When I earned my doctorate, I honestly was so through with academia that I planned on walking away from it and becoming a journalist. How hard could it be to take to find that work? I knew how to research, write, and put together a story. I would adjunct for a couple of years until I found that journalism job and then move on.
It turns out that journalism was having the same industrial meltdown academia enjoyed.
Why? I won’t get into that.
But instead, I’ll stick with academia.
I then decided that the only person who could actually send the work I did in my dissertation into the universe was me. I would, at a minimum, start writing and trying to be published in academic journals. Further, I would enter the academic . . . job market (screams ensue!).
Considering that I wanted to stay in NYC, I likely sent no more than 10 applications around and got one interview. Not bad, but I didn’t get the job.
My thoughts turned to “now what” because it was clear to me that no matter how much I loved to write and teach, that adjuncting was not a sustainable business long-term.
I was in the bathroom and wished that I could earn money with the skills I had acquired in a peer-counseling organization of which I am a part. Back in my bedroom while checking my email, I saw that there was a coaching program with available spots. I jumped on it.
I never looked back.
I still teach part-time, but it’s clear that this is bridge work. I know that at some point, I will only teach one class per year or per semester. I will continue to do academic writing. I do not have the pressure of tenure. I can take the time I need to continuing honing this set of skills.
Which brings me to the following set of questions.
Why do we adjunct? Why do we allow higher education to exploit us? The more willing that we are to do this, the more they will use us and defund higher education.
Sooooo, here is where I paraphrase what I tweeted in a Twitter thread.
Working as adjuncts tacitly approves of (myself including) the corruption of higher education, given that they do not want to fund the core part of their mission – teaching and research. They use adjuncts because there is a glut of us.
Granted, some adjuncts teach because they want to do more with their skills. Others of us do so because we seemingly have no other choice. The number of adjuncts who teach because they want to increase their skills are declining. We are becoming the people who hold down the teaching load in U.S. colleges and universities, yet we are unable to shape the way that departments shape themselves or provide feedback about the state of the students we teach.
Some of us adjunct because we are hell bent on landing a tenure track position. Some of us will succeed at doing this.
However, given that there are fewer of these positions, fewer of us will likely succeed in this endeavor. How long do you try?
For those of us paying the bills, some of us take on activism to increase adjunct pay and benefits. But after we have the wages we seek, how much impact can we have in the industry to return higher education to its core mission?
How much power can we really attain with part-time and seasonal teaching status? It does not help that the federal and state governments have withdrawn huge amounts of funding for teaching and research, hence the rising tuition bills and the marginal profits that go into the pockets of administrators.
How long do we try the activist route? What is the big picture of what we are trying to accomplish? Remember, the Koch brothers, for example, are trying to buy research favoring their corrupt environmental outcomes.
For those of us who adjunct to pay the bills and see little other ways forward, is it easier to just pay the bills? Is this what you REALLY want?
We can’t afford this anymore.
Higher education can’t afford this anymore.
Nothing would kill contingent teaching faculty faster than saying NO MORE. We won’t do this.
But we can’t just walk out, we have to plan for ourselves and have a way forward.
Our PhDs are worth so much more than this, aren’t they?
I am certainly committed to working with adjuncts who want to sort out some other way. Some of you will do the social change work necessary to force higher education to stick with its mission. Others of you will bail. Please contact me if you’re interested.
We need all of us on deck.