Monday, November 14, 2011

Contingent Academic Labor is Here to Stay

If you read here, you must go right now over and read the AAUP's latest Report on the Economic Status of the Profession.

Some "highlights":
The overall increase in salary level, reported on the left side of survey report table 1 and the upper half of table A, was 1.4 percent between 2009–10 and 2010–11. This is barely higher than the overall change reported last year, when we described it as “the lowest year-to-year change recorded in the fifty years of this comprehensive survey.”
In all, graduate student employees and faculty members serving in contingent appointments now make up more than 75 percent of the total instructional staff. The most rapid growth has been among part-time faculty members, whose numbers swelled by more than 280 percent between 1975 and 2009. Between 2007 and 2009, the numbers of full-time non-tenure-track faculty members and part-time faculty members each grew at least 6 percent. During the same period, tenured positions grew by only 2.4 percent and tenure-track appointments increased by a minuscule 0.3 percent. These increases in the number of faculty appointments have taken place against the background of an overall 12 percent increase in higher education enrollment in just those two years.

 The system of higher education staffing is seriously broken. Do not misunderstand: grad school is no longer a wise investment leading to a stable academic career.

If you start down this path, adjuncthood or VAPing (or leaving altogether) likely awaits. This is reality.

Do not close your eyes and plug your ears and try to pretend it's not happening. Just take a deep breath and start considering your options. You will be okay as long as you think clearly and plan ahead for all possibilities.


  1. Yes, it's no good anyone burying their heads in the sand and thinking that everything will be alright. It won't...

  2. I'm on a psych site where folks with BAs or working on MAs come on periodically raving about much they want to adjunct--it'll be fun! They don't know what the fuck they're in for.

  3. Oh, that is scary. I wonder if any of those people have taught a class before? Or more accurately, taught more than one at a time?

    I mean, I enjoyed teaching when I was in grad school. I'm on record as saying that I could see myself teaching a class here and there in the future in addition to a regular job (although I must admit, as time goes on I become more and more reluctant to contribute at all to the adjunct pool). But anyone who thinks that teaching 4-5 classes per semester for basically a grad student stipend (if that) with no benefits is something that is at all "fun" to do.

    I hate to sound age-ist, but I'd be very curious to find out how old those commenters are.

  4. Yeah. I used to worry about appearing ageist. Now I just don't give a rat's ass.

    I think the core problem is that people still think that teaching college/uni carries prestige. I don't see anyone on that aforementioned site saying that it would be "fun" to volunteer to teach illiterate folks to read and write in their spare time--they know that would be work. Adjuncting means that you have a captive audience, and maybe they'll even call you "Professor"!

    Staring out over a sea of glassy-eyed jackasses, who will gab over your lecture then ask questions you just answered, pummel you with inane emails, beg for the answers and then battle you for a grade increase after they refused to actually use the answers you gave them...where's the prestige (or fun) in that?

  5. For an institution run by the supposedly "best and brightest" among us, academia creating a lot of its own problems. I'm a grad student and "super-duper R1" (it's a public ivy, if that even means anything) and all the delusional people at this terrible place can talk about is where we stand in the stupid rankings. If I sound jaded, it's because I am!

    If schools would just admit less grad students, that would solve all kinds of problems. I don't know if the market will ever get to a point where it's no longer saturated, but cranking out LESS PhD grads will at least alleviate it to some degree. Funding less students would also create more resources for those that do get admitted and funded. Maybe schools can be judged more on quality of life of their grad students instead of just how many they can get to graduate. But that would be practical, and practical applications have little use in academia.