There is a crisis in Higher Education
In 1968, the Kerner report, in speaking of the sharp socio-economic divide between blacks and whites, spoke of a nation moving towards “two societies…separate but unequal.” The troubling issues of racial inequity notwithstanding, in higher education there are also two societies, that of the full-timer and that of the adjunct instructor.
The full-timer’s society is one distinguished by the relative security of tenure, reasonable pay and benefits, administrative support for professional development, often the form of sabbaticals, a sense of singular institutional identity, and collegiality.
The adjunct’s society is distinguished by essentially the lack of all of the above.
Adjuncts are for the most part at-will workers, subject not only to the ups and downs of educational budgets, but the whims of administrators, department chairs, and their other full-time colleagues. Many, if not most, have no direct health and welfare benefits from their employers, despite the employee mandates of Obamacare. Professional development may be encouraged and in some cases expected, but rarely institutionally supported. More importantly, the adjunct must be a servant to each institution he/she works at, yet never fully committed to one, as for many, their “offices” consist of at best group adjunct workrooms, but more often than not, cafeterias, coffee shops, or their cars.
This for pay which is in many cases a fraction of what a full-timer is paid for a similar credit load.
The real crisis here is that the two societies are in fact increasingly moving towards one society—that of the adjunct. At many campuses, adjuncts represent not the majority of instructors, but in fact, teach the majority of the classes.
Politicians and administrators alike have been complicit in this trend, believing that by providing education on the cheap through the standard model of adjunctification/exploitation, they can hoodwink students and parents into the notion that they can truly provide quality education while glossing over their lack of political will in seeking the necessary revenue for providing, not only a quality education, but social justice to those workers/adjuncts on its front lines.
Adjuncts deserve nothing less than the following:
1) A realistic chance to become a full-time faculty member by increasing full-time positions in accordance with 75/25 legislation and a clear pathway to full-time employment
2) A consistent rehire policy based on seniority so that they don’t have to live in constant fear of losing their jobs
3) Pay commensurate to what full-time instructors are paid for the same work
4) Health and welfare benefits for themselves and their families so that they no longer have to fear being sick or avoid going to the doctor when medical issues arise
Clearly, what adjuncts deserve is something that will neither be cheaply, easily, or quickly attained, but the time for ignoring or putting the addressing of these needs has long since passed. The time for serious discussion, and ultimately action, is upon us.
A Good Adjunct