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Commenting on the Adjunct Plight: Why do the readers of Inside Higher Ed miss the point?

July 8, 2009

There is an article published with Inside Higher Ed called Add-junk or Instructor, written by a member of the adjunct teaching community.  As this adjunct has written about his experiences, the number of comments that appeared seemed to center on issues with writing style or personal attacks, not much on the issues themselves that occur with adjuncts working in dismal conditions.  I wrote a response to the article, which I have listed below, and Inside Higher Ed did publish, but I think it would be wise for others to take a look a the article, the commentary and the discussions surrounding adjunct work.

In this age of worsening conditions for all instructors, these are issues important to all of us.  An HR rep felt free to comment that the adjunct was only part-time for years due to  his attitude, which we have no way of knowing about for sure.  Maybe the adjunct taught part-time and worked full-time, but  he wanted to stay in the classroom.  I know lots of adjuncts who teach just because they love it, not for the money.  An English-titled commentator, apparently in the field for 4 years only stated that the adjunct was just bitter.  There was even a comment from an overseas reader who waxed on about the glory of student teaching, all with the idea of a pot of gold teaching position at the end of her rainbow.

I wrote the response below, but I would encourage all of you to take a look at the articles and write your own response.  My advice is Unasked, but yours might be welcome….

Seems that those who comment have taken 1 of 2 roads, those who chastise and nit-pick(from the seat of the full-time employee) and those who address the issue that adjuncts rarely get the respect that full-time professors get.  I understand the whole difference in education and background between adjuncts and professors, but the class warfare going on has nothing to do with the students and everything to do with bias.  It’s strange that a librarian and HR guy pick up the moniker to criticize but don’t look at the fact that perhaps those lower on the hiring scheme don’t want to “be given mandatory materials” to “teach.”  Perhaps the Writer above could look at the journey the course takes rather than pick apart a story description, or take issue with the way Burnt Out describes prose.  Is it really that much of an issue, really?

The real issues at play include the fact that there is class system in place for the adjuncts, and the adjunct roles are not organic pieces of work that grow into security and tenure (check out my posts on the frequent faculty firings lately regarding instructors speaking out).  Realistically, the question is:  how many professionals want to be told what they have to teach and then told that they should like it, especially when they can’t make a living wage?  I think it’s important to note that all the full-time people make their wages as a direct result of those adjuncts who earn more money for the university (rather than themselves) by having to accept a pittance pay and shoddy treatment while moving the students through the classes at the same standard (or higher depending on job security) as professors/the protected.

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