The Teaching Class – Guernica

Teaching college is no longer a middle-class job, and everyone paying tuition should care.

In the American imagination, a professor is perhaps disheveled, but as a product of brainy eccentricity, not of penury. In the American university, this is not the case.

This is a relatively new phenomenon: in 1969, 78 percent of professors held tenure-track positions. By 2009 this percentage had shrunk to 33.5. The rest of the professors holding jobs—whether part time or full time—do so without any job security. … many universities limit the number of hours that adjunct professors can work each semester, keeping them nominally “part-time” employees

The rise of adjunct labor in universities is also a student issue. Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions. Yet students are often unaware of the way their colleges contract with their teachers—after all, who would tell them? … one of the reasons that adjunct conditions remain obscured from students: for workers without job security, the line between scolded and fired is uncomfortably thin.

But while the faculty-to-student ratios have remained constant (with both groups growing at around the same rate), the administrator-to-student ratio has increased dramatically. And Ginsburg notes that though administrators often extol the virtues of using part-time contingent labor for teaching, “they fail to apply the same logic to their own ranks.” In 2005, 48 percent of college faculty were part time, compared to only 3 percent of administrators.

Adjuncts need better conditions—stable contracts, office space, access to departmental decision-making, access to the kind of work community that makes people better at their jobs and allows space for reflection and information-sharing. And they need living wages. Not because they hold advanced degrees, not because they are better than other kinds of workers, not even because teaching is a magical and consecrated profession. We need these things because they allow us to be the teachers that our students need and deserve.

Source: The Teaching Class – Guernica