My article on the employment crisis in higher education, The Closing of American Academia, has been shared over 10,000 times on Facebook and is still one of the highest trafficked articles on Al Jazeera. Yesterday I was a guest on HuffPost Live for the segment Higher Ed, Lower Wages, and tomorrow I’ll be doing a Twitter chat with the journal Hybrid Pedagogy, which you can join at #digped.
I have received hundreds of emails on this article. They came from adjuncts who feel exploited and abused. They came from graduate students terrified about their future. They came from parents – parents of undergraduates shocked by how their children’s professors are treated, and parents of adjuncts grateful that their plight was addressed. They came from tenured faculty, prominent intellectuals among them, who spoke of corruption within their own disciplines. They came from people outside higher education who see parallels in their own professions – in law, journalism, policy, and other fields that rely on unpaid or underpaid labor.
There is consensus that the employment crisis has reached critical mass. This consensus provides an opportunity for reform. In order for reform to happen, we need to continue discussing issues openly. One of the greatest obstacles in reforming academia is that contingent faculty are party to their own exploitation. Academics are reluctant to speak out for fear of jeopardizing their career prospects and livelihood, meager as both may be. But without an open discussion, nothing will change. Contingent faculty should know that people all over the world are on their side, including leaders in their own fields. They should demand for themselves the respect that universities have denied them.
A few salient links:
- Savage Minds created a thread for adjuncts to “express your views about the wonderful (or not so wonderful) place known as adjunct-landia.”
- Academe Blog addresses the “silent crisis” of higher education and argues that contingent labor is not sustainable: “If the position of the adjunct is untenable–and it is–so is the position of the institutions that rely on them. The contingent hires they have used so that they can build new buildings, expand programs, and explore technology just aren’t going to be there”.
- Gratiaetnatura has some suggestions: “Adjuncts need to organize and call for an end to exploitative wages. They should demand higher stipends per course and at least the opportunity to consider health insurance plans through the university. Graduate schools should limit the number of students accepted to reflect the actual need for people with graduate degrees in a particular discipline.”