Thanks, Adjuncts

I'm still decompressing from the vitriol events chronicled in the last post brought up. But I had an interesting experience last night: I got to do the classroom evaluation of one of our adjuncts.

Now normally this is probably something a tenured faculty member should do, and I didn't have do it. But it was something I was intrigued at the possibility of. Our department, as I'm sure most departments, is increasingly beholden to adjuncts. And unfortunately, adjuncts tend to function as professors off the reservation: they're largely - probably completely - out of the loop about departmental objectives, there is minimal effort made to help with syllabi preparation or university assessment, and they're not included in departmental planning.

Oh, and they're paid worse than I was as a graduate student teaching a summer course.

It bothers me that I don't know our adjuncts. In part, this is about timing - they can generally only teach in the evenings, and so I'm rarely around. But we don't do much to include them either, and that's something I hope we'll rectify. It bothers me that I don't know what they're teaching or whether they feel sympathetic to the rather rare mission statement my department's taken on. It bothers me that we treat them so badly. It bothers me that we can only keep adjuncts roughly two years before they have to go on to do something else (and that might be an over-estimation).

So I was glad to sit in, even if the day was more than a little frustrating and even if meant being on campus into the evening. And I enjoyed most of what I saw. The students connected, and this person brought some knowledge that we simply don't have among the tenure-track lines. Certainly there were some things we need to do to help them, but it was well worth it.

I'm looking forward to being able to put those things in an official document. I wish I could get them more money, but at least I can get them something that glows a bit about what they're doing. And maybe it'll be a moment where we can figure some ways to help them out more than we do, to make them feel more valued than they can possibly feel as things are going. Maybe that'll help us keep 'em awhile longer, though I understand if it doesn't. But at least they'll know we're aware, and we're thankful for what they do.


6 Responses to “Thanks, Adjuncts”
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LumpenProf said...

Having spent too many years as an adjunct myself, I think your kind words will be greatly appreciated. In the absence of the usual measures of success (like a living wage, or an office of one's own) getting a little recognition and praise can make a huge difference. However, you still need to keep working at getting your adjuncts more money. And some health care too.

October 22, 2008 at 7:45 PM
Anonymous said...

Hey, I'm glad to see you've relaxed your comment restrictions a little bit. I'm a big fan of your blog, which combines just the right amounts of anger, irony, insight, and humor.

BTW, I think you should certainly fight for compensation for your cancelled summer class. Undergrad/grad classes -- why should that make any difference??

October 23, 2008 at 8:46 AM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Lumpenprof, thankfully they've tied adjunct pay to the rate faculty get for summer courses, so the faculty desire for more summer pay should help bring things along, though it's a slow process.

And Bittersweet, I'm glad I got the restrictions opened a bit. I think there had been some change on the part of Blogger that I missed that caused that particular lockdown. Thanks for letting me know!

October 23, 2008 at 10:50 AM
LumpenProf said...

Tying adjunct pay to faculty summer pay is a really interesting move. I like it. Anything that gives regular faculty a stake in helping adjuncts is a good thing. I hope you'll let us know if the strategy works.

October 23, 2008 at 2:30 PM
ash said...

Hmmm...sounds like the adjuncts could use--wait for it--a union! Betcha didn't see that one coming, huh?

October 24, 2008 at 8:50 PM
Dr. Curmudgeon said...

Lordy, do they. The tie to summer pay here was, I can only assume, purely accidental since the union tends to run a bit like a keystone cops episode.

October 24, 2008 at 8:55 PM