Reflections on 50 Years as an Adjunct

From Precarious Faculty Rising blog:
‘I make a difference every day’. That is a slogan of the American Federation of teachers (AFT), and that is my goal every of my life. Who am I? I am an adjunct, a proud a dedicated adjunct, who makes a difference in the lives of students every day. I spent seven years in College becoming educated in my field so I could go out and teach others how to make the world a better place and how to have a successful career. Fortunately I was able to go to College on merit scholarships and did not have to amass a large student loan debt, as most students do today. I studied and worked hard, I read a lot, I took part in student demonstrations, and I kept up on current events. I was very optimistic and felt I was on a crusade to help change the world with a career in academia.

That was fifty years ago. Today, I am a realist, and the reality is scary.

While in graduate school studying History and Political Science, I taught myself accounting, figuring it would come in handy doing taxes for me and my family and friends. I never thought that I would make a living and raise a family as a controller rather than a professor. For thirty-five years I worked in private industry, while teaching one or two courses at night in a local college. When my sons were grown and married, my wife and I decided that it was now time for me to follow my real goal and go into college teaching full time. Ha! 

What a lunatic idea to think I could make a living in that manner! It was now the late 1980’s and a new breed of college instructors had inundated academia -- ADJUNCTS. The thought of full time faculty was outrageous according to the community and four year schools. They had discovered a gold-mine in adjuncts: could hire an adjunct for one-fourth of the pay of a full timer and not give any benefits or ‘waste’ and office space.

My life changed in 1988 and I soon became a full time adjunct. No, that is not an oxymoron. I began to make a living grabbing whatever classes I could at whatever colleges had openings. For 27 years I have been a ‘roads scholar’ traveling throughout central and northern New Jersey doing what I do best and love to do- teach. I have had much satisfaction in the success of many students and I have won awards and acclaim for my work. The problem is that I am working much harder now than I did thirty years ago, and taking inflation and the cost of living into account making less money. Does that bother me? Of course, but I am hopefully making a difference in my student’s lives. Is it fair to me and my fellow adjuncts? Of course not, and I have been attempting to change things.

Read the full blog post here.