Adjuncts are Essential

As my first post, this one will be brief. I’d like to explain my tagline.

The adjunct position was initially developed to bring professionals into the colleges. The idea was that, for a person teaching as an adjunct professor, this was a side job. The adjunct made his or her primary living at a “real job” outside of academia, and that real-world knowledge was a valuable asset brought into the classroom.

But the corporate model transformed this position into a system of cheap labor. Now, adjuncts have become the majority workforce of professors at most community college, and this trend is advancing in universities, as well. If you’re a college student, chances are your professor is an adjunct.

What does this mean? It means there’s corruption in the system. It means that the system that fosters the growth and development of its scholars devours them in its own workforce.

Adjuncts are struggling. Adjuncts are dying. Adjuncts are coping by putting less effort into the job.

As one adjunct said, according to one of my students: “I don’t get paid enough to care.”  The problem, I believe, is that adjuncts are paid so little that they can’t afford to care. What I mean is that we have to seek other income sources if we want to survive, and we quickly find ourselves spread so thin that if we want to have a personal life, we must detach from our work as educators. We must quickly learn – if we want to survive – not to care too much. We want to care. Teaching, educating – that’s the passion that brought us all here. We want to love what we do. It just doesn’t take long before we realize that we’re working in a system that exploits us, mistreats us, and doesn’t value us.

If the colleges do not value the educators, then what do they value? And what should the educators value?

I can say, based on observation, that most community colleges are staffed by 70 – 80% adjunct professors. In my department, we’re 90% adjunct. Without us, classes wouldn’t be taught. Without us, core assessments would not be developed. Without us, I’m not sure what the administrators would try to sell.

We are essential, and its time we are treated that way. The hope is in this: adjuncts are uniting everywhere to make change. We want to believe in the value of education. We want to transform the system into one of integrity. I’m not sure what this change will look like, but I know that we need parents, students, policy makers, administrators, and the general public to join us in the journey. We need to be prepared to think of other alternatives, of a system that addresses the needs of today’s society rather than the medieval society in which the universities were developed. We need a system that values what it proposes to offer: education.

If you’re new to this problem, I recommend checking out the website of New Faculty Majority. It’s a good starting point.

I’ll be posting more soon.

Thank you for listening.

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