Monday, March 7, 2011

Adjunct Professor of Music

Many of the readers of this blog do at least some adjunct or part-time teaching work. Some of you, like me, get most of our income from teaching. I highly recommend you read this article in the American Federation of Teachers publication On Campus. This relatively short article cites research to be published later this year in American Behavioral Scientist on the practices surrounding adjunct teaching in Pennsylvania.

Nothing here will come as a shock to those of us who are teaching college presently, except perhaps that we in New Jersey are not alone in being exploited, asked to subsist on poverty-level pay and still deliver the same quality of educational experience as our full-time colleagues. But it is important that the issue is labeled, scrutinized and discussed.

For those of you who do not know, the term "adjunct" means a teacher who is hired on a per-class basis. Since these workers are not full-time employees they are often not entitled to any benefits and are paid less for the same work as a salaried professor. They are restricted from teaching more than a certain number of hours at any one institution and so have to cobble together a living between a number of institutions, driving hours each week and overscheduling themselves to compensate for lower pay. Of necessity, this results in weaker class preparation that could impact students' learning. This problem is often made worse by a lack of out-of-class support for the students in classes taught by adjuncts. The adjuncts don't have a presence on campus outside of class and aren't paid to be there, so the students often don't have the opportunity for one-on-one meetings.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of ths second-class-professor syndrome is that most full-time faculty seem aware of the problem, even sympathetic, yet silent on the issue, uncertain of any avenue through which to convey their concerns to college administrators. This underscores the degree to which many professionals have accepted this intellectually and morally indefensible practice, even as more full-time lines are discontinued in favor of part-time and adjunct staff.

As the AFT article implies, the problem is particularly severe in community colleges. These colleges simply would not exist in their present form without relying heavily on highly qualified adjuncts--many of whom hold doctorate degrees and are successful in their area of research--who are paid ridiculously low wages. The assumption is that the community college students will accept a backdoor education and a large pool of committed educators will continue to be available, ready to work for peanuts.

In short, the system is broken and needs to be repaired. A lot of committed professionals and eager, dedicated students are suffering under the current conditions.

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