Pay No Attention to the Man Behind that Curtain!!!

Here’s a man-bites-dog higher ed story for you:  “Call to Arms for Adjuncts. . . From an Administrator.”  Yes, you read that right: 

“Wal-Mart is a more honest employer of part-time employees than are most colleges and universities,” said A.G. Monaco, senior human resources official at the University of Akron, and yet academics are “the ones screaming about how bad Wal-Mart is.” Academics “have to stop lying” about the way non-tenure-track professors are treated, he said.

Monaco described an adjunct he met recently.  “She is teaching eight courses a semester at colleges in southern Illinois, for an average of $2,000 per course. If she continues at this pace, without benefits, she can support herself, he said, but what does this say about higher education?”  He also raised the issue of gender equity of a two-tier faculty:

Beyond the questions the system raises about fairness and quality of teaching, he said there is also legal exposure. Monaco noted that colleges — champions of diversity — have created not only a two-tier system, but one in which adjuncts (who are likely to be female) are likely to work longer hours for smaller paychecks than another group, tenured faculty members, who are likely to be male.

So, is Monaco your hero yet?  Well, hold onto your hats.  (He’s in HR after all.)

Why doesn’t the adjunct system work managerially? “We’ve created a two-tier instructional staff” without telling the students or the public, he said. “You know that if you have two people do the same jobs and one is paid three times the other, one is going to get ticked off,” he said.

But the ones who are suffering from “gross disparities in salaries and benefits,” he said, are the ones who are doing an increasing share of the teaching. Monaco acknowledged that at research universities, there is a genuine need for faculty members to have extended non-teaching time to perform their responsibilities to advance scholarship. But he said that, up to master’s institutions, adjuncts and tenure-track faculty members have become largely indistinguishable in quality or classroom duties, but one group has much better pay and benefits. At most institutions outside the research elites, he said, the professors teaching less to do research “aren’t curing cancer.”

That’s true–in the History department we will probably never come up with a cure for cancer.  But, that’s because we’re the Department of History, not the Department of Curing Cancer, and it strikes me that a “cures cancer” standard for our research would be a monumental injustice to those of us hired to do research in other fields.  Those of us in Philosophy, English, French, German, Art History, and Anthropology (for example)–we’re more into curing terminal ignorance than cancer, but I’d like to point out that the one–the cure for ignorance–is a necessary precondition to the other–the cure for cancer.  My perspective is surely that of a self-interested regular faculty member, but:  what’s with knocking people’s research and pretending like “teaching” is the beginning and the end of our job descriptions?  (It’s not me who’s calling all of those meetings about curricular development, tenure and promotion, and departmental and college governance that I’m expected to attend.  Believe me, I’d rather be curing cancer!) 

Can we really trust this guy to be the adjuncts’ Avenging Angel, when it seems like he’s not so much interested in putting adjuncts into tenure-track lines as he is in adjunctifying the regular faculty?  Keep reading to the end of the article–Monaco’s pro-adjunct pose is a Trojan Horse for attacking tenure and faculty unions.  I agree with him that the interests of the regular faculty and of adjunct faculty are at odds–because neither of us have the time, money, or other resources to do our jobs properly.  The solution isn’t slicing the same pie differently, it’s more pies for everyone.

0 thoughts on “Pay No Attention to the Man Behind that Curtain!!!

  1. In the immortal words of W, “The pie has got to be higher.”

    I agree with your points above: working to improve wages and benefits for adjuncts is a good thing, but suggesting an equivalence between the amount of work that a TT-faculty member and an adjunct are required to do is nonsense. Teaching is a laughably small proportion of my job — I am paid to research and, increasingly, to be a bureaucrat, process meaningless forms, serve on committees, and attend meetings.

    There is a faculty member at OPU who actually transferred from the tenure track to an adjunct line, with security of employment (OPU gives this to adjuncts after a certain number of years of steady work), precisely because she wanted to teach, but not do all the other crap. She took a pay cut, but had a lot more free time.


  2. I am *so* with you on the job description, Sq., for better and worse. (Although, this year I have a bit of a break, after chairing a bunch of major departmental committees in 2004-06 and co-chairing the Berkshire Conference program in 2006-08. It’s like being junior faculty again–I can go to conferences, and get some writing done during the academic year! Hurrah!)

    At Baa Ram U., as at OPU, our department has done a pretty good job of giving some of our long-time “special” faculty year-long contracts instead of continuing to pay them course-by-course. I don’t think they get paid enough–they have to teach summer courses to make ends meet–and I wish we could give them longer-term contracts, but at least it’s better than adjunct status (and they get benefits this way, too.) You’re right: some people don’t want the pressure to publish, so it works for them. On the other hand, the people at Baa Ram U. who have those contracts are also publishing, but because their contracts are 100% teaching, they can’t ever get any recognition or merit pay for their research.

    I should have remembered the quotation you cited: bake more and higher pies for everyone!


  3. Here’s my take on this: If faculty at non-R1 unis have a lesser teaching load than adjuncts (who I will agree are woefully exploited), then they should be required to produce evidence of research productivity for tenure and promotion. We are. Sometimes the requirements are vague, but they’re there. If I didn’t have my articles and book MS in addition to the 3 courses I teach a semester (as opposed to the adjuncts’ 5), I’d say I wasn’t pulling my weight.

    And another thing (she says, warming to her topic): he mentions “up through Masters’ institutions” as those where tenured/TT faculty shouldn’t be expected to teach less than adjuncts: what *about* all those MA students? I can’t think of a single semester where I wasn’t doing off-books courses (directed readings, exam prep, thesis supervision) with at least one grad student, and usually more. My Americanist colleagues routinely have 4-6 of these a semester, in addition to their regular 3 courses. These are courses that uni regs do not allow lecturers to teach. It’s us.

    And finally, I don’t know of *anyone* at my university who could get away with “teaching Milton to 5 people.” Any class under 12 is routinely cancelled for budgetary reasons.

    I agree with many of the author’s points: pay adjuncts and full-time lecturers a salary that respects their educational achievements and abilities; make sure that they have benefits equal or comparable to those of TT faculty. But the AAUP’s campaign to move more lines from temporary/contingent to TT is what will do this — NOT reducing working conditions for everyone.


  4. I don’t think there’s a college or university in existence in this country that doesn’t require evidence of continuing research productivity. That’s clearly a big part of my university’s annual evaluations and salary exercises, and after tenure we face an extensive review of our performance every 5 years. I think Monaco has invented a straw human–the faculty member with a 2-2 load who does zero research and only minimal institutional or professional service. I don’t think ze exists any more, if ze ever did. (See my post on “dead wood” faculty from last summer!)


  5. I hesitate to jump in on this one, but as a faculty member who has also moved from tenure track to a position (temporarily, let’s hope) off the tenure track (although full-time, annually renewable), I have come to recognize far more clearly the variety of ways in which the current paradigm is systematically iniquitous. A) Adjuncts are regularly paid significantly less; B) they have less long-term job security (usually); C) adjuncts (at least in English) often teach courses that are constitutionally more draining (because they are not for majors, freshman writing courses are often filled with students who perceive them as busy work–and let me tell you, that attitude is very much draining, not energizing); D) adjuncts are increasingly expected to perform service roles; and E) adjuncts usually teach more classes, justified by the claim they are not expected to do research.

    It’s that last claim that really rankles me.

    First, of course, it effectively punishes adjuncts who do have a research agenda, by justifying less access to research support and forcing such research to not count in annual (or other) evaluations. As a by-product, of course, this keeps adjuncts in adjunct positions, by making it harder for them to publish their way to a TT line. And Chairs who wrangle things to nurture the careers of TT faculty, but do not equally nurture the careers of adjunct faculty clearly support the two-tier idea. Maybe all teachers have careers that deserve to be nurtured?

    Second, it clearly communicates that the institutions in question do not really believe there is a necessary link between teaching and research–since some teachers have no expectations for research.

    Third, it exposes one of the craziest and most hypocritical notions I’m aware of in academia: that summer work on research can and should be counted as contractual work for regular TT faculty (who are rarely on 12-month contracts), but that equally non-contractual summer work done by adjuncts in the area of research almost always cannot be counted and evaluated in annual reviews. That is, the claim that adjunct faculty have no research expectation is seriously undermined by universities’ willingness to accept work performed by (only!) TT faculty during their non-contracted summers as if it were somehow relevant to their contracts!

    To justify adjuncts having higher teaching loads because of a lack of a research expectation only makes sense if the only research that is evaluated (for all faculty) is accomplished during the contract period: the school year itself, in most cases. If TT faculty out there want to continue to let their unpaid summer work count for their annual review and tenure, they should allow the same courtesy to adjunct full-timers.

    I propose that all teachers be expected to produce research at a level appropriate to their institutions, and that all full-time teaching loads be equalized within an institution. Universities can still have higher- and lower-paid salary tiers (which is what adjuncts are really for), and all faculty (adjunct or TT) should be allowed to “trade” research expectations for course-load expectations.

    This will address a couple of the inequities of the adjunct system, but not all. Because, again, the system exists precisely in order to take advantage of inequities: but that doesn’t mean we should allow so many inequities to pile up. If TT faculty believe teaching and research are interrelated, they need to see how the current system undermines those claims, and they might well wish to change that aspect of the system.


  6. Tom, I think good teaching and research are very much interrelated, so I think your proposal has a great deal of merit. But the barriers to recognizing the research of adjunct and “special” faculty and paying them for it is like paying a nanny or child-care worker well: it doesn’t happen very often, because the institutions that employ them and depend on their labor (be they universities or families) want to deny their existence, deny their work, and deny that they need them. Not coincidentally, nannying and adjuncting (at least in the humanities) are both pink-collar jobs.

    Pretending like adjuncts and “special” faculty are all young ABDs or recent Ph.D.s who are just passing through on their way to a fab R-1 job is the regular faculty’s and university administration’s way of justifying their exploitation. Reminding them–well, OK, us–that adjuncts have bodies that need health care, and children who need food and medicine, and that they’re not just teaching automatons but that they have hopes and ambitions for their research, too–well, it kind of harshes our buzz.


  7. I like Tom’s modest proposal, which is similar to one I’ve rolled around: hire all faculty as TT, but let them choose a research or teaching “track”, along with standards that they will be evaluated by come tenure/promotion time: Research track? Okay, you get less teaching, but let’s see a book. Teaching track? Fine, you teach 4-4, but only need to produce a peer-reviewed article and a handful of conference papers, or do equivalent work like community outreach programs. My good friend chose a uni with a 4-4 teaching load and high service requirements, but she did so because she had learned that she hated to write but loved to teach.

    The point to this ramble is that making that teaching/research emphasis a choice for faculty might lead to a real value being placed on both sides. Or perhaps I’m just wishful thinking.


  8. Yes, I’m afraid that’s wishful thinking, Notorious! My bet is that women in your scheme–especially those who are mothers–will be encouraged to take the teaching track, and punished if they don’t. There is no way that teaching will ever be valued in higher education the way that research is. No way. No how. Never. My guess is that institutionalizing a two-track system will be institutionalizing a “separate but (only in theory) equal” system for women and men.

    Teaching is clearly important, and doing it well is something I strive for. But, I don’t have a problem with the valuation of research over teaching in higher ed, mostly because that’s what makes us different from K-12 teachers. If people feel very committed to teaching, there’s always that option (K-12), or community college teaching. Producing original research and generating new knowledge is what distinguishes Ph.D.s from other kinds of teachers.


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