21 March 2013

The Happy* Adjunct

* for now

What follows is a Twitter session from a few weeks back. I wanted to share it with a wider audience primarily because there is intense pressure on academics to continue in academia; in fact, if you're in a PhD program, chances are that you're only "trained" for a career in academe--specifically, in a tenure track job. We know, however, that universities continue to rely on adjuncts for teaching rather than extending/adding  tenure lines. Michael Bérubé, the MLA president of 2012-13, notes that, "contingent faculty members now make up over 1 million of the 1.5 million people teaching in American colleges and universities." If you leave your degree program expecting to find a FT/TT position, chances are you'll be disappointed. Devastatingly so.

Many of my friends IRL, and many people I "know" via social media, are teachers and scholars. I see them--whether degree candidates, Post Docs, or PhDs who've been on the market for three, four years (or more) tear themselves up and make themselves ill (really!) because of the jobsearch. They fight to find open tenure positions, fight to be hired, and fight to achieve tenure. The process is demoralizing at the very minimum. Yet when asked "why not turn your sights from a tenure placement," several reply that it's what they've been prepared for. There's an institutional expectation that PhDs (especially in the humanities) will go on to tenured positions, so it's kind of scary to turn from that. It's also scary because turning away from tenure also means turning away from the securities and benefits that tenure offers. 

I opted against seeking a tenured job, but I didn't want to leave academia. I love teaching, and I love being around people who ask questions for a living. I opted to work as an adjunct, and, at this point anyway, I am a happy one. What follows explains my choice to abandon the TT dream and why I still think it's a good decision:

(reason #2)

It's true: there are variations in how institutions treat adjuncts. My current school pays me well (not exceptional, but significantly better than previous jobs). I have some benefits. I have an office. I am treated as a member of the department rather than as an interloper. Please note:
     2) My experience is not the norm. 
     3) Adjuncts are, in general, treated horrifically.
In the position I held prior to the one I Tweeted about, I was paid approximately $10.00 an hour. I had no office, so no space to meet students, to hang my coat, or to store student papers (I still have stacks of them at home waiting for the deadline when I can remove them). Adjuncts were not invited to department events (excepting the “adjunct appreciation lunch” at the beginning of  Fall term), and a strict division existed between full-time/tenured and contingent faculty. And, of course, benefits did not exist. I was poor, isolated, and overworked/underpaid--this experience is common to an adjunct. Groups have organized to combat that mistreatment and exploitation of contingent faculty, and chief among these is  New Faculty Majority. Check it out.

1 comment:

Chanel said...

This is fantastic!