etc. Non-students have to live, too. OK, these might be more expensive than the subsidized student cafeterias, but students can afford to pay more if they are not paying 30+ K/year tuition.

103. notsurprised - December 08, 2010 at 07:32 am

"I'm still waiting for someone to comment on my proposal (#27) for a "CostCo" type University, whereby disgruntled faculty from other universities pool their resources and start an institution that is devoted to TEACHING and nothing else."

I'll bite, but only to the extent that it touches on the adjunct question. On a Costco budget, would professors who teach there be given tenure? Research funds? Libraries? How much should they be paid, on a Costco budget?

Projecting straight to the end, I see a Costco-style budget mandated from the beginning quickly reaching a new low in terms of pay and perks. Which would in turn, I suspect, drag down pay and perks everywhere.

104. notsurprised - December 08, 2010 at 08:44 am

One more thought. You say "...disgruntled faculty from other universities pool their resources and start an institution..."

What resources do you have in mind? I have an office full of books that belong to me, but that's it. The computer, desk, phone, and decorations all belong to the university. The secretaries that assist us work for the university. The space we teach in belongs to the university. And so on...

And I'm just a humanities chump. What would a sciences professor actually do? Bring that lab with her?

The reality is, that for all its huge, bloated waste, maybe the model of sucking up to wealthy alumni to pay for all those tax-free buildings and labs isn't such a bad one in practice.

105. eudaimon - December 08, 2010 at 04:03 pm

A generation of faculty joins its cohort across industries and sectors to pluck clean the abundance of the American cornucopia. As the young seek jobs in the private sector, government, and education, they can look forward to two-tiered systems, reductions of pay and benefits, and generally reduced expectations. They are currently being told that the American dream of homeownership and an education may have been wrong headed and that they should aspire to less. Many got theirs, so who cares.

106. camgray - December 08, 2010 at 04:10 pm

Sherbygirl -
"So, camgrey, you're saying then that it just "happened" that adjuncts took over campus and became the majority of the workers teaching the students? Speaks well of us all. At least a conspiricy sounds like SOMEONE knew what they were doing."

As to the "how" it happened, it isn't a conspiracy or a well-thought plan. It's simply economic erosion of the institutions of support for higher education at a time of increased demand: Legislative cuts reduced state support of institutions from 70-80% to 20-30% (conservatively). At the same time, employers require degrees of everyone which increases the number of students we are told we must, as a society, matriculate. Less money + more students + increases in cost of doing business divided by the number of years for this all to happen (30 or so years) = status quo of more adjuncts and lousy pay. It's the boiling frog syndrome, and yes, it burns.

Is this bad for us all? Yes. (even notsuprised, whose writing here I almost entirely agree with and whose honesty I admire). Because given technology and the changes that are coming for higher ed as a whole, we will have to change how we all do business. All students will be expected to be college-ready (increase in number of customers). Most students will come out with some college already completed (higher ed moving into P-16 initiatives means less control for universities and high school teachers with MAs acting as the college professors). Legislators will require cost savings across the board (less money to pay everyone, including admins and TT). Colleges will stop hiring in the fields in which students are not entering because their parents want to see a career path (fewer humanities jobs for everyone and serious pain for liberal arts based colleges). More colleges will offer canned courses online to get students through their basics with either an adjunct faculty member or worse yet a professor of record and GRA's doing the grading and real work. And worst of all, grading and teaching is outsourced to other countries (this has been covered in the Chronicle), just as so many of our jobs have been.

Of course, private schools will pitch quality. Ultra Elite will pitch, well, being elite. They will have alumni who'll write checks to create endowed chairs and gorgeous buildings. As long as parents and students hold the view that there is value to buying an Audi or BMW over a Toyota or a Kia (and there can be), that model will keep working well. When they can't pay the private tuition and stop agreeing to large debt loads, the party's over there too.

We know how it happened, and believe it or not, we are trying to find solutions, because in a time of budget cuts none of us are safe from these changes. We are not evil. We are not incompetent. We are educators trying to steer institutions in times of uncertainty and change.

PS many administrators are not tenured and do not enjoy the job secruity (or pay) of which you accuse us. We are contracted by the year.

107. more_cowbell - December 08, 2010 at 11:47 pm

We don't insist on equity because there is no such thing as a professional identity among academics. Medical doctors, school teachers, loggers--just about every skilled vocation out there--behave in ways that protect the collective interest. Not academics.

A dog eat dog mentality prevails in higher ed. It is something we learn in grad school. In fact, the academic meritocracy is based on how well one refudiates and supercedes one's peers. Is it any surprise that this mentality carries into the academic workplace?

Look no further than how faculty treat adjuncts and grad students. It's hard to imagine any other profession so hell-bent on it's own deconstruction.

108. hariseldon - December 09, 2010 at 01:13 am

OK, I suppose even tenured faculty don't have much in monetary resources, but you do have something that is worth potentially much more, and that is instant academic credibility. My CostCo university is just a funded business plan away! There may be a recession out there, but there are still are a lot of billionaires and hedge funds looking for a home for their excess cash. If we, collectively, are so smart, especially if there are some business school types among us and if the economics are what I think they are, then we should be able to make a compelling case.

The best plan I've come up with so far is that CostCo University is organized like a law firm. Typically, law firms are typically owned and managed by the partners, possibly with some functions delegated to administrators that they hire. The important point, though, is that it is the partners that both run the show and reap the profits.

And, boy, would there be profits! If CostCo U skimps on everything EXCEPT teaching (and learning) --- no sports, no dorms, no financial aid, no food service, and rented facilities --- my guess is that CostCo U. could pay everyone a living wage and offer a quality education at, say, 3/4 the tuition of a private college. Students would flock to CostCo U, so that it would have its pick of the best. If Harvard is the best, but CostCo U is almost as good, but MUCH cheaper, guess which school will get more applicants!

One big problem with this idea is the (justifiably) bad name that existing for-profit colleges have given to the for-profit model. I think that this can be overcome via the academic star power of a highly motivated professorate and some good, if honest marketing.

How do we keep the professorate motivated? Perhaps the same way that young associates are motivated --- by the prospect of making partner and getting equity and a say in the running of the firm. Many partners think it in their best interest to keep their firm's reputation intact, and, hopefully, CostCo U's professor-owners will feel the same way. Besides, if recruitment is done right, people who value good teaching would be the ones that "make partner".

Admittedly, lab courses are a problem, though not an insurmountable one. For one thing, relatively few subjects require expensive laboratory equipment, so CostCo U could outsource its lab courses to some nearby traditional university, rent space there, especially during off hours.

I think it would take outside investors to get this off the ground, but the orignal group of partners would slowly buy out the outside investors' stakes.

So, again, what do other posters think?

Oh, one more thing: If graduation from CostCo U. acquires the kind of cachet that I'm hoping for, grading could simply be a discussion between the professor and the student that need not "leave the room". If society demands the sorting mechanism that college admissions currently provides, the grading process is an imperfect mechanism. Better to have a really thorough admissions process (at a cost of, say, $200), so that merely being a CostCo U graduate would be enough. Do people ask Yale graduates what their GPA was?

109. rear_view_mirror - December 09, 2010 at 06:17 am

Re: #106, "boiling frog." It's not that no one knew a frog was being cooked. It was more that the frog was never supposed to boil, just get lukewarm.
If numbers of adjuncts had been kept smaller, the scenarios of #96 (adjuncts striking) would not occur to anyone, and this article would never have been written. The idea was to keep a small number of poorly paid transient academic laborers who would never organize or collectively bargain, never be written about in the college press, and basically blend into the background. If necessary, you could say they weren't doing for the money, or something other flattering malarkey. Once it was evident how easy it was to raise money this way, everybody said "give me a piece of that pie."
Now you have administrators saying you are going to take a paycut, because of financial problems. But I'm advocating for you." See #105 and 107.

110. yperryiupui - December 09, 2010 at 03:09 pm

Where are all these 6-figure jobs for mid-level university administrators? I would very much like to apply!

111. gplm2000 - December 09, 2010 at 03:40 pm

AUTHOR: "The only goal worth fighting for is full justice for all who teach." Yeah! Get those tenured profs (whitey)! Sounds like Selma all over again. Malarkey.

As an adjunct for the past six years, I accept that I am a part time worker and employed at the will of the school. No, I do not want to pursue a PhD, nor do I want to write books. I am happy being a nobody and getting a part time wage. If I wanted it any other way, then I would do the above and find a tenure-track position.

The primary value of an adjunct instructor is real-world experience in the subject matter--not just out-of-a-book. Most business profs. have never held a job and are left to write textbooks. But that is the way it is--I'm qualified to teach and they are not.

112. hariseldon - December 10, 2010 at 01:54 am

I'll bite, but only to the extent that it touches on the adjunct question. On a Costco budget, would professors who teach there be given tenure? Research funds? Libraries? How much should they be paid, on a Costco budget? (per "NotSurprised")

Reasonable questions, all. My previous post answered some of them, I think. Here are more answers: More and more of what used to be housed in a research library is now available on the internet. I also think that a deal could be struck with neighboring traditional universities to permit CostCo U. students to use their libraries. Since the libraries are already there and the marginal cost of additional users is zero, the neighbors should be thrilled. Then there are the buildings: Most college class rooms are used a very small fraction of the time. For a while, my department was renting space in nearby buildings by the hour. This is the ideal way to keep costs down.

As for the other things that CostCo U omits, I claim that they are offered elsewhere. Dorms? Just rent an apartment. Sports?
I admit that the CostCo U. model is not obviously set up for research, but that's partly the point. What needs to come first there is teaching. On the other hand, I, personally, would want to continue my research if I were employed there, even though revenue is generated primarily from tuition. Perhaps a contract research institution could be set up to share faculty with CostCo U?

113. zthudson - December 10, 2010 at 02:32 am

@hariseldon: CostCo U exists. It is called ITT Tech. It is very much as you describe it. One big building, no Gothic archetecture, no ivy. Instructors have no research or depertmental duties. The entire library is online (a "Virtual Library"). So, it's been done.

Interesting thing is its tuition is as high as many private universities, and more than most state institutions. Most teachers are adjuncts, and they continue to hire adjuncts instead of full time instructors. Adjuncts get no health insurance. In other words, they have done exactly as you have suggested, and it had not decreased tuition or increased teachers' salaries, though it pays dividinds to the investors.

114. rear_view_mirror - December 10, 2010 at 11:12 am

#111: Really, do you think business profs are not qualified to teach? In my field the full time teachers are good, and not least because they have some of the advantages that we adjuncts need.

115. profdave - December 12, 2010 at 05:48 pm

Re: the "CostCo U" model.

What about accreditation? Does anyone believe that the same bodies that are used to perpetuate the college/university model of higher education are going to bless a competing idea of how things should be done?

Without accreditation, the graduates of this new type of school will be unable to transfer or go to grad school - not without re-taking many of the courses they tood at CCU.

116. profdave - December 12, 2010 at 05:49 pm

"tood" = took. I originally typed "did" there. :)

117. hariseldon - December 14, 2010 at 04:36 pm

"@hariseldon: CostCo U exists. It is called ITT Tech. It is very much as you describe it. One big building, no Gothic archetecture, no ivy. Instructors have no research or depertmental duties. The entire library is online (a "Virtual Library"). So, it's been done."

Well, not quite. Two key differences: 1. The instructors do not own the institution, unlike my plan for CostCo U., which is supposed to be worker owned, like a law firm. 2. I assume that the instructors are NOT leading academics at ITT Tech. I think that part of the CostCo U. charter would be to hire only full time faculty, except for specialty courses and for researchers (see next paragraph). If Pres. Clinton wanted to teach constitutional law there as an adjunct (and this is the kind of gravitas I would want for the place), the only answer I would want CostCo U to give is "When can you start?"

A flaw that I'm still trying to think through is that many leading academics really would like to do a mix of teaching and research. Not clear how to make that work with the CostCo U model, except possibly to have a sister institution that is a contract research facility, but, again, a for-profit institution (perhaps named "CostCo Research"?). Faculty can be full time at CostCo Research and adjunct at CostCo U, full time at CostCo U and have some lesser affiliation with CostCo Research, half time at both, or exclusively full time at one or the other. But the important thing is that the mission of CostCo Research is funded research, and the mission of CostCO U is education. Since they have separate missions, they are separate institutions, and, since both institutions are owned by people who have "made partner" by proving their committment to their respective missions, quality will matter in both places.

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