My latest for the Chronicle of Higher Education is on the broader implications of the adjunct crisis:
There is no escaping the consequences of academia’s reliance on contingent labor. If you do not experience the adjunct crisis directly as an academic, you may well experience it as a citizen: as a student, a parent, or a professional facing a similar contingency crisis in your own field. The adjunct crisis in academe both reflects and advances a broader crisis in labor. Our exploited professors are teaching our future exploited workers.
On February 25, 2015, adjunct professors across the United States are planning to walk out of the classroom to protest their low pay, lack of benefits, and unfair treatment. Their struggle is one we all should support. Here are the reasons why you should care.
Labor exploitation is not the new normal. Adjunct professors are distinct from other low-wage contract workers only by virtue of degree – that is, the Ph.D. Like other exploited workers, adjuncts are told that their low pay and mistreatment are the deserved consequence of poor choices. While low-wage workers without college degrees are told to get an education, adjuncts are asked what they thought all that education would get them. The plight of the adjunct shows one can have all the education in the world and still have no place in it.
The contingent labor market is marked by two paths: one of low-status, low-paying jobs emblematic of poverty; another of high-status, low-paying jobs emblematic of wealth. Adjuncts fall in the latter category, indicative of how the rhetoric of prestige is used to justify low compensation. Since the recession, academia’s pay-to-play business model has been adopted by other professions, including law, policy, and media – all of which increasingly rely on unpaid or low-wage labor. That should not be accepted as “the new normal” but rejected as a crisis of exploitation.
Read the whole thing, The Adjunct Crisis is Everyone’s Problem, at Chronicle Vitae.