Monday, January 22, 2018

Teacher Working Conditions Are Student Learning Conditions. Adjuncts Should Quit.


By Professor Doom


     In a recent radio interview with Jeff Rense I touched on a broad range of issues in higher ed right now. While the focus was mostly on the deep hatred of white people in higher ed and associated infestation of Social Justice Warriors, I also mentioned the immense fraud that is accreditation, the horrible fraudulent nature of many of our for-profit, non-profit, and state schools, and, of course, the atrocious student loan scam.

      There are so many grim problems in higher ed that an hour long interview isn’t long enough to even list them all, much less discuss anything in great detail. One problem I missed was the adjunctification of higher education.

      In times past, a professor was fairly respected on campus, and it was a respectable job. You weren’t likely to become a millionaire, but you were allowed a decent living while you engaged in intellectual pursuits and taught the next generation the most advanced (if not necessarily the most useful) subjects humanity had come to know. That’s the image most people have of “college professor,” but the reality, like the reality of most things in higher ed, is farrrrrrrrrr different.

      Most college faculty are adjuncts, closing in on 70%, and so the adjunct should be what people think of when they hear “college professor.” For newcomers to my blog, an adjunct is a part time worker, generally paid less than minimum wage, often qualifying for welfare, and it’s so bad in some areas that the local food banks specialize in just keeping them fed.

     Administration justifies hiring adjuncts to do most of the work, saying “well, we only need them for the one semester.” Because they are part-time, adjuncts get no benefits, so this position is not intended to be a long term job. Trouble is, adjuncts end up working this “temporary” position for years, decades even, waiting for the time that admin realizes “hey, we need this guy every semester, have needed him every semester for years, so saying he’s just a temp worker is a lie.” Trouble is, admin has no interest in making this realization, because adjuncts are very, very, cheap, and every $1000 not spend on paying the professor is another $950 that goes into administrative pockets (with the rest generously allowed by the administration to pay for education expenses).

      It’s a vicious, nasty, exploitative system, and quirks in the laws mean adjuncts can easily be paid lower than minimum wage, and not even qualify for unemployment between semesters (when they get no paychecks).

      There are many reasons our best and brightest allow this level of exploitation. A big part of it is the huge glut of Ph.D.s, a surplus created by the same leaders in higher ed who profit so mightily from all the cheap labor.  To this surplus is added a great number of Educationists (also a big source of Social Justice Warriors), as accreditation allows Education to be used as a “joker” for many lower level college courses.

      A semi-recent article tries to convince adjuncts to keep on slaving away to help administrators buy more lake front property:


     Hysterically, the author giving the advice not to quit actually quit for himself. I’m scratching my head here on why anyone should take this seriously, or how such an article could even be published.
My enthusiasm for teaching was undiminished, but I could see trouble on the horizon, consigned to a single course, semester after semester, no room for growth or new challenges. I didn’t want to be angry, or worse, bitter.


Because I had some advantages, my transition was easy. I was already making more money writing than teaching. I have an emotionally supportive partner who also could support us financially without me earning a dime.

     So, knowing the guy doesn’t actually believe what he’s saying, it’s tough to keep reading his words. For the most part, he’s responding to the common idea that “all adjuncts should quit at once.” Theoretically, it would help, as simple economics means reducing the supply of potential teachers would lead to higher wages and better working conditions.
     “Theoretically” is the weasel word here…all adjuncts aren’t going to quit overnight because they’ve student loan payments to make, rent to pay, and so on.
     Unsurprisingly, the author doesn’t understand either aspect of basic economics and indicates his own reasons why everyone quitting wouldn’t work:
Will this sort of action cause a giant pot of money to fall from the sky?

     Uh, higher ed has billions and billions to spend constructing buildings that no student will ever enter. Higher ed showers insane amounts of money on legions of diversity commissars, Poo Bahs, and deanlings who have nothing to do with education.
      There is a ridiculously huge sum of money in higher education…the trouble is none of it is going to education. I doubt that all adjuncts quitting overnight would change that but…at least in theory it would help a little.
     The author goes further off the rails:
If adjuncts have truly disappeared, credentials for teaching will be lowered or credit requirements will either be changed or offloaded to “alternative” providers

     Credentials have already been lowered dramatically, as I’ve already discussed, it’s easy to find “math education” professors teaching math courses they know nothing about.
      Credit requirements have also been lowered. Computer courses used to be big on campus, but because it was too expensive to hire even dubiously qualified teachers, many campuses have eliminated the programs rather than pay a fair price for teachers of a critical subject for the modern world.
      On many campuses, the vast majority of college courses aren’t even college…admin would absolutely reduce requirements further if all adjuncts walked away.
      It’s curious the author doesn’t mention another idea: make classes larger. We already have courses with a 1,000 students in them…the trouble here is most campuses don’t have enough rooms that large. It’s pretty funny, as I watch yet another administrative palace go up, I at least take pleasure in knowing that admin forgot, yet again, to build more oversize auditoriums.
      The rest of the article is more irrelevancies, but some comments bear mention:
After two years of full-time adjuncting, I'm convinced more than ever that teaching undergraduates is hardly one of the top priorities of higher education. And once you take away the incentive for universities to provide quality education, there's really nothing they won't do to deliver a degree for as little cost as possible, including completely removing the human element in education.

     The above highlights one of the big issues in higher ed: nobody cares about quality. It’s all about just getting those student loan checks into the pockets of administration as quickly as possible.
     The other issue is admin, and a commenter links to an important site. Seriously, the problem is way too many administrators:

     Let the implications of the above sink in. Faculty pay is basically flat (or falling, if you’re an adjunct, which most faculty are nowadays—quirks in accounting mean adjunct pay doesn’t always count as faculty pay), and faculty numbers are flat as well.
      Administrative pay is skyrocketing, stratospheric with no end in sight, along with benefits so luxurious that many faculty, if they forego pay and just got administrative benefits, would be better off.
      And administrator numbers are up 221%, over faculty numbers being up 3%, in a period where student population on campus more than quadrupled.
     Anyway, yes, all adjuncts should quit overnight. Also, we should cure cancer overnight while we’re at it. A more reasonable solution? Kill the student loan scam, as none of that money goes to adjuncts, and all of it goes to the people exploiting them.