Canadians too: Welcome to a new space for adjunct faculty

The number of contract faculty members in Canadian universities is growing, outpacing more secure forms of employment, while tenure-track hiring is lagging. Members of this constituency — sometimes called the “precariat” or “academic industrial reserve army” – have, in some cases, taught for more than 10 years, PhD in hand. They work part-time in name only, as many of their other efforts at the university are unseen and uncompensated.

Members of this constituency, as well as some of our tenured peers, feel frustration by how too many universities fail to collect or publish data about contract faculty and how so many of us are paid a fraction of full-time wages for almost the same work, while universities market their graduate programs to prospective students as the path to high earnings. Of those who acknowledge the specific plight of adjuncts, many are unwilling or incapable of doing anything about it.

Faced with what can seem to be widespread labour exploitation, many of us may be tempted to seize the superstructure by force to achieve labour equality through revolution. But the issue is more complex than simply being underpaid and invisible, and the solutions require more finesse than storming the palace. If there is to be a revolution among the growing class of angry, frustrated, and demoralized contract faculty, it will involve more mundane measures: patience, strategic planning, and collaboration with faculty of all ranks. In fact, we must all be part of the solution, not simply add to the problem.

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Part-Time Professors Demand Higher Pay; Will Colleges Listen?

When you think about minimum-wage workers, college professors don’t readily come to mind. But many say that’s what they are these days.

Of all college instructors, 76 percent, or over 1 million, teach part time because institutions save a lot of money when they replace full-time, tenured faculty with itinerant teachers, better known as adjuncts.

Kathleen Gallagher, a published poet and writer with advanced studies and a master’s degree, spent 20 years as an adjunct English professor at several colleges in Akron, Ohio. The most she’s ever made in a year is $21,000; last year, she made $17,000.

After one college laid her off last summer, Gallagher was desperately short of money, so she sold her plasma.

“It is embarrassing to talk on the radio and say, ‘I think I’ll have to go give some blood,’ ” she says with a sigh. “But I needed gasoline.”

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Committee Democrats Release Findings of eForum on Contingent Faculty

Jan 24, 2014

Issues: EducationHigher EducationLaborWorker RightsWages and Benefits

WASHINGTON—The Democratic staff of the House Education and the Workforce Committee today released the findings of an eForum on the state of contingent faculty in higher education, which details working conditions, the role those conditions play in affecting adjunct instructors’ career prospects and ability to earn a living, and how the instructors’ working conditions may impact their teaching.

“What’s been happening to the higher education workforce during the last couple decades should give all of us pause,” said Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), senior Democrat on the committee, who launched theeForum on the Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education in November 2013, after a witness testified before the committee about the difficulties she faces as an adjunct professor. “The number of part-time contingent faculty at institutions of higher education has been rising rapidly, with more than one million people now working as adjunct faculty, providing a cheap source of labor even while tuition is skyrocketing. These are people who have played by the rules and found employment in a highly skilled, in-demand field, but are being put under extreme stress—with some even living in or on the edge of poverty. The stories from this eForum have provided us with valuable insight into the world of contingent faculty and raised a number of issues that deserve further scrutiny.”

Over the course of six weeks, from mid-November 2013 through early January 2014, the Committee Democrats eForum received 845 submissions from 41 of 50 states. Today’s report, The Just-in-Time Professor: A Staff Report Summarizing eForum Responses on the Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education, provides an alarming snapshot of life as a contingent faculty member. The submissions received are consistent with news reports and other research indicating that contingent faculty often earn low salaries with few or no benefits, are forced to maintain difficult schedules to make ends meet, face unclear paths for career development, and enjoy little to no job security.

The forum received comments from a diverse set of respondents. Some participants have been working as adjunct faculty for more than thirty years, while others have just begun, with only one semester under their belt. Respondents are employed by public and private two- and four-year institutions.

The rise in the use of contingent faculty appears to mirror trends in the general labor market toward a flexible, “just-in-time” workforce, with lower compensation and unpredictable schedules for what were once considered middle-class jobs. This trend may have significant implications for the living standards and work lives of those individuals educating the next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs, and other highly skilled workers, as well as for the quality of higher education itself.

“This report is in no way an exhaustive account of the circumstances of adjunct faculty, but it does raise some serious concerns,” said Rep. Miller. “Over the next few months my fellow committee Democrats, my staff, and I intend to work with universities and colleges, committee Republicans, contingent faculty, and their advocates to seek ways to address the troubling issues raised by this report and by contingent faculty across the country.”

See full report here:


Jim Hightower–The highly-educated working poor: Adjunct professors

There’s a growing army of the working poor in our USofA, and big contingents of it are now on the march. They’re strategizing, organizing, and mobilizing against the immoral economics of inequality being hung around America’s neck by the likes of Walmart, McDonald’s, and colleges.

Wait a minute. Colleges? You go there to get ahead in life. More education makes you better off, right? Well, ask a college professor about that – you know, the ones who earned PhDs and are now teaching America’s next generation.

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Tenure Hunt Compared to Competition of Street Slingers to be Druglord

This article originally appeared in Inside Higher Ed.

It’s the season of preparation for big disciplinary meetings—and for the job interviews that take place there. So once again—amid continued tight job markets in many fields—scholars will be debating why there aren’t enough good academic jobs for new Ph.D.s, and the determination of so many new Ph.D.s to find the elusive tenure-track openings. Why, many wonder, do people even pursue Ph.D.s in the hope of tenure-track careers that are so hard to launch?

blog post last week offered an unexpected idea: New Ph.D.s are behaving like those who seek to join drug gangs.

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NYT: More College Adjuncts See Strength in Union Numbers

Only a quarter of the academic work force is tenured, or on track for tenure, down from more than a third in 1995. The majority hold contingent jobs — mostly part-time adjuncts but also graduate assistants and full-time lecturers. And the Service Employees International Union, with members in health care, maintenance and public service, is moving hard and fast to add the adjuncts to their roster, organizing at private colleges in several urban areas.

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