Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The unforgiving minute: Adjuncts

Salon.com ran a piece over the weekend about adjuct faculty as the sharecroppers in the groves of academe. It's all pretty much true, and where it falls short of the truth it's probably because it wasn't blunt enough.

If I self-disclosed here on p3 the way a lot of bloggers do at the sites people actually read, I would tell you now some of my own horror stories about the adjunct faculty zone where I dwelt for a couple of years as a freeway flyer after ending my proper academic career and before reinventing myself as Nothstine 2.0. But the truth is, I got off easy, compared to the people in this article who've played that game for five, ten, or twenty years  – which I can scarcely imagine. So I'll let it slide. You can thank me later.

Let's just say that there's nothing in the Salon article that doesn't fit what I remember experiencing – and that was twenty years ago, when the hostility of the university business-model administrative attitude toward faculty was only a twentieth-part as dismissive and contemptuous as it is today.

And yet . . . and yet . . . what stung me most in the article wasn't the description of the degrading conditions in which adjunct faculty work as a part of the post-Reagan business model that drives American higher education, bad as those are. It was this lament from a pseudonymous professor – from Indiana, just to twist the knife:
“I can’t speak for everyone, but I essentially design my own courses. And sometimes I don’t find out how many courses I’m going to be teaching until maybe Thursday and they start Monday. … So I have to develop a course, and it’s been the case where one summer I taught English 102 where the course was literally dropped in my lap three days before it started and I had to develop it entirely from scratch."
A teacher of freshman English, and he doesn't understand that the last-minute course assignment could only have dropped in his lap figuratively, not literally.

It was probably lucky for all concerned that I got out when I did.

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