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.)

"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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44 comments
timothy_inners
timothy_inners

@villagevoice This has been going on for a while in public education as well, replacing teachers with long term subs or unpaid volunteers

ProudEducator
ProudEducator

There's an important dimension of this crisis that's not discussed in this article.  The casualization of faculty at America's colleges and universities over the past forty years has coincided exactly--and I mean exactly--with the growth of a bloated, continually expanding elite of six-figure-salary administrators throughout higher education.  Even here in California, where public university faculty are well into the fifth year of a salary freeze, administrators have continued to get raises.  These are people more and more remote from the actual work of instruction that gets done in classrooms, labs, etc., and who increasingly tend to be visionless technocrats imposing a managerial ethos on institutions of higher learning.  How many campus presidents have been fierce advocates calling for ongoing declines in state funding to be reversed?  Hardly any.  Why?  They like things this way.  Adjunct faculty not only have no say in university governance but are also vulnerable for another crucial reason that explains the value of the principle of tenure: academic freedom.  If an adjunct instructor says anything in the classroom that might be interpreted as politically or ideologically unappealing, that instructor risks not being rehired the next semester.

actprof
actprof

@villagevoice and we department chairs are SCREAMING for FT profs...but admins & committees deny. 5th yr. in a row we've asked, excuse=lame

fanseaartist
fanseaartist

@villagevoice the highly paid Star Professors of Universities hardly ever teach a class. Adjuncts do their work for them.

Harriet Renee Campbell
Harriet Renee Campbell

Austerity means a degradation of the quality of (insert education, healthcare, etc.) that the average American can afford while, as always, those with plenty of $ to spend will have a wide range or choices. The chasm between rich and poor will continue to widen as the middle class disappears.

Louis Bardel
Louis Bardel

another budget cut...you'd think these managers were taught to do this in college. it seems like a universal managerial technique -- cut budgets and race to the bottom.

tarwathie
tarwathie

@claudiakincaid I don't frame it in labour terms, but agree w/ your concern. Adjunct'n is shortsighted & lets tenured profs avoid teaching.

rovingpencil
rovingpencil

@sivavaid purpose of higher ed not as funnel into jobs -- but young people are going to see their profs as destitute -- not as prosperous..

rovingpencil
rovingpencil

@sivavaid not today; but my friends are all counseling their kids to be careful re. grad school. we're also counseling against LIS..

 
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