Academic Apartheid

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by Kizmet, Jun 9, 2016.

  1. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

  2. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    As an aside, both Gawker and Kinja are designed by technological morons. Their user experience is dreadful!
  3. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    I believe that Hulk Hogan is a big fan of gawker.:no::no1:
  4. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    I have no illusions of ever becoming a tenured faculty member, nor do I even want to be. I teach because I enjoy it, and I think I bring a different perspective to courses than many full-time faculty. Of course I don't throw the paychecks away, but I could make more working overtime and details.

    I see a lot of ads for adjuncts that dangle the carrot with something like "future tenure possible", but in reality, what's the percentage of adjuncts who go on to become full-time professors? I would venture to say that it's likely very low.

    It's nice to have aspirations and goals, but they should be tempered with the reality of the situation.
  5. scaredrain

    scaredrain Member

    I think it depends on the university or college. At my current full time position at a liberal arts university, we allow adjuncts to walk in the graduation procession and we have hired adjuncts recently as full time faculty members. I have been told about 5 to 7 years ago, the university had the same snobbery towards adjuncts that the article mentions. But since we have expanded to numerous satellite campuses, one of the things that academic and student affairs wants to do is to build relationships between the students and the adjuncts. So adjuncts are invited to student events and activities at the main campus, just as full time faculty are invited to the satellite campuses for events.
  6. jonlevy

    jonlevy Active Member

    Well whatever they call an online adjunct, you are actually an independent contractor. The worse part is that you are still required to attend spend a lot of uncompensated time on training, meetings, faculty enrichment etc. I don't have a problem with the former but that latter seems to be an abuse of the system.
  7. Phdtobe

    Phdtobe Well-Known Member

    What is insane, is that people will pay up to 60k and five years of hard labor for a doctorate just for the chance to be an adjunct. It is no wonder that wages for adjuncts are below poverty level.
  8. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I've taught as a "contract" adjunct for four universities. The compensation is never even close to the work necessary. Never ever. For me, there has to be a higher reason, and I can only think of a few. First, you might feel a calling. Second, you might really, really need the money, however meager it is. Third, you might really, really love "teaching," or whatever you're doing to facilitate classes. Fourth, you might have other reasons to be associated with the university in question.

    That's my list; you mileage may vary. For me, only the last matters anymore, except in an FTF classroom, where the third also applies to me. Oh, and I might consider leading doctoral students through their research, which triggers several of the above. I haven't done it yet, though.
  9. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator

    Maybe you mean abuse by the system. In any case, I'd guess that "the system" would simply say, "If you don't like the conditions/requirements of the job then don't accept the position." With the plethora of people with doctoral degrees, someone will take the job.
  10. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    This kind of statement is posted quite frequently on this board. It implies a perfect--or nearly so--labor market, that wages are determined by supply-and-demand forces. This is not so.

    Typically--except in rare cases where a narrow and (usually) highly technical field needs people--the employer has the upper hand. Academia--particularly when it comes to contract workers--is no exception. This is because employers have all the resources, and can afford to wait out workers and not pay them until their demands are lowered. After all, who can go longer without earnings, owners or workers? Right, workers. If you live largely check-to-check (or hand-to-mouth), you don't have much room or time to get tough. You take what you can get--and employers know that.

    The tool workers earned back in the 1930s to fight this advantage was collective bargaining. It took an awful lot of legislation, enforcement, and a great big ol' depression to make it stick, but the late 1930s through the mid 1970s saw the emergence of the middle class--not to mention incredible growth for the economy overall. (Of course, other "big government" programs like Social Security, defense spending, and the GI Bill also contributed mightily.)

    But since then, these labor protections have eroded massively, taking with them the middle class.

    However, it (collective bargaining) isn't completely dead, and adjuncts might find themselves quite successful in either bargaining for their rights or--by doing so--putting pressure on colleges and universities to come around and offer better pay, conditions, and security. We'll see.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 13, 2016
  11. Abner

    Abner Well-Known Member


    I can see why some adjuncts want to unionize. Those working conditions suck.
  12. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Well, then that's a call for deregulation, which I wholeheartedly support.

    One of the problems with most branches of economics is that it assumes that people are making rational decisions based off of perfect information. But we see people here all the time who are interested in paying fifty grand and spending years of their time for a chance at gigs that pay less than pouring coffee at Starbucks. The solution to that isn't collective bargaining, the solution is for people to think about the consequences of their choices before they make them, rather than expecting the rest of the world to make up the difference out of the goodness of their hearts.

    Put another way, when people suffer for having made arithmetically illiterate choices, that's not market failure. That's price information, good decision makers will use that information to avoid that bad situation, poor decision makers won't, and will end up in the same bad situation as those who came before them.

    I know that sounds unsympathetic, but the argument seems to be that just because people spent a lot of time and money on grad school means their academic labor must necessarily be worth a lot in return, and that's been amply demonstrated not to be true.
  13. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I think this response meshes two situations: students and adjuncts. They're quite separate.

    I agree regarding the students, but not entirely. With a lack of alternative pathways, students are shoved into academic routes to credentialing and entering careers. A whole lot of them pursue college degrees that will not, as you point out, lead to desired careers. But that's the fault of the system to provide alternatives. This, along with massive amounts of dollars pushed into the system via loans, creates the education cartel we have today.

    But adjuncts are a different story. They have no alternatives either, true, but the forces are different. In this case, the employers (that educational cartel) hold all the cards. But unlike students, adjuncts can withhold their services and, more importantly, bargain collectively for better wages. (It's hard to imagine students bargaining collectively regarding tuition.)

    Another way to address imbalanced markets with imperfect information is to provide protections legally. This is why we regulate the stock market, for example, and why banking regulation is such a hot topic today. We regulate those things because, without those regulations, they'd run amok and crush the people in favor of their own profits and wealth. We've seen much evidence of this. Well, the education cartel could use some regulating, too. Students should expect a good experience for their money, and workers should expect a fair wage for their efforts.

    Collective bargaining and government regulation of markets created the conditions to allow for the middle class to rise, yet it allowed capitalism to flourish. And we've seen--before the Great Depression and since the Reagan era--what unfettered capitalism does. It crushes the vast majority of people in favor of an extremely wealthy few. Applying these concepts to adjunct professors might mean collective bargaining and unionism, protected by the U.S. Government, with additional pressure brought to bear by our government.
  14. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I don't think so. Talking about the market for adjunct labor is inherently incomplete without talking about the requirements for one to enter that labor pool. That's especially so when the investment required is so considerable.

    I expect that it's as awkward for you as it is for me to agree with the likes of Bill Bennett, but it seems we both do. Title IV funding, however well intended, is grossly market distorting. There are lower cost alternative pathways, we talk about them around here all the time, but most students don't know about them and the cultural meme of "a college degree means a good job" has generations of momentum. The thing is, this should actually make things better for adjuncts, not worse, since there's an excess of funding within the system. So while it distorts tuition rates a great deal, I can see why it wouldn't impact the price of adjunct labor much, since there are so many more would-be adjuncts than positions, and that keeps the price for that labor low.

    Those particular employers only have so much power because so many people want to work for them. My point is that if a would-be-adjunct does even a little bit of research, he or she would say, "Wow, what a terrible deal! I'll do something else with my money and time. Glad I did my homework and dodged that bullet!" Given that such people are already educated, there's no great excuse for so many of them to fail to do this.

    You make it sound like adjuncts were dragged against their will like prisoners into a salt mine or that such people are forbidden to recognize the mistake they've made and leave to do something else.

    Neither the period prior to the Depression nor the era since the '80s are ones of "unfettered capitalism". This era in particular is rife with the sort of cronyism that flourishes under a large central government.
  15. jonlevy

    jonlevy Active Member

    The problem is fat cat tenured faculty sucking up all the pay and benefits while adjuncts do the teaching.
  16. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    "Fat cat"? By what standard?

    Despite the stereotype of tenured faculty letting their grad assistants to all the teaching and all the research legwork, the reality is usually different. Faculty members usually have a minimum number of courses to teach each year, along with their research/publishing responsibilities. And they're not very well paid.

    While I'm sure adjuncts do some teaching where tenured (or full-time non-tenured faculty) could, an area rife with adjunct abuse is the nontraditional side of things: online and night/weekend classes. At some schools, adjuncts make up 90% of the teaching faculty--or more.

    The adjunct problem is part of a much bigger issue: the "gig economy" we're seeing all over.

    Employers, through their ownership/management of the enterprise (public or private), enjoy consolidated power. The only two ways employees can gain similarly consolidated power is to gain government protections or to organize and bargain collectively. Otherwise, the little guy will always be crushed by the big guy. If there is another way adjuncts can improve their lot, I'd like to hear it. (And no, withholding their services doesn't work. Individually, that's just quitting the game, leaving it to others. Together, that's called a strike, and it's a form of collective bargaining--back to that again.)

    So what are adjuncts to do?
  17. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator

    If possible, get a full-time job doing something else, and then you don't have to rely on adjunct pay to survive.

    I realize it's not that easy for a lot of folks, but perhaps people who are earning graduate degrees in things like Scandinavian Literature or Ancient Babylonian Astrology need to realize that they're pigeonholing themselves as far as employment marketability. There's just not a lot of demand for those kinds of things outside of academia.
  18. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    If the adjunct situation was limited to such esoteric academic areas, I might agree. But it is not. It is wide-spread and not limited in such a a way.

    Suggesting that thousands of people just go somewhere else doesn't seem responsive to the issue. Just because workers are dedicated to a vocation doesn't mean they should be vulnerable to abuse.
  19. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    No one is forcing them to be dedicated to that particular vocation, and no one owes them the living that they would prefer if they voluntarily go into a field that any responsible adult, who therefore does the first bit of research in advance, can see is very low paying.
  20. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Start their own institutions. As you pointed out, we're not just talking about experts in medieval French poetry. Plenty of adjuncts are experts in management, finance, entrepreneurship, marketing, and information systems -- all the skills it takes to start a business, non-profit organization, cooperative, or whatever floats your boat. This isn't just the age of the gig economy, this is also the age of disintermediation. If your skill set is really as valuable as you claim it is, and your employer isn't meeting your needs, then fire them.

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