If Thomas Paine Were an Adjunct Faculty Member

Dissident Voice describes itself as “a radical newsletter in the struggle for peace and justice.” It presents a perspective that most readers would describe as Far Left. Although I am generally not put off by the articles that appear in it, some of them are written from points of view that are considerably more radical than my own, and I think that it is fair to say that some are rhetorically over the top, and perhaps self-indulgently so.

Nonetheless, each day’s additions to the site almost always include at least one article that seems to me to be genuinely inspired and both intensely engaging and undeniably inspiring.

Paul Haeder’s “Wrapping the ‘Precarious’ and ‘At-Will’ Labels on 150 Million American Workers” is one of those articles. The entire text is available at: http://dissidentvoice.org/2014/01/wrapping-the-precarious-and-at-will-labels-on-150-million-usa-workers/.

Haeder has worked as an adjunct faculty member for three decades and in several states. He uses the exploitation of adjunct faculty as an illustration of the broader exploitation of contingent workers because the level of education required to work as an adjunct faculty member puts the lie to the facile rationalization of that exploitation as a unavoidable consequence of the workers being under-educated and unsuited for more stable and better compensated employment. Moreover, Haeder sees the bifurcation of the faculty as illustrative of the broader economic inequality increasingly defining American society because the system is now rigged so that the affluent are becoming an ever more prosperous and privileged minority and the economically, socially, and politically marginalized majority are living ever closer to the margins.

In describing what it means to be a contingent faculty member—a contingent worker—Haeder cites some of his own previous articles on the topic and Syndi Dunn’s “’An ‘Alarming Snapshot’ of Adjunct Labor.” Dunn provides an overview of the large number of posts to the online forum for adjunct faculty created by Rep. George Miller (D-California). Miller’s staff has produced a formal report on the responses to the e-forum, “The Just-in-Time Professor.” The full report is available at: http://democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/sites/democrats.edworkforce.house.gov/files/documents/1.24.14-AdjunctEforumReport.pdf. Its key findings include the following:

1. Contingent faculty often have low pay and few, if any, benefits.

2. Most respondents teach several courses per semester and travel among several

institutions.

3. Adjuncts lack job security and predictable schedules.

4. Adjuncts report receiving little professional support.

Haeder also presents substantial excerpts from James D. Hoff’s “Are Adjunct Professors the Fast-Food Workers of the Academic World?” Hoff elaborates on the following fundamental realities:

1. Using adjuncts devalues higher education.

2. Paying adjuncts less creates a hierarchy within academia.

3. Universities spend more on administration than teachers.

4. Using adjuncts betrays the students who are most in need.

5. Under-paying adjuncts makes full-time teaching unaffordable.

The synthesis of these articles that are part of the growing body of advocacy writing on the exploitation of adjunct faculty provide Haeder’s article with a persuasive breadth. But what is most compelling is the way in which Haeder’s own prose frames the discussion of that literature.

Here is just one highly charged and very compelling paragraph that led to the title of this post:

“We humble adjuncts are rising up like frozen mammoths, but that rising is in tandem with neoliberalism’s plagues, the disease of profit for a few, the sickness of community collapse, the pathogen of dumber and dumber and the more illogical after the greater illogical, this continuous stream of meaningless and meaningless phlegm; junk and consumption products like a solar shower . . . . Until, what is it we can give and do to build community, what can we do to survive multiple gunshot wounds to the soul and society and systems? Students would not even think of how to take the standard bearer and rip it free and point the standard into the force corporations, into the heart of the paving and building industries, into the brains of the polluters and miners and the mass of them. This is the community bill of rights, a city and county power to keep in check all profiteers, and to place the standards and regs WE envision through this home-rule model, a community bills of rights, that forces the pigs of profit to listen to our community standards for zero tolerance for pollution, zero tolerance for wrecking the landscapes, the water, air, food. Ya think?”

3 thoughts on “If Thomas Paine Were an Adjunct Faculty Member

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