Here I am, riding the edge of culture, as usual, and even more specifically here in Bloomington, Indiana, the edge of gigantic Indiana University culture.
The phenomenon of “adjunct” professors has long interested me. This is the university servant class, many (mostly) Ph.D.’s who haven’t landed a cushy full-time, (hopefully) tenured faculty position with benefits. Instead, they are run ragged, one or two classes per semester, for not enough pay, and no office, office hours, or even the assurance that they will still have a job the very next semester.
During this last spring semester, I was asked by one of the IU adjuncts to come speak to his class. Which I did. And immediately noticed that the students were hardly interested in the subject matter, and that their teacher was constantly trying to drum up their interest, speaking in exaggerated tones, constantly in motion with large arm movements, indeed, begging them to like him! It was a very weird experience, to put it mildly.
My experience there was snapped into perspective, by Joseph P. Farrell’s experience as an adjunct and his overview of the whole phenomenon. My only quibble is with the title. He convincingly demonstrates that their “revenge” will be for naught, given the institutional forces that will continue to roll over them.
The long term trend in higher education has been one of a shrinking number of full-time positions and an ever-growing number of adjunct positions. It is not hard to see why. University budgets are balanced on the backs of adjunct professors. In an adjunct, a school gets the same class taught for about half the salary of a full-time professor, and none of the benefits. The school also retains a god-like control over the schedules of adjuncts, who are literally laid off after every single semester, and then rehired as necessary for the following semester. In the decade since the financial crisis, state governments have slashed higher education funding, and Florida is no exception. That has had two primary consequences on campus: students have taken on ever-higher levels of debt to pay for school, and the college teaching profession has been gutted, as expensive full-time positions are steadily eliminated in favor of cheaper adjunct positions.
Couple with this the $1.6 trillion now out in student loans,
and what shall we conclude?
In my walks with the dogs around the IU campus here, I notice lots of new building projects, plus needed renovation projects. Why the new building projects? Where’s the money coming from? Student tuition, also?
To me, it’s all part of the more general understanding that institutions tend to keep on expanding, that this is the DNA of any institution, including academia. Here’s a post that may be worth pondering. I’ve just begun to skim it.