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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Adjunct Hypocrisy

This year for the first time our department has a non-tenure-track person with a PhD teaching language courses. I have no idea whatsoever how this could have been avoided and how even the most perfect economy imaginable could have changed the situation. 

This is why this kind of article bugs me.  It’s all empty, ridiculous blabber that doesn’t speak to the core issue faced by all the departments like mine who don’t see any other solution. What kind of an economy do we need to have to offer tenure to people who teach nothing but Spanish 101 or equivalent because there’s nothing else for them to teach and who do no research because they do not want to? 

The conversation around adjuncts as a phenomenon is dumb, fake and annoying because everybody knows (but nobody wants to say it aloud) that there is one easy and cheap way to end the adjunct problem in languages: cancel the language requirement. It’s either that or put up with a growing army of adjuncts. 

I’m so tired of the hypocrisy surrounding this issue. Everybody knows what’s happening but everybody pretends to be wide-eyed and ignorant about it.

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11 thoughts on “Adjunct Hypocrisy

  1. One possibility is to have enough tenured faculty who are skilled enough to teach language that they can all cycle through regularly. Then there’s no need for miserable adjuncts, no need to “offer tenure” to those who “only” teach 101, and no artifical gap between the teaching of the language and the literature. Literature is part of the language – not a parallel track.

    It’s true – a lot of language teaching is a joke. That’s why language teaching shouldn’t be a ghetto filled with disposable adjuncts and graduate students. Have the tenured faculty do it and make sure the language program is intense and rigorous enough – and short enough, as I’ve seen you suggest in the past – to be worth their time.


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    • We all teach language at my department. Tenured people, full professors, we all teach Spanish, French and German 101. There is no gap, etc.

      And still there is a dozen 101 sections that somebody needs to teach.

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      • I only get to teach a literature course once every two years. There are no students for more.

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        • And it’s like that in all disciplines. English, math. Students come to us completely unprepared to take college math. Or write a simple sentence in English. You’d need literally a hundred tenured English professors who teach nothing but I do / he does.

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  2. Well, I don’t want to pay pin money for work. You don’t have to have people without benefits or a living wage. That’s what adjuncting does.

    We have 5-6 full-time instructors who have salaries, benefits, and so on. No, they don’t have PhDs and are not on the tenure track, and yes, I would rather we had more research faculty instead of so many instructors. For all sorts of reasons. But it is a lot better than making them work as adjuncts (or trying to get people to do that — because unless you’re in a place with a surplus of unemployed M.A.s and Ph.D.s in our field, it is not easy to find people to adjunct). I don’t think most of the people we have as instructors could afford to work as adjuncts anyway, since they’re not married / are supporting themselves all on their own, need FTE and benefits and would go into another field if we couldn’t offer them these.

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  3. Also note: contingent faculty do have effective tenure. Their work is needed, and there aren’t other people to do it, so they are rehired every year. Getting hired as an instructor is like getting hired to Full in some ways: you aren’t going to be vetted the way professors are, and there’s no up-or-out moment. So YES we effectively tenure people who teach only lower division, and yes we afford it.

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  4. People teaching 101 and doing zero research shouldn’t have tenure, but universities need a set of people doing that kind of work and should create full time, renewable jobs with benefits for that work. A friend of mine just finished a three year visiting position that was all intro level teaching in her field. She replaced a three year visitor and a new three year visitor will replace her. She’s a great teacher and I’m sure the person before her and the person after are also great people. But the university has a strict rule that limits visiting positions to three years and so they have to let there people go after three years, no matter how good they are. They should theoretically have a tenure track job for those courses, but they don’t and they never will, but they keep pretending that they might and keep rolling “visitors” in and out.

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    • My university decided to experiment with visiting positions once. And introduced the very first one ever. Who was hired to fill it? A female Native American professor. The next year it was a female black professor. I was so incensed I was afraid I was going to explode. What a convenient, easy way to inflate diversity stats while contributing nothing to actual diversity.

      Disgusting.

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