The Adjunct Crisis Continues

I have a new article on Al Jazeera English about adjuncts in academia, but maybe you already knew that. Since it came out on Thursday, it has been shared by over 14,000 people on Facebook and remains the most popular article on the site.

For the uninitiated, an excerpt:

“Is academia a cult? That is debatable, but it is certainly a caste system. Outspoken academics like Pannapacker are rare: most tenured faculty have stayed silent about the adjunct crisis. “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it,” wrote Upton Sinclair, the American author famous for his essays on labour exploitation. Somewhere in America, a tenured professor may be teaching his work, as a nearby adjunct holds office hours out of her car.

On Twitter, I wondered why so many professors who study injustice ignore the plight of their peers. “They don’t consider us their peers,” the adjuncts wrote back. Academia likes to think of itself as a meritocracy – which it is not – and those who have tenured jobs like to think they deserved them. They probably do – but with hundreds of applications per available position, an awful lot of deserving candidates have defaulted to the adjunct track.

The plight of the adjunct shows how personal success is not an excuse to excuse systemic failure. Success is meaningless when the system that sustained it – the higher education system – is no longer sustainable. When it falls, everyone falls. Success is not a pathway out of social responsibility.

Read the whole thing at Al Jazeera English. And thank you everyone for the massive response.

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13 Responses to The Adjunct Crisis Continues

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    Reblogged this on As the Adjunctiverse Turns and commented:
    In case you were under a rock or something & missed the article on Al-Jazeera

  2. VanessaVaile says:

    that’s what happens when you strike a chord…this is the best ~ comprehensive and unusually to the point about the silence not of lambs but of the tenured ~ of a recent rush of articles. sooner or later, the unsustainable must reach critical mass. it may be here sooner than anyone still with skin in the game wants to admit

  3. Dahn Shaulis says:

    Sarah, please contact me about additional information that we have on this adjunct crisis, and what we can do about it. I’m particularly interested in targeting for-profit schools which have been the vanguard of predatory business practices in education.

  4. Erstwhile Anthropologist says:

    Please connect this issue to (1) the recent Kate Clancy et al. discussion of sexual abuse and harassment in anthropology and other field sciences, (2) the recent Chronicle of Higher Ed article on David Graeber’s exile from the US academy, and (3) the multiple discussions/comments on ‘anthropology as white public space’ (including at Savage Minds, by people like Discuss White Privilege) to deepen the analysis of the adjunct crisis and the mechanisms which encourage anthropologists not to really think critically about and see the injustice, for those benefitting from the injustices produced by the academic status quo.

    I would also urge Al Jazeera to investigate truly shocking incidents of abuse coming out of and being covered up by the Berkeley department.

  5. Thanks for your interest, everyone. Anyone who has additional information, references, links to other articles that you think I might find useful can email me. I plan to keep covering this issue. Erstwhile Anthropologist, I’m aware of the first three issues you mention but don’t know much about the Berkeley situation, can you fill me in?

  6. Dahn Shaulis says:

    Paul Haeder and I have been researching Apollo Group/University of Phoenix for a few months now. One interesting thing we found out was that states, public retiree retirement plans, and teacher retirement plans were institutional investors in Apollo Group. In other words, they were invested in a corporation that has been the model for predatory business in education.

    Please feel free to use this information. We have additional information about Apollo Group that you may find interesting.

    Holdings as of 12-31-2013 (Nasdaq.com)

    Shares Held Value (in millions)

    STATE TREASURER STATE OF MICHIGAN 2,726,343 46.184

    NEW YORK STATE COMMON RETIREMENT FUND 689,143 11.674

    CALIFORNIA PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM 427,570 7.243

    TIAA CREF INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT LLC 385,267 6.526

    CANADA PENSION PLAN INVESTMENT BOARD 301,709 5.111

    EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF TEXAS 255,578 4.329

    NEW YORK STATE TEACHERS RETIREMENT SYSTEM 227,064 3.846

    STATE BOARD OF ADMIN, FLORIDA RETIREMENT SYSTEM 180,418 3.056

    CALIFORNIA STATE TEACHERS RETIREMENT SYSTEM 168,463 2.854

    TEACHERS ADVISORS INC 112,166 1.900

    PUBLIC EMPLOYEES RETIREMENT SYSTEM OF OHIO 89,872 1.522

    STATE OF WISCONSIN INVESTMENT BOARD 87,534 1.483

    TEXAS PERMANENT SCHOOL FUND 55,333 .937

    ARIZONA STATE RETIREMENT SYSTEM 34,576 .586

  7. recentgrad says:

    “in other industries a salary below the poverty line would be cause of alarm, in academia it causes gratefulness”. I would argue it to be more like this: in other industries people wouldn’t show up for work for that salary. (not with that level of education). I just taught adjunct/sessional for a semester and I know I won’t do it again without having a real job as my main income. Teaching is fun but so is having a steady salary and a life. I know I will walk away, I don’t understand why people take the jobs and stick with it. That’s just not very smart, is it?

  8. Melina says:

    Sorry if you’ve covered this before. New reader. But what was buzzing in my mind as I read this is Q: How is it that college tuitions have almost doubled in the 10 years since I graduated college and yet the use of adjunct professors has increased?? Where is all that tuition money going?

  9. Dahn Shaulis says:

    State and county funding has decreased (as a percentage of budgets) over the last two or three decades. Much of any additional funding has gone to infrastructure, administration, and now…bondholders. Adjuncts provide “surplus value” that can be used to keep it all going.

  10. Dahn Shaulis says:

    Adjuncts are a diverse group. Many adjuncts do it for extra income, an ego boost, or some way of doing something meaningful. Some have a passion for the field they are teaching in and are willing to do it for awhile. Others have social support that enables them to continue doing what they love for a lengthy period. Times have changed and it should be interesting to see how adjuncts change over the next generation.

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  13. Rod Appleton says:

    The student is paying the same in tuition now as he or she did 10 years ago at Broward College where I teach…$300 / 3 credit course. However, I, as an adjunct (read part-time faculty), have not received a raise in those 10 years (not even a dime), and there are no, underlined no, benefits… the school does not even contribute toward Social Security, so when old enough I would be hurting in the Social Security benefits area, since I’m not allowed to contribute to it on my own if my employer doesn’t pay into it with me.
    Rod

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