Adjuncts Unite for Better Education

From St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

A Labor Day riddle: What working group that doesn’t work in retail or fast-food earns so little money that people in it often qualify for food stamps, have no health insurance and no job security?

It’s college professors, specifically adjunct college professors. That adjective — adjunct — generally means someone with an advanced academic degree who is hired on a short-term contract with no possibility of tenure at an institution of higher learning. “Adjunct” has come to mean second-class.

It isn’t just a professor here or there, or a couple of teachers at community colleges, either.

Adjunct professors now make up 76.4 percent of the faculty in U.S. higher education institutions of all types — from liberal arts colleges to research universities to community colleges — according to a study by the American Association of University Professors.

The U.S. House of Representatives released its own study in January revealing that the majority of the adjuncts live below the poverty line.

This is how low the value of education has sunk in the view of the vested and powerful in the United States. This is analogous to the way the moneyed class treats all workers, educated or not. It’s all about corporatization and the bottom line.

It’s not like parents pay lower tuition when classes are taught by adjunct professors. It’s not like colleges say OK, we’re going to give our students and families a break because it’s going to cost less to educate them. Not at all. The money saved is plowed back into bigger and fancier sports facilities and higher salaries for administrators. In recent decades universities have focused on enhancing the students’ experience outside the classroom — to offering more ostentatious amenities such as fancy food and high-end dorm settings — not inside of it.

Despite lip service to the importance of attaining a college education, the critical need to compete with highly educated students from other countries, the value added to a life when educational goals are attained, the corporatization of higher ed demands the second-class citizenship of adjunct professors.

Read the full editorial here.