The Disposable Professor Crisis

While top executives in college and university settings are busy voting on large pay increases and fringe benefits for themselves, the educators and workers who oversee daily operations and interact with students are increasingly being left in the cold. In the classroom, growing numbers of colleges and universities are leaning more heavily than ever before on adjuncts, graduate student teachers and emergency hires to meet their needs – and rescue their bottom lines. The cost of one tenured educator, complete with salary and benefits, is much higher than that of several contingent faculty members, graduate student instructors and other low-ranking personnel. In fact, hiring an adjunct can be up to 80 percent cheaper than a tenured, full-time staff member…

These practices are justified by administrators as necessary in a decreased funding environment. Colleges and universities argue that using adjunct labor shouldn’t affect quality of education, and indeed allows educational institutions to offer more classes in a wider range. They also argue that the use of adjunct faculty serves as a gateway to other employment opportunities for these individuals, propelling them toward and preparing them for full-time positions. But there is no proof that adjuncts necessarily experience career development as a result of their contingent work; in fact, when most educators are not tenured or in tenure-tracked positions, competition tends to be fierce for both positions and research funds, and little nurturing actually occurs. Moreover, studies suggest that relying on adjunct labor does indeed affect the overall quality of a student’s education, in part because of the poor working conditions many adjuncts face.

The Disposable Professor Crisis – Salon

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