poor, poor pitiful, privileged adjuncts

I got into a bit of a lather over this on Facebook. So why stop there?

I read an article by an adjunct about adjuncting from The New Yorker.
It irked me.

Here’s a tiny bit of it:

“The irony of this setup has not escaped me: the adjuncts who teach well despite the low pay and the lack of professional support may inspire in their students a similar passion—prompting them to be financially taken advantage of in turn.”


First let me say that it’s not that hard to talk to students who aspire to a position in academia about this issue. And we should. It’s mis-serving them not to do so.

And I am all for solidarity. I’m a union woman, always have been.

But this article and some others I’m seeing lately disturb me just a little.

It’s not as easy as you might think to stand shoulder to shoulder with colleagues who talk endlessly about how their partners make enough money for a comfortable life but oh the pity of being an adjunct. I don’t want pity; I would like some real job security and some benefits so I don’t have to twitch every time the Republicans start making noises about eliminating Obamacare, my life line, since adjuncts largely aren’t insured (or pensioned, for that matter).

Maybe it’s because I watched my own brilliant, eighth-grade-educated father lift his family out of poverty to a reasonably stable working class life in one generation. I knew who was privileged in my young world and who wasn’t…quite.

Maybe it’s like someone who isn’t in my life anymore told me once: “You’re trying to rise above where you belong, you need a “real” job, this is elitist bullshit you’re trying to imitate.” I didn’t believe him then. I don’t believe him now. Even so, there’s a bit of truth in what he said. There is. I see it in almost every encounter I have with certain tenured professors. Not all, thank goodness, but certain ones.

Maybe I have discovered I enjoy teaching. I enjoy the students. I enjoy research and I enjoy hard work outdoors and in a lab, too. Maybe I know I’m being taken advantage of financially compared to some. And, yes, I do warn students about this potential fate.

Still, maybe I don’t understand the academic world. I probably don’t. I do understand teaching and learning. I do understand that. And I’m one of those adjuncts who, in today’s academic climate looks around and says “at least I have a job doing something I enjoy.”

Is it enough? Financially, no, not really. Security-wise, no, not really. Do I hold out financial hope for myself in the near future in this particular world? No, not really. Yet here I am. There’s a certain contentment in where I am right at this moment. If I have to do something else soon, then I will.

Maybe I should write a damn book.

Maybe I will.


In case you were wondering, these lovely smiling faces are a few of the family, friends, and even former students who sometimes migrate out to Rainshadow Farm for a day of farm-based learning and fun.

About rainshadowfarm

I teach anthropology, am an archaeologist, a drylands agroecologist, community educator, and a single mother of eight grown kids. I currently own and operate an educational and research farm in the southern Mojave Desert, Rainshadow Farm. I'm 100% West Virginia hillbilly. Not necessarily in that order.
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2 Responses to poor, poor pitiful, privileged adjuncts

  1. A says:

    I wonder how your skills and experience might be utilized and marketed, if you will, in the context
    of the drought. Maybe some kind of freelance teaching, advising, I don’t know—-maybe something online. Just a thought, as I look for information about how to save the trees on my property in
    a dry area of Northern California, how to test for build-up of salts from graywater, which trees are particularly intolerant of that, etc., etc. I’m running into a lot of ignorance except via UC ag
    extension, where researchers are basically saying about many issues, Nobody really knows…

    • A, that’s a good idea and I’ve begun to pursue it again. I wasn’t able to form a consulting business that made any money here in the high desert and opted for a time of doing free or donation-based education for drylands gardeners and helping local farmers. The UC ag extensions are so helpful, but it’s true, we (generic “we”) just don’t always know what direction to go because it’s all so (a) understudied and/or (b) unpredictable. For your trees, do check out Brad Lancaster’s books on rainwater harvesting, if you haven’t already. He gets into lots of detail about graywater and more. Good luck…and thank you.

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