In my last college blog post I wrote about how some colleges and universities are exploiting their nontenured professors. If you missed it, here it is:
The Dangers of Being Taught by Part-Time Professors
This is such an important subject for families with college-bound teenagers that I’m sharing more information courtesy of Josh Boldt, an adjunct professor and the creator of the Adjunct Project.
Boldt is working with The Chronicle of Higher Education to to create a database of adjunct faculty salaries, which will allow anyone to see which institutions are treating their non-tenure-track faculty fairly and which ones are being exploitative.
Boldt agreed to let me share the following post that he wrote for college instructors who visit his site. I think the advice is relevant for all families in their hunt for colleges:
By Josh Boldt, creator of the Adjunct Project
Many of us have been suggesting for awhile now that, in order for adjuncts to continue gaining momentum, we need to get the issue out into the public eye. We need to get parents and students on our side, or at least make them aware of the situation.
Obviously, the mainstream media attention we have begun to garner is helping in that endeavor. The more we dispel the myth that all college professors are overpaid and underworked (ha!), the better off we will be when it comes to gaining public support for our mission. Which is why I was particularly heartened by an email I received this week from the parent of a high school senior.
In the email, this parent astutely asserts that she is affected by colleges’ exploitative practices because she is a “future consumer.” Very true, and well-said.
Business practices affect the consumer, whether he or she is willing to recognize it or not. This parent is clearly one who seeks to explore these practices before she patronizes the school. She is exactly the kind of parent to whom we should appeal.
A To-Do List for Parents
She goes on to ask how she can investigate practices and working conditions at her child’s prospective universities. With the help of my colleagues and fellow members at New Faculty Majority, we were able to come up with a pretty good plan for any parent who wishes to investigate a prospective school.
Use this list as a template for anyone you know who may be seeking similar advice. It’s a pretty solid list of resources. And feel free to comment, if you can think of anything else.
1. Join and engage with New Faculty Majority, especially in the new discussion forum.
2. Check out the MLA Workforce database, where you can search for schools and see the breakdown of contingent faculty at each campus.
3. Explore the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Just Ask campaign which contains some good questions you might ask when checking out campuses.
4. It also may be worthwhile to contact individual departments that depend heavily on adjunct labor (like English and Math). You might get more detailed information that way, as they are more directly connected to the issue.
5. Finally, if you really want to dig deep, you could even visit the department website, find the faculty directory, and email a couple of adjuncts on the list with questions.
This quick reference is a good start for parents who want to know more about the working (and learning) conditions on their children’s campuses. What else should we add?
It’s Lynn again. You can learn much more about this important topic, along with questions to ask on a college tour by visiting Homeless Adjunct.
Hiring adjunct professors as a way to save money by not hiring full-time professors which requires benefits, higher salary, etc. seems akin to corporations hiring contractors rather than full-time employees. I do think there often is a quality difference between part-time and full-time people because of the difference in commitment level (both from the employer to the employee and vice verse). This is a good post for parents and college applicants to read. Especially at the higher priced private colleges and universities, I would hope that adjunct professors would only be utilized when it will bring real world experience to the classroom or for some other important reason. Not just to save the college money in salary expenses.