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MarkT

article: Why Being An Adjunct Faculty Member Is Terrible

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No social security or pensions, either. My stepmother is an adjunct and between that and the lousy pay she has nothing saved for retirement.

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Twenty years this month. Last year I made close to $25,000. I only got that because I was selected to have 12 guaranteed credit hours during the regular school year because one of my classes specialized and is in demand with few professors that will teach it. My state makes 12 credit hours the most you can teach total at all state institutions because of the ACA. Most adjuncts where I work make far, far less because they have just a class or two. it's easy work at this point for me because I'm given premade course shells and just answer emails and grade, so I'm making $25-30/hour. I've done it long enough that I know all of the problems and hitches. But I'm never going to make significantly more than that.

 

In my state, adjuncts can purchase health insurance, so a lot of retirees do just a class or two for that reason. The state kicks in nothing on it though.

 

I do pay into Social Security, but at that salary, it's not making a huge difference in what I'll get.

 

I've heard mixed stories about getting unemployment and government disability. The view is that you have a contract for a semester, and when it ends, you aren't an employee any more.

 

It's been a good run, but I'm interviewing for full-time college administrative work because I need to up my income and get more security. For various reasons there are more administrative jobs than faculty jobs.There hasn't been a full-time faculty job in my field in years in this area.

Edited by G5052
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In my state, adjuncts can purchase health insurance, so a lot of retirees do just a class or two for that reason. The state kicks in nothing on it though.

 

Wow. That would definitely be a reason I'd adjunct ... even if I did quit my day job and become an entrepreneur. 

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Mark,

 

This was the March 2014 PBS article I read and it’s really stark Homeless professor protests conditions of adjuncts

 

“As the Making Sen$e series “Adjunctivitis†chronicled, adjuncts, who make up half of all college and university faculties, often drive hundreds of miles a week in between teaching gigs for an average pay of $2,000 to $3,000 per course. Medical insurance and benefits are luxuries unavailable to most of them.

...

Before taxes, her annual salary is $22,000, but because she teaches what’s considered a full course load, she’s been told she’s ineligible for public assistance. Since she can’t afford a place to live, she’s lived off the generosity of others, crashing in friends’ basements and driving an old Pontiac a car dealer gave her to commute to the Bronx and Manhattan campuses of Mercy and Nassau Community Colleges.

...

Beyond the building’s looming columns and Albany’s Friday drizzle, Cerasoli’s protest sparked a weekend Twitter movement among adjuncts around the country, with many more emailing photos of themselves to adjunct union organizers. Some of their photos are below.†https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/homeless-professor-protests-conditions-adjuncts

 

Even more stark and much longer September 2017 article by The Guardian Outside in America Facing poverty, academics turn to sex work and sleeping in cars

 

“Sex work is one of the more unusual ways that adjuncts have avoided living in poverty, and perhaps even homelessness. A quarter of part-time college academics (many of whom are adjuncts, though it’s not uncommon for adjuncts to work 40 hours a week or more) are said to be enrolled in public assistance programs such as Medicaid.

 

They resort to food banks and Goodwill, and there is even an adjuncts’ cookbook that shows how to turn items like beef scraps, chicken bones and orange peel into meals. And then there are those who are either on the streets or teetering on the edge of losing stable housing. The Guardian has spoken to several such academics, including an adjunct living in a “shack†north of Miami, and another sleeping in her car in Silicon Valley.

 

The adjunct who turned to sex work makes several thousand dollars per course, and teaches about six per semester. She estimates that she puts in 60 hours a week. But she struggles to make ends meet after paying $1,500 in monthly rent and with student loans that, including interest, amount to a few hundred thousand dollars. Her income from teaching comes to $40,000 a year. That’s significantly more than most adjuncts: a 2014 survey found that the median income for adjuncts is only $22,041 a year, whereas for full-time faculty it is $47,500.

...

Adjuncting has grown as funding for public universities has fallen by more than a quarter between 1990 and 2009. Private institutions also recognize the allure of part-time professors: generally they are cheaper than full-time staff, don’t receive benefits or support for their personal research, and their hours can be carefully limited so they do not teach enough to qualify for health insurance.

 

This is why adjuncts have been called “the fast-food workers of the academic worldâ€: among labor experts adjuncting is defined as “precarious employmentâ€, a growing category that includes temping and sharing-economy gigs such as driving for Uber. An American Sociological Association taskforce focusing on precarious academic jobs, meanwhile, has suggested that “faculty employment is no longer a stable middle-class careerâ€.

...

Homelessness is a genuine prospect for adjuncts. When Ellen Tara James-Penney finishes work, teaching English composition and critical thinking at San Jose State University in Silicon Valley, her husband, Jim, picks her up. They have dinner and drive to a local church, where Jim pitches a tent by the car and sleeps there with one of their rescue dogs. In the car, James-Penney puts the car seats down and sleeps with another dog. She grades papers using a headlamp.

...

Ellen made $28,000 last year, a chunk of which goes to debt repayments. The remainder is not enough to afford Silicon Valley rent.

...

James-Penney does not hide her situation from her class. If her students complain about the homeless people who can sometimes be seen on campus, she will say: “You’re looking at someone who is homeless.â€

 

“That generally stops any kind of sound in the room,†she says. “I tell them, your parents could very well be one paycheck away, one illness away, from homelessness, so it is not something to be ashamed of.â€â€ https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/28/adjunct-professors-homeless-sex-work-academia-poverty

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In my state, one of the reasons that there are so many adjuncts is that higher education budgets have been largely flat since 2009. Also, state-level approval is required to advertise for a professor in the community college system, but administrative positions are college-determined if they have the funding. When a professor retires, there's a long process to determine if the position should be advertised. Many are never reopened. The college I used to work for is building a new STEM facility, and I was told that they have approval for a professor slot in my field when they expand their offerings. But I can't wait 2-3 years for that.

 

The job I'm interviewing for is very specialized and requires a graduate degree, so it actually pays as well as a professor. It's something I would enjoy too. So I may ironically become part of the "overhead" that professors complain about!

 

 

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This isn't just a domestic problem. I have a friend in Canada who is an adjunct professor, and the classes she teaches have been cut, leaving her with a very precarious situation indeed.

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Yes, it's a problem here in Canada too, and I believe also in the UK.

 

My professor friend told me that his university is only planning on one or two new hires of tenured faculty over the next 10 years.  This is a major university with over 18.000 students.  And they have professors retiring constantly, so they are replacing them with adjuncts.

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Put your money where your mouth is. Or, more accurately, vote for your interests. And you do have an interest: if your state is advocating eliminating or limiting tenure, it is not going to attract excellent scholars and your child, in turn, will not be as likely to get an excellent education. The war on tenure is part and parcel of the scorn with which educators and educated thinking are regarded. And it pretty much plays out along party lines.  

 

 

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This isn't just a domestic problem. I have a friend in Canada who is an adjunct professor, and the classes she teaches have been cut, leaving her with a very precarious situation indeed.

 

 

Yes, it's a problem here in Canada too, and I believe also in the UK.

 

My professor friend told me that his university is only planning on one or two new hires of tenured faculty over the next 10 years.  This is a major university with over 18.000 students.  And they have professors retiring constantly, so they are replacing them with adjuncts.

 

Adjunct instructor in Canada here.  When I started 4 years ago, we actually got paid a little bit of money for the time spent on course prep/marking/student communication.  Two years ago, they cut that money down to virtually nothing.  We get paid for time spent in front of students.  Period.  I'm not exactly sure when admin thinks that we'll do things like prep course work, mark, and communicate with students - multitask in an alternate reality while we're teaching??  Actually, I know what they expect - they expect for us to do it at home on our own, unpaid time because we're dedicated professionals.  And that's what I do.  I know I shouldn't because it means that I'm helping the whole unfair system to continue but I can't not do it.  I can't teach that way.  Admin has also realized that the course materials I develop are solid, complete, and high quality so I've managed to negotiate so that they'll pay me a flat rate per course for course development if I share my course materials with admin so that they can pass them on to other instructors who are new to a course.  They'll only pay me this one time per course, though, unless a course changes year to year.

 

I'm lucky in that my income isn't the one that keeps a roof over our heads.  I feel for those folks who need to work 2 or 3 "full time" adjunct positions just to have somewhere to live and food to eat.  It's terrible.

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Adjunct instructor in Canada here.  When I started 4 years ago, we actually got paid a little bit of money for the time spent on course prep/marking/student communication.  Two years ago, they cut that money down to virtually nothing.  We get paid for time spent in front of students.  Period.  I'm not exactly sure when admin thinks that we'll do things like prep course work, mark, and communicate with students - multitask in an alternate reality while we're teaching??  Actually, I know what they expect - they expect for us to do it at home on our own, unpaid time because we're dedicated professionals.  And that's what I do.  I know I shouldn't because it means that I'm helping the whole unfair system to continue but I can't not do it.  I can't teach that way.  Admin has also realized that the course materials I develop are solid, complete, and high quality so I've managed to negotiate so that they'll pay me a flat rate per course for course development if I share my course materials with admin so that they can pass them on to other instructors who are new to a course.  They'll only pay me this one time per course, though, unless a course changes year to year.

 

I'm lucky in that my income isn't the one that keeps a roof over our heads.  I feel for those folks who need to work 2 or 3 "full time" adjunct positions just to have somewhere to live and food to eat.  It's terrible.

 

What I wonder is to what extent do the students think "is this what I am paying for?"  The adjunct might have a PhD and be really very talented, but you are talking about someone teaching others the same basic stuff over and over again, without necessarily having the opportunity to spend time pursuing their own thinking and research farther.  If they are even using the materials someone else developed for the course - I don't know, to me that is more like a high school teacher, not university level instruction.  

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What I wonder is to what extent do the students think "is this what I am paying for?"  The adjunct might have a PhD and be really very talented, but you are talking about someone teaching others the same basic stuff over and over again, without necessarily having the opportunity to spend time pursuing their own thinking and research farther.  If they are even using the materials someone else developed for the course - I don't know, to me that is more like a high school teacher, not university level instruction.  

 

Truth be told...  What I do is very akin to high school teaching.  I teach chem at the local community college so I'm not teaching anything above introductory chem.  I don't know if an instructor at the university level would choose to use pre-developed materials or not.  Offering to develop them for others to use within the community college was the only was the college would pay me for even part of my prep time.

 

And students are definitely asking, "Is this what I'm paying for?"  With the recent college faculty strike in Ontario, I think a lot of eyes were opened as to where post-secondary admin's priorities lie.

 

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I'm lucky in that my income isn't the one that keeps a roof over our heads.  I feel for those folks who need to work 2 or 3 "full time" adjunct positions just to have somewhere to live and food to eat.  It's terrible.

 

I'm a single parent of two college kids. Thankfully DH let us stay in the paid-for house and is paying for health insurance, so we're tight but fine. In January, the state community colleges don't pay adjuncts (yes, really). Our paychecks for the spring semester start on February 2. So I had to carefully budget in November and December because my only pay this month is my work as an independent contractor. Because I teach some 8-week sessions, my paychecks fluctuate wildly depending on how many and how big my sections are.

 

Yes, it's terrible.

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I'm a single parent of two college kids. Thankfully DH let us stay in the paid-for house and is paying for health insurance, so we're tight but fine. In January, the state community colleges don't pay adjuncts (yes, really). Our paychecks for the spring semester start on February 2. So I had to carefully budget in November and December because my only pay this month is my work as an independent contractor. Because I teach some 8-week sessions, my paychecks fluctuate wildly depending on how many and how big my sections are.

 

Yes, it's terrible.

 

I didn't want to "like" your post because I don't like the situation at all - it's maddening and horrible. :(  I know what you mean about the lag in the pay - our system does that as well.

 

I'm lucky, too, in that I don't worry about health insurance here in Canada.  DH does have insurance through his work that covers the extras, too.

 

Your situation makes my heart hurt.  And it makes me angry that the presidents of these institutions tell us that this is the only way they can afford to deliver programming when here in Ontario, those same presidents asked for 50% raises (yeah - you read that right) last year.  Makes me want to punch something.

 

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I have not looked into this.

 

But reading this thread has me wondering.... Why be an adjunct?

 

I can't speak for others but for me, it allowed me to get back into teaching in a very small way when my DD was in Grade 8 but still being homeschooled.  I didn't want to be gone for a lot of time during the day and an adjunct teaching job gave me a lot of flexibility in terms of how much I wanted to teach and when I wanted to teach.  That is the one good thing about the small campus I work for - they seem genuinely grateful that they have an actual chemistry instructor teaching chemistry so they're willing to accommodate my requests for scheduling.

 

I think many people take adjunct positions because they hope that it's a foot in the door to a full time position - putting the time in and "paying their dues", so to speak, before being offered a full time job.  Unfortunately, people are spending years and years "paying their dues" and never getting that full time position.  By the time they realize that there aren't any full time positions to be had, it may seem too late in the game to quit and try something else.

 

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I think many people take adjunct positions because they hope that it's a foot in the door to a full time position - putting the time in and "paying their dues", so to speak, before being offered a full time job.  Unfortunately, people are spending years and years "paying their dues" and never getting that full time position.  By the time they realize that there aren't any full time positions to be had, it may seem too late in the game to quit and try something else.

 

What I came in to type.

 

There's also the everlasting hope that next year will be the year. 

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Adjunct salaries are particularly horrible given what students pay for tuition. In the meantime, administrators and "diversity experts" are making a fortune. It makes me not want to support the system at all.

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I have not looked into this.

 

But reading this thread has me wondering.... Why be an adjunct?

Some adjuncts hope for a full time position. Others want to teach but not do research. These are the ones that struggle with the current conditions. Others just want to work part-time. When I taught part-time at a community college, I had very young children and a husband who traveled frequently. I taught on Saturdays, when he was home to watch the kids. It was a great way for me to do a job that I loved in a way that fit my schedule. I taught 1-2 classes each semester.

 

It's a hard problem - people who piece together a schedule that is a full-time workload should have a full time job. But, there is also a pool of people who want part-time teaching jobs - people easing towards retirement, people who are caregivers for kids or aging relatives, etc. Its not fair to disparage their teaching as being done by 'just an adjunct' when they are qualified for a full time position but are choosing the option of working part time.

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What I wonder is to what extent do the students think "is this what I am paying for?" The adjunct might have a PhD and be really very talented, but you are talking about someone teaching others the same basic stuff over and over again, without necessarily having the opportunity to spend time pursuing their own thinking and research farther. If they are even using the materials someone else developed for the course - I don't know, to me that is more like a high school teacher, not university level instruction.

I don’t know how common this is, but my son’s university seemed to have more teaching faculty members in addition to research faculty members (who did some teaching, especially of upper level and grad courses), rather than very many adjuncts, at least in the sciences.

 

I don’t actually know if they were tenured, I’d have to ask my son, but they were definitely long-term employees with full benefits, although they made less than research faculty members. They definitely were very involved with course development.

 

My son took classes from several of them and was also involved in a science literacy group with many of them, and he was uniformly impressed by their enthusiasm and dedication to excellence in teaching. Most had PhDs from the same top schools as the research faculty members, and could do research if they desired, but it was not required. My son spent one year doing research in the large lab of research faculty member and then one year doing research one-on-one with a teaching faculty member.

 

I don’t think my son had an adjunct even once during his years at a fairly large university, but maybe that was primarily due to the combination of his major and being in the honors college.

 

And at least in my experience as a grad student at a major research university, some excellent researchers are very poor teachers. So while it might be great to be doing research with them, it can majorly suck when they are the only one teaching a required course.

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But reading this thread has me wondering.... Why be an adjunct?

 

Because it's not a bad part-time job. The problem is that prospects are poor, and you can't live on it.

 

As I said earlier, I can make $25-30/hour now for very flexible work because I've done it for so long and teach online.

 

The original intent was not at all to to have people living on it and to have so many of us. 

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I have not looked into this.

 

But reading this thread has me wondering.... Why be an adjunct?

 

As others have said, some people:

choose part time teaching as a way to keep a foot in the door while caring for young children.

like to teach, but do not care for a research career.

would have liked a tenure track position, but cannot get one (competition is fierce) and choose this option.

follow a spouse who got a tenure track position in academia, and this is the job the college can offer them

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What I wonder is to what extent do the students think "is this what I am paying for?"  The adjunct might have a PhD and be really very talented, but you are talking about someone teaching others the same basic stuff over and over again, without necessarily having the opportunity to spend time pursuing their own thinking and research farther.  If they are even using the materials someone else developed for the course - I don't know, to me that is more like a high school teacher, not university level instruction.  

 

Introductory university courses like physics, calculus, and chemistry are not that far from high school courses at strong high schools. They are the most unpopular courses to teach because they are difficult, since the students are new to the university and you have a classroom full of non-majors who are required to take the class. Teaching this sort of class over and over and doing it well is hard. Way harder than teaching an upper level elective for majors. 

 

Students in intro courses do think "is this what I am paying for" -  but they don't give a hoot about whether their instructor is doing research or her own thinking; they see whether they are taught well. And the quality of the teaching has nothing to do with the tenure status of the instructor; tenured professors are not automatically better teachers (often far from it)

 

The university system where I work has created a category of teaching faculty like Frances mentions two posts up. These are professors who only teach, but have better employment conditions and not the precarious status of adjuncts, even though they are not tenured/tenure track. 

Edited by regentrude
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I don’t know how common this is, but my son’s university seemed to have more teaching faculty members in addition to research faculty members (who did some teaching, especially of upper level and grad courses), rather than very many adjuncts, at least in the sciences.

 

I don’t actually know if they were tenured, I’d have to ask my son, but they were definitely long-term employees with full benefits, although they made less than research faculty members. They definitely were very involved with course development.

 

My son took classes from several of them and was also involved in a science literacy group with many of them, and he was uniformly impressed by their enthusiasm and dedication to excellence in teaching. Most had PhDs from the same top schools as the research faculty members, and could do research if they desired, but it was not required. 

 

Our university system has such a category of teaching faculty that was instituted a few years ago. Teaching faculty are full time benefit eligible employees who are hired on year long, and later up to three year long, contracts; they are not tenured and have no expectation of, and way to achieve, tenure. However, the idea is to employ these faculty for the long term andgive them a perspective for career advancement within the non-tenure track. Salaries are significantly lower than those of regular tenured/tenure track faculty, and they have fewer rights in the self governing process. Practically, it depends on the department how they are treated; in strong functional departments, they are treated the same as regular TT faculty. (And yes, there are dysfunctional departments who treat their NTTs like crap)

 

I think this model is very beneficial for the students, because it eliminates the problem of underpaid adjuncts who have to cobble together a FT gig by teaching at multiple schools, don't have offices for office hours, and are less integrated and invested in their institutions because they have no perspective of being employed for the longer term. 

 

Edited by regentrude
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Our university system has such a category of teaching faculty that was instituted a few years ago. Teaching faculty are full time benefit eligible employees who are hired on year long, and later up to three year long, contracts; they are not tenured and have no expectation of, and way to achieve, tenure. However, the idea is to employ these faculty for the long term andgive them a perspective for career advancement within the non-tenure track. Salaries are significantly lower than those of regular tenured/tenure track faculty, and they have fewer rights in the self governing process. Practically, it depends on the department how they are treated; in strong functional departments, they are treated the same as regular TT faculty. (And yes, there are dysfunctional departments who treat their NTTs like crap)

 

I think this model is very beneficial for the students, because it eliminates the problem of underpaid adjuncts who have to cobble together a FT gig by teaching at multiple schools, don't have offices for office hours, and are less integrated and invested in their institutions because they have no perspective of being employed for the longer term. 

 

Yes. It also allows the universities to recruit and retain people who are talented at and interested in teaching but not necessarily interested in doing research or scholarly development outside the realms of curriculum and instruction, rather than relying on whoever's local and hasn't found a full-time gig, which is a benefit to both the university/department (not ending up calling local graduate schools on the day classes start trying to find someone who can do calculus 1 at 9am because your adjunct found a full-time position and understandably bailed) and the students (having instruction from someone who specializes in teaching the lower-division classes and has researched the pedagogy there, rather than begrudgingly putting as little time as possible so as not to detract from their research). 

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I'm another person who would choose to be an adjunct and am in fact working on my master's right now to that end. I don't want a full-time job or a faculty position. I don't want to have to publish. I like working from home. My dh's job more than meets our families financial needs and provides full benefits. I love teaching and being an adjunct seems like a great fit to me. I get that I'm perpetuating a system that is hard on a lot of people, but it is still what I want to do.

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Introductory university courses like physics, calculus, and chemistry are not that far from high school courses at strong high schools. They are the most unpopular courses to teach because they are difficult, since the students are new to the university and you have a classroom full of non-majors who are required to take the class. Teaching this sort of class over and over and doing it well is hard. Way harder than teaching an upper level elective for majors. 

 

Students in intro courses do think "is this what I am paying for" -  but they don't give a hoot about whether their instructor is doing research or her own thinking; they see whether they are taught well. And the quality of the teaching has nothing to do with the tenure status of the instructor; tenured professors are not automatically better teachers (often far from it)

 

The university system where I work has created a category of teaching faculty like Frances mentions two posts up. These are professors who only teach, but have better employment conditions and not the precarious status of adjuncts, even though they are not tenured/tenure track. 

 

And I have no trouble with a certain number of people in these kinds of positions.  But I don't know that you can sustain a university with a few people actually being tenured faculty who do their own work, and most being people who are paid mainly to run courses.  

 

I mean, intro courses are just that - they don't take you far into a degree.  But even then I think students in intro courses aren't always yet in a position to appreciate other elements than teaching style, but I would not say those elements don't affect their experience.

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And I have no trouble with a certain number of people in these kinds of positions.  But I don't know that you can sustain a university with a few people actually being tenured faculty who do their own work, and most being people who are paid mainly to run courses. 

 

Absolutely, I completely agree. Every institution needs to be careful to have a good balance. Isolating a large portion of the faculty from the onerous teaching responsibilities is not good for the department and the quality of the education.

ETA: Our department has a model where almost all tenured/tenure track faculty are in some way involved in the teaching of introductory courses, even though the main responsibility falls to teaching professors. This creates a more cohesive and supportive department than in other situations where the intro courses are solely dumped on the shoulders of an overworked NTT but everybody does some armchair teaching and knows how she should do it better.

 

 

I mean, intro courses are just that - they don't take you far into a degree.  But even then I think students in intro courses aren't always yet in a position to appreciate other elements than teaching style, but I would not say those elements don't affect their experience.

 

Could you elaborate what you mean by the bolded? I am not sure I understand what you mean to say.

Of course teaching style is only one element; most important is subject expertise and big picture. It is certainly beneficial if the instructor has experience doing original research at some point, but I do not see an advantage of the instructor currently continuing the research in order to be an outstanding teacher.

Edited by regentrude

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Put your money where your mouth is. Or, more accurately, vote for your interests. And you do have an interest: if your state is advocating eliminating or limiting tenure, it is not going to attract excellent scholars and your child, in turn, will not be as likely to get an excellent education. The war on tenure is part and parcel of the scorn with which educators and educated thinking are regarded. And it pretty much plays out along party lines.  

 

Sounds nice in theory, but has two flaws:

1. Most people cannot afford to pay for out of state college instead of sending their kids to in state public colleges just to send a message.

2. In some states, no matter how you vote you will get a certain type of legislature, because the vast majority of people has different priorities than you. It is frustrating.

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What I don’t understand is why this isn’t a normal job, without tenure or adjunct. Why the extremes?

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What I don’t understand is why this isn’t a normal job, without tenure or adjunct. Why the extremes?

 

 

I guess the only theory I have is that there are, for whatever assortment of reasons, a number of people (more than enough, obviously) who are willing to do the adjunct job for the pay and benefits it offers - otherwise the pressure would be too high and schools would have to pay more for the service.

 

Conversely, perhaps there just are not enough qualified people willing and/or able (especially able, I gather) to do a tenure-track professorship, so the market pressure is in labor's favor in that case.

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Absolutely, I completely agree. Every institution needs to be careful to have a good balance. Isolating a large portion of the faculty from the onerous teaching responsibilities is not good for the department and the quality of the education.

ETA: Our department has a model where almost all tenured/tenure track faculty are in some way involved in the teaching of introductory courses, even though the main responsibility falls to teaching professors. This creates a more cohesive and supportive department than in other situations where the intro courses are solely dumped on the shoulders of an overworked NTT but everybody does some armchair teaching and knows how she should do it better.

 

 

 

Could you elaborate what you mean by the bolded? I am not sure I understand what you mean to say.

Of course teaching style is only one element; most important is subject expertise and big picture. It is certainly beneficial if the instructor has experience doing original research at some point, but I do not see an advantage of the instructor currently continuing the research in order to be an outstanding teacher.

 

I'll try - I was struggling a little to describe what I meant, which is probably why it's unclear.

 

I suppose what I am picturing is this - someone who is actually involved in their area in a living way as opposed to mainly passing on something they have just sitting in their head.

 

I don't tend to think of research, I suspect, in quite the same way you do, being more of a humanities person.  And in particular in philosophy.  So writing articles, and reading, but also spending a lot of time talking (in person or in writing) with other philosophers, being engaged, and thinking.  Not just thinking about what others have said, but thinking as a thinker, if that makes sense.  Though I tend to think sciences would be analogous, but I may be wrong.

 

Now, anyone with a doctoral degree in the humanities will have done that kind of thinking.  But once you are teaching in a position where you are getting paid mainly to teach more introductory things, but not to do those other things - and especially if you are underpaid - I wonder how easy it is to remain engaged in that way?   How easy would it be to lose touch with the area of specialty?  For someone that had been doing that kind of work since receiving his or her own degree, especially?

 

As a classics students, probably the most rote intro classes of the kind faculty try and avoid are language classes at the first and second year level.  As it happened, I had fairly seasoned tenured faculty for most of those classes, and I certainly felt like their experience and involvement in the subject added something to what could have been rather boring - and it's not even like it's an area where there is much new groundbreaking research to come out.  But I had a philologist professor for example give quite a lot of insight into that kind of work.  Even the old guy who was getting past teaching to some degree had quite a lot to offer in terms of learning about the subject in other ways.

 

Anyway - that's still not very clear I'm afraid, but maybe you can get some sense of what I am thinking from it.

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I'm another person who would choose to be an adjunct and am in fact working on my master's right now to that end. I don't want a full-time job or a faculty position. I don't want to have to publish. I like working from home. My dh's job more than meets our families financial needs and provides full benefits. I love teaching and being an adjunct seems like a great fit to me. I get that I'm perpetuating a system that is hard on a lot of people, but it is still what I want to do.

 

And this is why I sub in our high school.  It sure isn't for the pay (couldn't live on the pay) or benefits (none).  It's purely because I love the job and want part time setting my own days so I can also do other things I love.  I greatly appreciate that hubby earns the living for all of us.

 

I've made a career out of a "non-job" as far as sustaining myself is concerned.

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I have not looked into this.

 

But reading this thread has me wondering.... Why be an adjunct?

 

I have been one for 12 years and the main reason that I do it is so I don't have a gaping hole in my resume during the homeschooling years when I am primarily at home.  The extra pay is the secondary reason.  I can control my schedule and do much of my work from home.  There are few other professional part-time jobs I could make work.  I was bartending before taking this position which actually does pay better but the hours and schedule were not as easy to work with.

 

My university treats adjuncts far better than most and we have very few.  I have a permanent office, TAs, a computer, mailbox, admin support, and everything else full-time faculty have access to.  I am given very generous extra compensation when I do course development.  We typically only hire adjuncts to temporarily fill open faculty lines.  My department has one of the heaviest teaching loads on campus so we almost always have a line open just by the sheer number of lines we have and the time it takes to bring new hires in.  I am their semi-permanent fill in.  I also teach two sections of a class that I developed and for which I am the only person who teaches.  My students have no idea I'm an adjunct.  

 

When dd graduates, it is my hope to secure a full time instructor position, which is a teaching-only, non-tenure-track position.  They have higher teaching loads (no research or grad students to deal with) but are compensated similarly to tenured faculty.  I will have to apply and go through the hiring process like anyone else, but my long-term experience in my department will give me an advantage.  My chair knows of my intentions and is supportive, although that is no guarantee.

 

I was approached by our local CC several years ago about teaching chemistry (in addition to my current position at the university).  I knew the pay would be lower but was still at least willing to talk.  I just about laughed out loud when he told me the compensation.  It was less than 1/4 of what I get per credit at the university.  The guy tried to show me the math about how this was a $25/hr job.  First, that is still too low for the work and second, it did not account for the many hours that I would be putting in for prep, grading, student meetings/emails, etc.... which is easily 3 times the amount of time spent in class.  By my math, they were offering LESS than minimum wage.  On top of that, I would have no office (where exactly was I supposed to meet with students?!?!), be responsible for owning and maintaining my own computer, would have no access to a grader or TA, and (this is the worst) hold the labs for my classes in a local high school, after hours, with no other people in the building except my own students.  Having had a seriously disturbing incident with a disgruntled students years ago, I would never agree to put myself in that position.  I was suppose to (on my own) coordinate the use of this lab, including materials, with the chemistry teacher at the school it was to be held.  Uh.  No.  Which is why I now realize how very lucky I am and what many other adjuncts are facing.  In those circumstances, I can see almost no compelling reason to do it unless you are treating it like a volunteer position.  I would make significantly more money working at McDonalds and I would not be taking my work home with me every night.

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I guess the only theory I have is that there are, for whatever assortment of reasons, a number of people (more than enough, obviously) who are willing to do the adjunct job for the pay and benefits it offers - otherwise the pressure would be too high and schools would have to pay more for the service.

 

Conversely, perhaps there just are not enough qualified people willing and/or able (especially able, I gather) to do a tenure-track professorship, so the market pressure is in labor's favor in that case.

 

 

I think in a way it's like people who want to be artists, or maybe priests.  The nature of the job is such that a lot of people think of it as a calling as much as a career or job.  That creates some different pressures than just the normal market kind.

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What I don’t understand is why this isn’t a normal job, without tenure or adjunct. Why the extremes?

 

There are permanent, full-time instructor and lecturer lines at some universities.  I plan to apply for one when dd graduates.  They do not have "tenure" but a parallel system that has different metrics for advancement but work similarly from an employment-security status.  It is a small percentage of the faculty at my school and they are generally found in the departments that teach a lot of service classes.  But they do exist.  I don't know how common this is elsewhere.

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Conversely, perhaps there just are not enough qualified people willing and/or able (especially able, I gather) to do a tenure-track professorship, so the market pressure is in labor's favor in that case.

 

This is most definitely not the case. Competition for tenure track positions is fierce; there are fewer positions than highly qualified applicants.

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I tease my advisor that I want to adjunct for library privileges. I'm also hoping to get my master's and maybe adjunct one class, it cannot be my only employment though. 

 

Our department adjuncts serve a few roles that TT professors don't fill. One teaches night courses and most professors don't want to do that. The other is also a high school history teacher and helps teach classes specific for the teaching certification major. 

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My first job was teaching ESL at the college level.  It was at a CC, but it was just short of full time.  I made just enough to pay for my living expenses as a single.  No benefits.  I had intended to teach adult ESL at a college or University, but after most of my friends who were in my grad program were making nothing, not getting full time jobs, etc... I opted to get my teaching credentials and teach K-12.  I have never regretted it.  

 

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Many grad students I know adjunct when they run out of funding but still need to write. Ironically, they often spend so much time teaching (and driving to teaching positions) that it lengthens the PhD process by years. OTOH, I've known a fair number of them to go on to tenure-track faculty jobs afterwards. But they are at a top-10 university. Only the humanities students do this since the physical science students have more options.

Emily

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I tease my advisor that I want to adjunct for library privileges. I'm also hoping to get my master's and maybe adjunct one class, it cannot be my only employment though. 

 

Our department adjuncts serve a few roles that TT professors don't fill. One teaches night courses and most professors don't want to do that. The other is also a high school history teacher and helps teach classes specific for the teaching certification major. 

 

LOL. I agree. When oldest got really stuck for resources on a Lukeion research paper, I went to the college and was able to get all kinds of resources he didn't have access to as a high schooler.

 

I get discounted software, including Adobe products for $10/year.

 

I applied for an undergraduate advisor job at a 4-year, and found out that if I have a faculty parking pass from the 2-year, I get free parking versus paying $300+ for staff parking. The pay there is less than other jobs I've applied for, so I might keep teaching anyway and get free parking.

 

Being willing to take the less desirable courses and slots can be a big plus. One of the courses I teach is frankly a really hard one to do online. The book is outdated and the subject is so complex, but I developed a bunch of handouts and found a bunch of Youtubes and make it work. No full-time faculty members want it, and I always get a full classes.

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My first job was teaching ESL at the college level.  It was at a CC, but it was just short of full time.  I made just enough to pay for my living expenses as a single.  No benefits.  I had intended to teach adult ESL at a college or University, but after most of my friends who were in my grad program were making nothing, not getting full time jobs, etc... I opted to get my teaching credentials and teach K-12.  I have never regretted it.  

 

 

What's really shocking is how much better the pay and conditions can be for teaching high school vs. adjuncting at a college.

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I never realized that people tried to make full time jobs out of teaching as adjuncts. I thought it was originally a way to get professionals teaching. Many of my husbands teachers were adjuncts because they had relevant experience in the field they were teaching. Who better to teach data security than someone in the field, working with the newest technology, and having lots of experience? His degree was a Management of Information Systems degree. The professors generally taught a couple nights a week after their day jobs (or what they personally called their real careers.) It was extra money to them and students were getting people with real world experience. That makes sense to me.

 

I'm not sure about trying to just do adjunct teaching. I mean it obviously makes sense for those wanting part time work because they have kids or are actually retiring but are some people trying to make what is intended for professionals as a side job into a full time career? I realize people may not have better options at the moment so it's not a specific judgement on them but I don't know that I would disparage it for something it is not.

 

I also realize things sometimes evolve and that perhaps it is the schools who changed it into too many classes and perhaps not the correct sort of classes to attract teachers that just wanted side jobs.

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I never realized that people tried to make full time jobs out of teaching as adjuncts. I thought it was originally a way to get professionals teaching. Many of my husbands teachers were adjuncts because they had relevant experience in the field they were teaching. Who better to teach data security than someone in the field, working with the newest technology, and having lots of experience? His degree was a Management of Information Systems degree. The professors generally taught a couple nights a week after their day jobs (or what they personally called their real careers.) It was extra money to them and students were getting people with real world experience. That makes sense to me.

 

I'm not sure about trying to just do adjunct teaching. I mean it obviously makes sense for those wanting part time work because they have kids or are actually retiring but are some people trying to make what is intended for professionals as a side job into a full time career? I realize people may not have better options at the moment so it's not a specific judgement on them but I don't know that I would disparage it for something it is not.

 

I also realize things sometimes evolve and that perhaps it is the schools who changed it into too many classes and perhaps not the correct sort of classes to attract teachers that just wanted side jobs.

 

What you are describing is the proper use of that kind of position.  My sister and cousin both do that kind of teaching, where they are teaching students going on into a very hands-on professional which they themselves are immersed in.

 

But I think for universities it's come to a money crunch.  Like a lot of areas of the economy, a lot of money is tied up in salary and they want to pare it down.  And so they are like every other place that starts getting rid of full time positions with benefits and replaces them with more part time workers with no benefits and security.  The more jobs that can be filled that way, the more the save.

 

 

Something that seems not to be said much but I think might be relevant - the economy grows from increased productivity, and a lot of that is technology driven.  Salaries in every sector need to keep up with that growth.  But in sectors that are highly dependant on workers who aren't augmented by tech - you will rarely see the same level of growth.  You can only make a professor more productive by making him teach more students.  And that has limits - as class size goes up, something is lost.  When you put the class online, or record it and market it in some other way, something is lost.  The university as intellectual community just is never going to be a productive income generator, much less keep up with the economy as a whole.

 

But - you still need to pay those faculty members so they can afford to live in the growing economy.

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As an (almost) ex-adjunct who has written about some of my experiences before - the pay for adjuncts varies, some schools pay per course, others per credit, some have pay increments for experience (# of classes taught) or time (# of years taught), some lump all adjuncts into one general category (adjunct), others give titles depending on experience & years taught.

 

Adjuncts are not only responsible for teaching - that would be too easy. We have to choose textbooks. I have had, at times, 10+ textbooks and ancillary materials to read in order to determine appropriate scope and sequence for my classes. This is usually undertaken in the summer when I am not teaching and, therefore, not paid. This ends up being a voluntary, although compulsory, part of the job. The current push is to find free digital textbooks to reduce the cost of education for our students. This is even more time consuming because one cannot simply contact a publisher and request desk copies. The quality of open courseware varies significantly and, often times, ancillary materials are not provided If a decent open courseware text can be found, the instructor is often left to design and create all ancillary materials. Again, this is usually done during summer or winter breaks when no pay is to be had.

 

Aduncts, just like FT TT or NTT, instructors, must maintain all of the same certifications, credentials, etc , however, unlike FT TT or NTT instructors, very few are paid for those certifications or credentials. The school I worked for required over 40+ hours of diversity training, sexual harassment training, as well as a couple of other trainings. These were compulsory, certificates had to be on file in the employee record but the school did not pay for the time spent earning these certificates. When I inquired about the possibility of paying adjuncts a token stipend ($30) for the training, I was told without hesitation, that these certificates came with the privilege of teaching. They were doing adjuncts a favor by allowing us to take 40+ hours of free training in order to do our jobs.

 

Adjuncts are being encouraged to sit on committees and help run student organizations. there is no compensation for these activities. However, if you want to be on the roster for the next semester, you must put yourself out there. It's no longer about whether or not you can teach the material for your classes. It's about what benefit you can bring to the school. It's not about whether or not you help your students learn to think and become competent scholars; it's about retention, grades, and student satisfaction.

 

Here are some idiosyncratic complaints from my time as an adjunct, YMMV:

 

It may seem like a little thing but adjuncts are not given the yearly flu shot nor are they given tickets to the faculty luncheons. Those are for benefitted FT TT or NTT instructors and employees. Adjuncts must pay out of pocket.

 

Adjuncts are not given individual offices but must share with other adjuncts. There are three adjunct offices at the local CC; these are shared by over 50 adjuncts. The main adjunct office has three desks and desk top computers and is about the size of a small bedroom. It used to be bigger (5 desks and computers and a work table) but the IT people took half of (new walls were constructed) to expand an IT room. That room is used maybe 15 hours a week while adjuncts have waitlists to use the three computers in the adjunct office.

 

A "FT" adjunct, one teaching the maximum number of credits allowable, does not earn any extra benefits. Children are not granted free tuition nor can they use the campus facilities. As an adjunct, I was encouraged to attend basketball, volleyball,and  baseball games, plays, concerts and art shows. I was given free admission but any members of my family who attended were required to pay full ticket price. I could use the fitness center but my family had to pay full price.

 

--

And the pay gap. That first month of teaching in the semester was horrid as there is always a one month gap between first day of classes and the first paycheck.

 

I agree that there are those people who want to teach PT and adjuncting seems like the best choice. I do have to give a wry smile as, over 10 years of adjuncting, I have watched rosy cheeked, optimistic adjuncts begin teaching and leave after two or three semesters when the demands of the job become a reality. 

 

 

 

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Perhaps there is more call now for higher salary because some moonlighters/parttimers are realizing that they will be able to collect SS on top of their govt pension if they complete 30 yrs of social security eligible work, and that is possible now with the longer life spans. A quarter of coverage reqs $1320 in wages now. 

 

None of the adjuncts my dc have been assigned to need benefits, as they have them from their current job, their spouse's job or their retiree benefits. They are teaching to keep up their professional contacts as they run their personal businesses.  Adjunct is a contract gig.

 

I don't see raising salary as the answer to the cost of living...the lack of nonluxury housing for people starting out and nonartisanal, basic food is more the issue here. I've also been in several meetings where the school employees look at the community income and decide from there what the budget increase will be, rather than presenting what they need to get the job done.

Edited by Heigh Ho

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Perhaps there is more call now for higher salary because some moonlighters/parttimers are realizing that they will be able to collect SS on top of their govt pension if they complete 30 yrs of social security eligible work, and that is possible now with the longer life spans. A quarter of coverage reqs $1320 in wages now. 

 

I thought it was 10 years.

 

"How many years do you have to work to get Social Security?

If you were born in 1929 or later, you need to work at least 10 years to become eligible for Social Security. The SSA determines eligibility with a system of credits. Basically, you earn up to four credits for every year worked, and you need a total of 40 credits to qualify for Social Security.
Feb 22, 2017
"

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I thought it was 10 years.

 

"How many years do you have to work to get Social Security?

If you were born in 1929 or later, you need to work at least 10 years to become eligible for Social Security. The SSA determines eligibility with a system of credits. Basically, you earn up to four credits for every year worked, and you need a total of 40 credits to qualify for Social Security.
Feb 22, 2017
"

 

 

10 is eligible.

 

30 is when SS is not reduced due to Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset.  

 

So, as a long living female who will retire from a govt job that didn't contribute to SS for age 22-47 you would want your moonlighting as an adjunct work annually to earn you at least 2 quarters, then work enough from 47- up to become eligible to receive your SS benefits.  Otherwise you go away happy that you donated your SS contributions and if you are widowed and live in to your late 90s you may regret that. 

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10 is eligible.

 

30 is when SS is not reduced due to Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset.  

 

So, as a long living female who will retire from a govt job that didn't contribute to SS for age 22-47 you would want your moonlighting as an adjunct work annually to earn you at least 2 quarters, then work enough from 47- up to become eligible to receive your SS benefits.  Otherwise you go away happy that you donated your SS contributions and if you are widowed and live in to your late 90s you may regret that. 

 

I worked full-time until I was 37, then did adjunct and independent contract work for 20 years. I'm hoping to get full-time work sometime in the next few months.

 

Not long ago I looked at my Social Security, and it's nearly the same if I file on DH's benefit at 62 or 67 versus my own, even as a survivor. Right now it's a few hundred dollars, but as I work, of course that will only get better. I plan to work another ten years at least.

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