Contingency Plan: Outsourcing Education

More than half of all college instructors are now part-time adjuncts, with low pay and no job security. Is the two-tier faculty system harming students, too?

All agree, though, that without student pushback, the trend toward a two-tier faculty system will only intensify. "There's a gap that mirrors the wealth gap in this country," says the labor studies scholar Gregory. "There are the celebrity faculty with the names, and people want to hire them because they raise the currency of the degree. And then they still need people in a classroom, so who is that going to be? Even if it's not people in a classroom—it's a computer screen—that's still a product that the university thinks it's providing."

Universities may prefer contingent faculty for other reasons, too. A non-permanent faculty is less likely to raise a stink about the direction that administrators are taking, Maisto notes. (Last year, in fact, the AAUP called for contingent faculty to be included in university governance activities.)

Queens College instructor Karen Gregory asked her students not to call her "professor."
Caleb Ferguson
Queens College instructor Karen Gregory asked her students not to call her "professor."
Cameron K. Lewis

"I think everyone believes there's a breaking point—you really can only go up to a certain moment where it becomes impossible to do the work of an institution," says the AFT's Smith. "We'd say we're past that. But when you look at, say, community colleges where you're talking about 17 percent of the faculty being on the tenure track or tenured, you have to wonder where the breaking point is."

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