Erik Loomis has a great post at Lawyers, Guns, & Money on adjunct professors. As many of you probably know, Loomis is a U.S. labor historian. Here’s his perspective:
But long-term adjuncts is a harder phenomena for me to understand. It’s not like this is glamorous or particularly rewarding work. Teaching 4 intro level college surveys is no one’s idea of what they want to do with their lives and while you might occasionally get the student where the light bulb comes on when you teach them, that’s a mighty rare moment at that level. And with all the grading and class prep–not to mention traveling around an entire metro area to make this work, there’s no time for any other part of the job. . . .
I think so much of it is the idea that the person has achieved this degree and now wants to use this degree because they don’t want to see the time they spent as wasted. And I get that from a psychological standpoint. Making $20,000 a year on the other hand is actually wasting your life, or at least the earning potential part of it. . . . [C]ontinuing to delay that income earning for years after your degree by holding on by your fingertips to the dream of a tenure-track job is just a bad idea because pretty soon you have a lifetime of doing this and no retirement income. . . .
I’m really glad that SEIU is organizing adjuncts. I know many people within the labor movement hate SEIU, but what other union is going to put real resources into organizing a no-wage sector where returning union dues will be small? Almost no other union. I completely support the National Adjunct Walkout Day and I wish more had participated. Adjuncts should probably go on a general strike to force improvements in their conditions. But to be honest, most adjuncts should also quit their jobs and find something else to do. Working at Starbucks would pay just as well.
And guess what? The discussion in the comments over there is entirely rational, and no one has yet (so far!) accused Loomis of attacking adjuncts themselves, or of being a neoliberal apologist, or of not truly caring about quality teaching. It’s so different from when I’ve made the same argument against permitting one’s labor to be exploited indefinitely, or when Tenured Radical has suggested that adjuncts might want to consider a time-out on adjuncting.
So tell me: what’s the difference? Is it that Erik has bona-fides as a labor historian that TR and I do not? Are there just more former and recovering adjuncts who comment at LGM? Just curious!