The Future of Adjuncts

I see two possible futures:

In one, I create a line of T-shirts and bumper stickers proclaiming “Adjuncts Do It Better.” I see a huge market here and am sure that I could successfully advertise such products and pay for my kids to go to college. With so many of us, I could eventually move into branded car loans, credit unions, and even mortuary services.

In the other, the word adjunct disappears. I see a hazy future in which 90 percent or more of those who teach in college classrooms are full-time, tenure-track faculty. Those stellar exceptions who bring real-world experience to the table will be wonderful and rare.

The comments section of my recent post was an accurate microcosm of how charged the issue of contingent labor is. Some suggest leaving academe, as though other jobs are just waiting to be filled. This is particularly amusing to me since I live in the county with the highest unemployment rate in the country. Others preach a depressing strain of “resistance is futile.” Still other readers talk of how they have made adjuncting profitable, though I can’t believe that this group has many members.

As a person who cares about education, I’m frustrated and angry not just on my own behalf. The current system is not sustainable. That means hard, painful choices, and changes are going to have to happen. I’d like to put myself out of a job, at least the job I have now. I realize that an end to contingent faculty will mean a lot of people losing income and employment. I know what that would mean for me (see earlier statement about hiring in my area). But higher education needs full-time professors who aren’t worried about job security every step of the way. Will this look different at big universities and community colleges? Probably. The status quo is unacceptable.

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