Working , yes…

I’ve been seeing more and more reports in which the academic elite in-group (tenured) advise those in the out-group (adjuncts) to stay out there and thrive. They want us to remain adjuncts. Really?

At my college alone, if I were a full time tenured professor, I would be making at least three times what I make with bodacious benefits.  As contingent faculty, with a Ph.D., I am allowed no medical benefits. In fact, the college sent all adjuncts a letter earlier this semester advising us to get ourselves to the website and look for some health insurance there. Given my income level, I find that I am eligible for Medicaid. Only Medicaid. My kids over 18 who live at home to save money while they are in college are eligible for Medicaid only. My minor child is eligible for the marginally better IEHP, a county health care plan for those under 18 years of age.

Is this what my colleagues who are tenured mean by stay in academia, adjuncting, and thrive?

Full time faculty who compile these reports not only have stellar medical insurance (with a choice of plans) and earn substantially more than their colleagues, the adjuncts, they also have vacation time, and have the choice of taking summer work for adjunct pay or taking pay for taking the summer off. Finally, at my college, the stipend for a Ph.D.  for full timers is between 2 and 3 times more than that for an adjunct. And pensions? Same.

I’m not bitter, but I remain incredulous. And sometimes worried.

I am as good a teacher as my full time colleagues. It’s true. This isn’t arrogance; it’s just how it is. I have occasionally heard that “there are reasons” an adjunct remains an adjunct for over ten years, even with a Ph.D. When this is said it’s usually said with a supercilious tone that indicates “you know, those adjuncts just couldn’t make the grade, like I can.” Really?

When I (thought I) was sitting pretty — married, being a secondary income and working toward a rather later-in-life Ph.D., doing research on my farm — I felt as if my part time status was not a job deficiency. After all, I enjoyed the teaching, I was called on to design courses at the college, and I had extra time to pursue field archaeology, time to work on my dissertation,  and time to build the farm learning center at Rainshadow Farm.  All it took was viral myocarditis to end my employment as a field archaeologist (This is another topic — the sad state of commercial archaeology in the USA and its future). And then came the coup de grâce, my ex walking away as he moved into his finely designed new midlife.  So here I am.  Why am I still an adjunct after all these years with a PhD? Because I had planned to work as a part time prof somewhere while running the farm and learning center.  I had planned to develop my own nonprofit and continue teaching part time. When plans were laid, the going looked good. So please,  the next time someone prepares to ask an adjunct “why are you still doing this after all these years?” I wish they’d just stifle it. The reasons are multiple and none of the reasons are necessarily “s/he doesn’t measure up.”

One evening, a group of three full timers were leaving for the day, as an adjunct colleague and I were preparing for our night classes at the copy machine. I will not discuss the relative merits of their teaching, although I could, given students often tell all, at least from their points of view. It might not be a pretty picture and it would be mean-hearted to name them and their qualifications.  One of the full timers stuck his head around the corner of the office block and opined, “Oh just a couple of adjuncts stinkin’ up the place.” A joke between colleagues? Hardly. In fact, the teacher who made that statement is in the same discipline as my adjunct colleague. My colleague silently steamed. He never said a word. Me, I had to. All I said was “Teacher’s Name, you know that’s exactly what we we’re here for.”  It still amazes me — the ignorance, the mean-heartedness, the utter lack of concern for the people who work alongside them, supposedly laboring together to set in motion the education of the same group of college students. While this was only one incident, I know that it is repeated in many forms across academia.

One researcher says 70% of faculty in higher education are non-tenured in one form or another.

She maintains that 80% of us will be non-tenure track in another ten years.

If she’s right and this is an academic steamroller, we’d better decide what to do about the lack of equity in that’s systemic in higher education.


About rainshadowfarm

West Virginia hillbilly girl grown up. Grew up in northern Ohio. Farmer from birth. Working class academic. Practical agroecologist. Community educator. Single parent of eight. I also teach anthropology at a community college. I like this work and think it's worth doing and doing well. California community college students are some of the most incredible students I have ever known.
This entry was posted in Adjuncting, Anthropology, disability, education, gray divorce and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Working , yes…

  1. Well do not become discouraged! Because, I find that the majority of “individuals” in those “elite” positions are incompetent. Yes, they are–and–Furthermore, I don’t bother fighting with adult children.

    Not all of “them” are incompetent; just the majority of … So, why?

    How? Because they sucked up to their “competent” mentors and then took over in an era when less was more (as opposed to our current environment) were more actually begets less. I am not bitter; I know that the cycle of change will bring “our” competence to … because without leadership (and visionary guidance)–students will stop getting “advanced” degrees and the “business” of education will … (perhaps not). We need General Practitioners not specialist in higher education.

    I once heard of a book called “The Shadow University” — Although I have not read it–because … that is the case! Let me conclude by saying that I recently, presented my textbook for training teachers to a retiring professor. “I thought you may be able to help me out” he stated: “WELL I CAN’T”! He was as envious as … and although I am still a poor independent scholar. I would not take all the money in China (or that fellows secure position) if I had to sell my soul like …. (look on the positive side–you always have your farm).
    Best wishes, KEN
    My blog:
    e-Books published@

    • Thanks for the kind words.

      I am fortunate that I’ve had and still have some really great mentors. The whole system is so deranged, though, that they do all they can to help and it just isn’t enough. Economics, greed, and bad judgement are leading our whole system of higher education into a place that looks more like (monkey) business than education/learning.

  2. Want to keep fighting?–(read my work and promote it?)–if you have time! Maybe, teacher-training is not your area of interest; that’s OK!
    I am following your blog and I look forward to reading your next post.
    BEST WISHES –ken

  3. This blog hits home a little too hard. I taught as an adjunct at a local community college for a second income. With prep work and followup, it came out to less than minimum wage. The real economic benefit was that I could simultaneously contribute to STRS from my adjunct position and PERS from my full time job. Thankfully, the full time faculty in my department were competent. It was a Godsend that some of them were very helpful. I retired at 55 and I am now studying construction technology for a reason.

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