The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.
This “book” seems very analogous to the sections of the WalMart and McDonald’s websites that are devoted to “career opportunities” with those companies–as if any significant number of those in the corporate management have worked their way up from stocking shelves, working the cash registers, or putting together sandwiches.
Of course, adjunct faculty have invested so much more in their professional preparation than entry-level workers at big-box retailers or fast-food restaurants, that their broadly similar exploitation is all the more unjustifiable.
Indeed, all of the economic arguments presented to rationalize the exploitation of adjunct faculty are undercut by the ever more dramatic increases in executive salaries, the continuing expansion of administrative positions between the executive and dean levels, and the tremendous increases in administrative support staff. And all of those administrators need, more than anything else, to produce initiatives that justify their positions and salaries. When was the last time that you heard of an administrative initiative being canceled for a lack of or a need to reallocate the needed funding?
Up until the last two decades, it was still possible (even if not very likely) that an adjunct faculty member might secure a full-time position on a campus where he or she began teaching part-time. But there are now so few full-time positions available–never mind tenure-track positions available–that for most adjunct faculty, especially those who have taught for more than a few years, a full-time position is so remote a possibility that it might as well be called an impossibility.
When I entered the job market a quarter of a century ago, new Ph.D.’s were being told to consider positions at community colleges. This past spring, I compiled e-mail lists of the faculty at most of the community colleges in Ohio so that I could promote a conference that I am chairing. At one of the largest community colleges in the state, that e-mail list included more than 2500 faculty, of whom fewer than 400 were full-time. So, instead, of the faculty at community colleges becoming more like the faculty at universities, it is clear that the community colleges have come to illustrate the erosion of the expectation of full-time employment of faculty that is becoming more prevalent at our universities.
I would say that it is very clearly an unsustainable model—that at some point, graduate enrollments are going to reflect the real possibility of careers in academia and drop precipitously—but, honestly, I never would have thought that we would get to where we are now.