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Adjunct pay and the unions

December 9, 2008

You know, before Michigan’s economy tanked, say 7 years ago, which despite current rumors is when the downward trend started (think Delphi Automotive and that bloated ship’s impact on the auto industry), I would have wholeheartedly supported adjuncts being represented by the unions.  After watching lots of MI jobs leave the state due to more competitive markets elsewhere, I’ve begun to think that maybe the unions aren’t such a good idea.  I am all for increased pay, but realistically, no university is going to pay more for instructors than they have to.  There is no system of checks and balances for poor teachers.  The university can put poor teachers into programs and leave them there, if they so desire.  There is no direct market share effect reflected in enrollment or class size to get an administrators attention.

So, what’s a school or instructor to do?  I would propose limited tenure.  I propose that we set 3 and 5-year tenure slots built around projects that the faculty present.  Let’s have a little accountability for those who get tenure and then sit on it.  Look at how many profs even in the Ivy League have one great idea and then sit on it.  (Think Multiple Intelligences:  everyone in smart in different ways, novel concept, but nothing ever new has come out except to expand the subject area.  Everyone is smart in some way in business.  Everyone is smart in a different way in education, blah, blah, blah.)  These people produce one concept, and it seems only one, partially because of the way the tenure concept is structured.  Educational Professionals be forewarned:  your tenure and benefits may go the way of the auto industry.  It’s a bloated and rather naive view to assume that the faculty professions won’t change, that there will still be the same level of security teaching the same number of classes each semester while the other professionals exist in a turbulence frenzy of job change and increased competition.  Be wary of the unions, because they just might be the undoing.

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