I normally really enjoy Karen K’s posts at Professor Is In. There is very little hand-wringing and drama in them, which is something one can rarely find in academic blogging. Her writing is original and hence refreshing.
Today, she disappointed me by publishing an endless and rambling post whose every other word is “privilege.” It’s OK, everybody is a little off after intense New Year’s celebrations, and even a good blogger can do some bad writing. What I find interesting in the post is that Karen makes suggestions as to what tenured professors can do to counteract the adjunct crisis. We are all dying to hear at least one intelligent, useful suggestion in this area but Karen’s ideas are profoundly disappointing. I will spare you the reading of this really poorly written post and give you the list of suggestions she makes:
Slash or halt graduate admissions.
This is a highly problematic suggestion. We are supposed to exclude qualified people from graduate studies simply because we have decided – without even looking them in the face – that they will not find jobs after graduating? How is that not the ultimate in hubris?
When I was 23, a professor tried to ban me from entering the profession. She told me she was acting in my best interest, that the idea of getting a PhD in Spanish literature with absolutely no Spanish and zero knowledge of the literature in question was hopeless, that I was too old to start something completely new, that I was wasting my and her time and my money. It has been 14 years, and I still feel nothing but intense resentment towards this hateful busybody who humiliated me by trying to manage my life. Now she tries to suck up to me at conferences because I have already made a greater contribution to the field than she ever will, and I still seethe every time I see her. This well-meaning idiot could have stolen the only career and the only life-style that can possibly make me happy. How can I now become such a meddler in somebody else’s life?
Make job market training (both academic and non-academic) central to the curriculum
This bothers me, too. We already have to justify everything we do in the classroom by how marketable the imparted skills are. We are already persecuted by administrators for not being very efficient in sales and not doing enough marketing. How much farther are we willing to take the fixation on the job market? I’m not denying that job market training is useful but making it central to a graduate degree is really bizarre.
Reduce time-to-degree of graduate programs
This suggestion betrays a profound misunderstanding of what is going on in grad schools. At my grad school, students organized a union whose central goal is to resist any attempts by the administration to shorten time-to-degree. If you ask grad students to graduate in 6 years, you will have a massive strike on your hands. Please don’t argue with me about this because the intense badgering from the believers in 10-year-long doctorates is one of the most traumatic memories of my grad school experience.
See and include adjuncts in the running of the department-both formally and informally
Again, this is a very childish comment made by somebody who preaches without ever trying to practice. Before making these inane suggestions, one should just try to ask an adjunct to perform service obligations for free. Please be warned that a person who is paid between $900 and $3,500 per course with zero benefits and no contract is likely to spit in your face if you try to force them to take on any extra work for no extra compensation. I, for one, would not judge them badly for doing that.
Tell the truth about the corporatized funding models in their universities that sustain their salaries and research funds by cutting other labor costs through the exploitation of adjuncts.
Sounds good but kind of pointless. Tell the truth to whom? Who is the intended audience here? I also dislike the idea that exploitation of adjuncts and research funds are somehow linked. There is money both for acceptable, decent salaries for all educators and for research. Let’s fire the football coach plus two thirds of administrators and paper pushers, and the problem will be solved. It isn’t my salary and my subscription to Romance Quarterly that the exploitation of adjuncts is paying for. It pays for the yachts and country-houses of the useless administrators and sports coaches.
Karen’s post is obviously motivated by good, admirable feelings but it is as free of substance as anything else I have seen on the subject.
Do you have any ideas about how the adjunct crisis could be solved? I honestly don’t see any workable solutions that are not based on a dramatic improvement of the secondary education system, as I explained here.
P.S. I hope this will not become a thread on how everybody hates Karen K. I want to talk about issues here, not personal dislikes of specific people. Maybe I should start a thread where we can all dump on people we dislike.