Monday, April 01, 2019

Adjunct Stuffs in the Chronicle

In The Chronicle of Higher Education on-line, I saw an article (in the advice area), "A Letter to Full-Time Faculty Members," by Jordan Schneider.  In the article, Schneider proposes:
So if adjuncts are so attractive because we’re so cheap, powerless, excluded, and replaceable, the solution seems to be to make adjuncts more expensive, more empowered, more included, and more secure in our positions. One idea: Create a new faculty tier of "super adjuncts" who would teach three classes a semester, and be paid around $20,000 to $25,000 for the term—more than what adjuncts now make, but still less than a full-timer. Give "super adjuncts" a vote in departmental and faculty matters, require them to be involved in some modest sway in the academic life of the department (through mentoring, scholarship, research, or faculty development), and make sure they have some measure of real, contractual job security.
The thing is, full-time faculty at NWU, a regional comprehensive public university teach mostly 12 credit hours/semester, so more than Schneider is imagining for "super adjuncts."  Our full time adjuncts (most of the adjuncts in my department have full time employment and benefits) teach 15 credit hours/semester, but aren't asked to do service or research (though, of course, those who are trying to get TT jobs are also trying to keep research alive).  (We have a pretty good track record in the past 15 years of encouraging adjuncts not to do service, and telling them up front that we can't legally consider service in evaluating their work.)

The salary Schneider mentions is about what our assistant professors make in poorer paid fields (literature, as opposed to, say, English Ed, much less business).

I think Schneider thinks tenured faculty have WAY more power in hiring decisions than I've ever seen.  And from the comments, I think even most mid-level administrators have relatively little power.


We're bleeding faculty here right now.  We've had retirements in my department, and two younger faculty (one tenured, one tenure-track) have left, neither for academic jobs, both for good personal reasons having to do with preferring to live with a partner or family.

And ours isn't the only department, from the rumors I hear.

We also have a couple colleagues expecting babies this month, which means other folks will be covering their classes.

I hear next year's going to be tough!


  1. Yeah.... At my last job, when I was a tenured associate prof and division chair, I had a 4/4 load and made $47,000--which is clearly a worse deal than what Schneider is proposing (since that included research and service expectations). What he's describing really sounds like what would be a lecturer position at most schools (including my current one--3/3 load with a little bit of service, probably for more than 50k a year, but less than tt faculty). So there's no difference, really, between hiring adjuncts with these benefits--or something close to them--and hiring for tt or lecturer positions.

    Plus, faculty--as you note--have pretty much no power in this area.

    Sadly. I mean, it sounds like a nice idea.

  2. We hired what we called "lecturers" for a few years, at $30,000/year with benefits. They taught 5/5, though. And up the hill at our flagship university, same deal. I think they pay $35,000 there.

    But 3/3 for $45,000? It's a nice dream.

  3. What sort of departmental matters do they imagine adjuncts should vote on? Personnel matters are confidential. Only people of the next rank up vote on tenure/promotion (ex. associate and full profs vote on the promotion of assistant profs to associate). Lots of policy things are only relevant to people on the TT, and IMO you need at least some institutional memory and institutional investment for policy issues. So what sort of voting issues are even relevant to someone who by definition is only going to be around for a year or two?

  4. Anonymous11:28 AM

    Our directional state university has had a tier like this for a long time - t and tt faculty mostly teach 3-3, this other unit teaches 4-3, had some job security, and makes about 60% of the assistant prof salary. (Very livable in this rural area for a single person, a struggle for someone supporting a family.) The idea wss that this would work well for required classes like comp and public speaking. Now in times of severe budget crisis, they've let most of this unit go and the admin and BOT is wondering why everyone isn't on this kind of contract.

  5. Adjuncts in the humanities are possible because of the oversupply of qualified professors, which allows universities to set pay and job conditions. Proposals directed at faculty and administrators to improve adjunct conditions have little chance today. It's a market thing, ultimately, and the only market solution is for grad schools to re-emphasize undergrad education, cut back on their PhD programs, produce fewer PhDs, and bring the supply in line with the demand for tenure-track jobs. Putting grad programs on diets is very hard to do when departments are rewarded for research, yet it's morally indefensible to continue as is. Directing PhDs into public humanities jobs isn't a sustainable solution.