Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Double Your Pleasure, Double Your Fun: The Radical Responds To Her Critics

Tenured radical faculty have too much, others have nothing.
This is a follow-up on yesterday's post, which unexpectedly turned into a brawl. Late-night anonymous commenters had issues with my inability to recognize that they are always right and that I am causing their oppression.  How did this happen? 

Let's roll the videotape:

I suggested (I deliberately did not make this a law, because I do not believe in coercion and I use my super powers with restraint and wisdom) that people who take full-time visiting faculty jobs should make themselves available to work full time, as opposed to teaching one or two days a week because they are traveling several hours each way from Big City.  Fulfilling this obligation (something that would be a normal expectation anywhere but in academia and e-trading) could mean moving to or near the place of employ, or making arrangements to spend several nights a week there.  I also suggested that if full time visitors were not going to do this, they should be responsible for actually getting themselves to the work site (a.k.a., skool) without assistance from the super-privileged tenured faculty who committed the crime of hiring them in the first place.

It turned out I was wrong about this, and that these are all not only highly retrograde notions unworthy of a true Radical, but also evidence of my secret affiliations with the radical right.  "About as 'Radical' as Don Chafin, I'd say," sniffs Anonymous 5:40 (I had to look that one up, not being well versed in the history of union-busting coal industry minions.) "TR, you say it's 'just advice,'" Anonymous 12:29 summed up in hir closing argument to the jury.  "Fine. But it's clear enough from your post that YOU are the one negatively judging those adjuncts who dare to hold on to their connections in other places. YOU'RE the one who feels offended by this practice, even though this practice is a totally rational labor response to a short-term, low-wage job contract."  Yes, and it would be a totally rational response on MY part to fire YOUR sorry a$$ for putting in minimal time for the actual job I had hired YOU to do.

Actually, I have had two homes for most of my adult life, which was expensive as all get out, particularly when I was in a visiting gig early in my career. Subsequently, I commuted between Zenith and New York for over fifteen years. I had two homes that I eventually gave up for one home in New Haven, from whence I commute 30 minutes a day, three to five days a week.  My point of view was that this was better than not working at what I wanted to do for a living.  But things have changed, I guess, since I was a young Radical (favorite comment from one of the multiple blog posts elsewhere sending me the hate?  "I want to rename her Tenured Liberal!" Yes, you do that.  Sounds like a devastating criticism anyone would take to heart, even me.)  The commenters above and others like them are clear: moving somewhere for a year, renting a room a couple nights a week, or taking responsibility for your own transportation to fulfill the terms of a full-time salaried, contract without any guarantee this will lead to future success or the lifetime security of tenure is something only ordinary people without PH.D.'s should have to do.

Well God Bless, and good luck. And the next time you decide to police the content of my blog, and reprove me for being condescending, be warned:  act like d00shb@g$, and the condescension veers way out of control.  Sorry.  Like the relentlessly condescending/entertaining Rachel Maddow ShowTenured Radical is not intended for children.  It may include adult themes, hard language, nudity, and all minors should be accompanied by a parent, guardian or dissertation advisor. )

In other news, readers who perceive tenured faculty as responsible for the death of their life prospects are going to be really upset when they see this one.  When we weren't looking, an administrator acquired two administrative jobs, 1,000 miles apart, that gross him $212 large a year.  Talk about a highway flyer! According to Inside Higher Ed:

Donald Green is executive vice president of instruction and student services at Florida State College at Jacksonville, where he has worked since 1998. He is also, concurrently, the acting senior vice president of academic affairs at Essex County College, in New Jersey, where he has been working 15-20 hours a week as a consultant since last October. 

Essex CC is actually paying Green as a consultant, at a rate of $130 an hour, which means he gets his benefits in Florida, Governor Chris Christie will be relieved to know.  This is probably about $127.75 more per hour than the adjunct profs teaching Humanities 101 are making, and $105.10 per hour more than full-time instructional staff.

While it isn't clear that Green has done anything illegal, it does appear that the guy had all kinds of paid sick days, vacation time and what not to fly up to the Garden State for a week or so at a time to be an adjunct administrator of sorts.  Marcella Washington, a political science prof at FSC, says that the faculty is investigating.  Full-time faculty members work "more than 40 hours per week" at FSC and administrators should at least be putting in their full forty.  "If we are truly giving all we have to our students, we don’t have time for another job. For [Green] to have another full-fledged job to put in 20 hours a week is just not giving all the attention and concern to Florida State College. It’s unacceptable behavior. [From an administrator], it just doesn’t set a good example.”

Interestingly, if you scroll down yesterday's comments you will get to "Christopher" who also had two jobs for a year, his regular adjunct gigs (three different jobs, it sounds like) and a one-year visiting slot with benefits that he was able to land in the same town.  

The one year gig was a 3/3 and paid $46k. Except, I'm used to 6/6 and even 7/7, so 3/3 was a snap. I kept 3 of my adjunct gigs, and pocketed the $46k plus another $18k, give or take. Nice. Plus, the FT gig provided health insurance, and so I made sure during that year to have every test known to medical science done. I'm good. For now.

The more salient fact, though, is that when the FT gig was done, I still had employment. Yes, it was back to the adjunct pool, but that's certainly better than nothing.

I suppose folks could call me out for gaming the system. Right. Go for it. Sue me, or something.

Dude! I think people are not calling you out because they are in awe of you, as well they should be.  Consider yourself invited for a guest post.


Adjunct said...

Of course you have every right to condescend as much as you like -- it's your blog. But as one of the non-TT people who reads the thing on a regular basis, and who wants to see you as part of the academic labor movement, I think it is important for you to know when what you say is useful and what you say feels counterproductive. If you see yourself as the Rachel Maddow of the academy, that's fine. But I guess I hope that the circumstances in which we all find ourselves would make you want to be more of an active participant in making chance, rather than a really smart pundit. I think the former requires reaching out with language of solidarity, rather than derision. It is hard to read solidarity in lines like this one: "[Full time] means not pestering people you barely know for rides to and from the train station because you got a visiting slot in Bumpuddle, RI, but you don't want to give up your apartment in Cambridge because you heard there will be a great job at MIT next year."

good enough cook said...

It was great advice, that first post. Even the moving part.

But here's the thing: it's not looking like a whole lot of money is going to fall out of the sky and bring back the good old days when nearly all academic labor was performed by tenure stream faculty. Adjuncts are here to stay, in the mass, even if individual cases may land better jobs or come to their senses and opt out.

I would love to see a hard-hitting academic blogger write thoughtfully and imaginatively about how the current academic realities could more effectively accommodate that fact, for the benefit of the institutions and students as well as the adjuncts themselves.

Unknown said...

Hahaha! My ire here would be aimed at that dim wit who's holding on to the Cambridge apartment as well. A "great job at MIT next year"? Are you fucking kidding me? Oh but wait. Right. 28-year old grad students can be charming like that.


I'm starting to see that the matter being debated here is a no win one. I don't mean to speak for TR or put words in her mouth, but she's probably coming from a unique position. She's at an elite SLAC that happens to be located in Semi-Nowhere, CT. At one level, it's a good, highly regarded school, a plum of a job; at another level, taking a one-year gig anywhere is a crap shoot. So I see both sides.

One solution might be for the newly minted Ph.D. holding out for the gig at MIT to pony up $1000 for one of those automobile thingys. I hear they travel fast and are good for a 150-mile trip. And the three hour drive could be spent listening to language tapes, or some 12-tone serial composition, or I dunno, Sonic Youth and Arcade Fire or whatever the cool grad school kids are listening to these days.

A great job at MIT next year. Hahaha ... I'm going to be laughing at that one for the next 45 mins as I wade through rush hour traffic to get to my evening CC classes.

Tenured Radical said...

Dear Adjunct: You are right. There is no solidarity in those lines, because solidarity is not a trivial thing, nor is a real labor movement. And when people who are making a real -- not a course by course -- salary can't make an arrangement to get themselves to work they are not actually making an adult commitment to participation. Rather than condescension, read that as irritation and an impatience for those entering the profession to stop asking for care taking. Solidarity and care taking are very different things.

I don't say this to reprimand you, or anyone like you, but the vast majority of working and middle class people are expected to get to work or lose their jobs. PH.D.'s with salary and benefits, but no tenure-track, often expect their colleagues to accept a high level of non-participation in the workplace on the grounds that said colleagues are better off in a rotten system and haven't fixed it yet.

And good luck to you in keeping afloat & making decisions about your work.

Spanish prof said...

TR, with all due respect, I think part of the reason why many people posting were angry at you is that you did not distinguish between full time non-tenure track faculty (visiting assistant professors, lecturers, etc), and adjuncts.

The first group might not be on the tenure track, nor have a secure job behind their contract, but they are payed an annual salary and enjoy benefits.

Adjuncts, on the other hand, are paid by the class. In my field (Spanish), it's usually 2500 a class. So even if they are teaching 4 classes in a college a semester, they do not receive any benefits and probably have to supplement their income with additional classes in nearby institutions. So I think it's a little unfair to tell them to be available for students besides office hours, etc. Many of them literally are driving from one place to the other as soon as they finish teaching in one place.

Tenured Radical said...

Spanish prof: thanks pal, but what was lacking in clarity about this?

"Do move, or at least rent a room, if you must commute to a full-time adjunct position. There is nothing more annoying than hiring someone to do full-time visiting work and then have them work essentially part-time because it isn't a tenure-track job."

The problem is that people don't read the original post -- they only read the representation of it in the comments!

Spanish prof said...

TR, I did read your original post. But if you are teaching 3 classes in an institution, 2 more in one 15 miles away, and 1 more somewhere 45 miles away, you won't be moving, and still you will not have time to do more than teaching, hold whatever mandatory office hours you are required, and run to your next gig and pray traffic isn't too bad.

A said...

I think that part of what we have is a vocabulary dispute. I don't think of anyone working full time with benefits as an adjunct--- they are a visiting assistant professor or some such. But that seems to be what TR is describing as an adjunct, while others are using the more usual (in my experience) meaning of the word as someone working course by course.

Spanish prof said...

Maybe the confusion comes from the fact that, the way I understand it, "full-time adjunct position" is an oxymoron. If by full-time you imply somebody that is not paid by the course and receives benefits, then I would call him/her an adjunct. Each institution has its own name, but they are not adjuncts. I think most people understand "adjuncts" as somebody who is paid an X amount of money per course taught. Maybe it varies from state to state, but you can be teaching 4 courses in a university and still not be considered full-time (in the sense that you are entitled to certain benefits that regular faculty and staff receive).

Tenured Radical said...

We call full-time visiting profs adjuncts because they *are* adjuncts. They are literally "adjunct to the standing faculty."
That there are several layers of labor, some more privileged than others, is true -- but why would I suggest someone rent a home in three or four different towns to teach one course at three or four institutions?

Spanish prof said...

For the majority of people in academia I know, an adjunct is a part-timer who gets paid by the course. Maybe in your institution or in the Northeast is different, but where I live (the Midwest), an adjunct is not a full-time visiting professor. And I am not the only one who has that definition of what an adjunct is. The conflicting definitions probably help explain the hostility you got on your thread.

Anonymous said...

Spanish prof is right. I'm one of the people who commented yesterday. A few years ago, there was a blogger who went by the name of "Adjunct Whore" despite the fact that she had never been an adjunct, at least not by my definition. Graduate students who do adjunct teaching are not "adjuncts", they are graduate students trying to make ends meet. Similarly, VAPs are not "adjuncts" because of benefits, etc.

FrauTech said...

I know I'm a non-academic, but I'd like to think that means I see the working situations of non-academics more frequently and have a more private sector viewpoint which maybe means something different to offer.

Going to have to agree with TR on this one. You show up and put in the time your position asked you to do. I do think that's different if you are adjuncting a single community college courses versus a "full time" position as an adjunct that might have a 3/3 load or some sort of load. I don't expect my community college teachers to hang around and be available (or even to have office hours). But if you're teaching a load and earning a salary you're in a different position.

I hate to break it to people but earning 30k or 40k for a "lowly adjunct" position is not that bad in the scheme of things. That's what a lot of professionals I work with earn maxing out in the 50s if they are lucky. All these people are on the job site 40-60 hours a week. I've never known ANY academic to actually be on campus and accessible 40 hours a week and I don't think TR is asking anything that's unreasonable. Teach your courses and be available in the terms you agreed to be. Having one office hour right after the one class you teach is tremendously inconvenient for a lot of your students. Showing up on one of your "off" days is probably a huge drag but sorry suck it up.

Many people in the 30-40k professional range would love to be able to take second jobs or side projects to earn extra money on the side. Unfortunately they also can have really long commutes and a fixed 45 hours a week they are usually expected to be at the office.

I'm not saying academic pay is fair because I agree it's not. Someone who has a PhD and experience teaching SHOULD be more valuable salary-wise than someone's uneducated assistant or an entry level job in a professional career track. Unfortunately that's not what the market is. TR's not saying you should be happy being an adjunct, she's just saying you agree to take a job and you do it. Like millions of other americans who don't have benefits and get sh$# for wages and don't have the opportunity to "teach an extra class" for some extra money but have to make do working all the shifts their managers want them to do. If you don't like it you're certainly welcome to be a secretary and see if spending 45 hours a week in the office as someone's assistant is any better.

Anonymous said...

There does seem to be a terminology problem here, as some places don't use adjunct to mean, well, adjunct. Where I did my undergrad, what TR has described was referred to as "visiting" faculty. Adjuncts were people in other departments who sometimes taught in a different department (for instance, a prof in classics might sometimes teach a course in classical philosophy, so he would be made an adjunct professor in the philosophy dept.) There were also "allied" faculty (people in other departments with overlapping research interests, but who didn't do any teaching outside their own department.) Visiting, adjunct and allied were all full-timers. The part-timers were "lecturers."

Terminology aside, what TR has described is somebody with a full-time, if not TT, gig. It's a real job with real responsibilities that I would be happy to take off the hands of anyone who doesn't appreciate it. I would kill for a full time job right now- like, actually kill you and wear you like a suit, to steal from last night's House.

I'm afraid that some people in the adjunct rights movement are developing a victim mentality, which will not be helpful in the long run.

Matt_L said...

I think there is a serious case of "the narcissism of small differences" among some of the commentators on this post and the previous one.

Very few TT faculty do more than pay lip service to the problems of contingent academic labor. TR has a consistent record of doing so publicly and with credibility.

I have seen contingent faculty, especially newly minted PhDs and ABDs, do some really stupid things at several institutions. While the criticism might seem caustic, TR's post was on point.

So Solidarity TR! and don't let the turkeys get you down!

good enough cook said...

So many people talking past one another. TR sees the self-defeating unprofessionalism of the temporary full-timers hired (under fairly cushy conditions) to work at Zenith and offers some solid advice to that elite group. She refers to "The New Army of Adjuncts" however, in her post. The members of that army vary rather widely from the particular subset she addresses, and in the comment thread they take umbrage at the assumptions encoded into the specific terms of her advice.

Her advice is great for a VAP at an elite institution. It's largely irrelevant for many people who compose the new adjunct army and don't need TR to point out to them how precarious, powerless, and humiliating their situation (and these people are generally NOT earning 30K/year and complaining about it).

Adjuncts as a whole need to organize. Individual adjuncts need to be realistic as they work out their own compromises between their aspirations, their families, and their options on the non-academic job market. Fine. But this bickering mostly seems to reflect a mismatch between the people TR set out to address (people eligible and free to take up one-year visiting appointments in hopes of eventually landing tenure track appointment) and the people who feel themselves hailed by the world "adjunct" yet don't necessarily correspond to that model.

There are a number of conversations that need to take place about the role of adjuncts in higher education. What's happening on these comment threads isn't one of them--though it perhaps shows some of the anger and misunderstanding that stands in the way of a real conversation.

Anonymous said...

I am a department head at a large midwestern university and we've had serious problems with postdocs, say, commuting from Chicago when they signed a commitment to be in residence here. While we haven't fired anyone who did this, though we could have, there is NO WAY that that person could have ever been considered for a permanent position here (and we have hired from our postdoc pool pretty frequently). They had burned their bridges. what a terrible work ethic! I could only wonder what she would have done if she had had more job security here.

I adjuncted for years at a community college before getting this position. I agree wholeheartedly with everything that TR says, both from my experience as an adjunct and as a administrator who hires faculty and staff. If you have any desire to get hired at a place why would you want to show yourself in a bad light, ever?

Academic life is hard and a lot of people never reconcile themselves to the fact of needing to move, even for tenure track jobs. Of the five PhD students who were in my group, I am the only one who is currently in the profession because I was willing to move. The rest of them did "restricted job searches" due to their partners' need to be in a city and/or their reluctance to "uproot themselves" and are either still adjuncts (15 years later!) or are in other fields. Ironically, they have little career mobility at this point since adjunct jobs are so hard to get and are stuck where they are, with kids in school who can't be moved without a really good reason, while I and other academics who made similar hard choices early on are now marketable and moveable to big cities!

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow. "Hard choices". Yeah. Gotta love it.
As I stated in my comments on the last post, I moved 2,000 miles for my first job. I am not complaining about this per se, but simply about the fact that it didn't help me. One of my graduate school colleagues, however, stated that he "had to" take a job within a day's drive of [name of Canadian province] because he had family there. Guess what? He got one.

Brian Hagen said...

@ Frau Tech: by most people definitions, an adjunct doesn't make 30K -40K a year. If they teach 5/5, mostly in different places at the same time, they might make 25K without benefits.

Anonymous said...

Keep it up. ABDs in this bad job market need this kind of advice. I'm looking at a stretch of adjuncting myself (while pregnant, joy!) and really need to look at these issues strategically. I wish that I could join the debate on the academic labor cause and change things for the better, but I've got a baby on the way and have to adapt to the gritty realities. Your post gave me some really concrete advice.

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Clio's Disciple, who was in the VAP trenches for many years, has a great post up on her experience:


Most tellingly, I think, she tells her story of what the "inside track" does and does not mean, from someone who's been there.

T said...

Anyone know of good sources on % and/or # of courses and/or students taught by non-tt faculty?

An informal review of my R1's (I'm a grad student) undergrad offerings produces the following results:

25 courses are taught by tt faculty
4 courses are taught by 1 long-term contract, but not tenured faculty guy (he's the head of a center or something).
46 courses are taught by grad students, or contingent faculty.

This does not include the discussion sections for introductory courses (which are taught by grad students). Those courses are classified by their main instructor (likely, but not definitely tt faculty).
This also makes no distinction between the 8 junior/senior seminars which are capped at 15 and always taught by faculty and the rest of upper-level courses (like mine this semester, which has 43).

I know for a fact that my university intentionally does not publicly collate these numbers.

T said...

**These figures are for this semester.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I agree with the vocabulary issue. I think adjunct really has taken on the specialized meaning of "teach by the course," and therefore "full time adjunct" conjures the image of freeway flyers, which was out of step with the moving part of the otherwise excellent advice (and moving might be excellent advice, too, depending on context). In the labor context, contingent faculty may be a better umbrella term.

I will add that if some adjuncts (note I use that term) are assuming a victim mentality, it's not without justification.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

Fucke, man. I hate when there's a nice kerfuffle and I miss the whole fucken thing.

TR, how many times do you have to be told? Unless you quit your tenured position, you are nothing but another oppressor, and everything you say just oppresses MOAR.

Historiann said...

I second Notorious Ph.D.'s suggestion for folks to go read Clio's Disciple's post. One of the things that kind of surprised me about the responses to yesterday's post here and some of today's responses above is the idea that moving is always an unrelenting sacrifice and/or banishment to the boonies and offers nothing in return. At this point in my life moving does not tempt me, but at an earlier stage of my career I thought it was *good* to get away from Grad City and experience life in some different cities and (eventually) life in some of America's semi-finest college towns. And yes, I moved once for a VAP before eventually moving to 2 different TT jobs.

Didn't any of you ever have a bad breakup/bad situation you ever wanted to escape? Was Grad School/Your Hometown/Your College Town really such a completely and unambiguously awesome experience that you never thought that moving would provide a fresh start? (Not to mention also the possibility of cheaper housing, new and interesting things to do, new people to meet, new cuisines to explore, etc.)

Bardiac said...

I'm guessing a lot of us use "adjunct" to talk about any instructional people in positions where there's pretty much no job security.

At my school, for example, we're likely to hire someone to teach a full load one semester, and one or two classes the next. They get benefits (because we're minimally humane and try to make sure they're at 51% when we can), but they're unofficially "adjuncts." They have an official title, but it's not something anyone uses except in official meetings.

Unknown said...

@Historian: moving for a job as a VAP may be a good move. But I do think the reality of being a VAP in, say, upstate NY or western WA may be a very different reality than in a larger city. And the reality of which I speak has less to do with what happens during the term of the appointment than with what comes after the term is finished. Being unemployed in Alfred, NY is not the same thing as being unemployed in Chicago.

It might be that the antipathy toward moving for a VAP speaks to a latent awareness that the VAP track is its own kind of dead end. Then again, maybe some people like being nomads.

Anonymous said...

Until I read New Kid's post, it didn't even occur to me that anybody used the term adjunct to mean anything but "by the course."

When I say I am an adjunct, I mean that I am paid roughly $3000 (sometimes less) to teach one course. I am given a contract for one semester for each class I teach. I am employed in three different institutions, two of which use by-the-course instructors extensively to staff their programs.

At one of these institutions, fully 40% of all courses are taught by instructors who are paid by the course and contracted for $3000 for a single semester at a time. It should go without saying we don't get benefits. We aren't even allowed access to the photocopier.

The same institution has a rule which states that none of us may teach more than four courses a year for the institution to prevent anyone from making a full-time job of the situation.

It's clear enough that there is enough work to warrant full-time positions for at least some of these part-time people but the university is choosing not to pursue that as an option. They don't want to commit to benefits and raises and the rest of it. At adjunct orientation, the provost made it clear that this was an intentional cost-saving measure so that the university could increase enrolments (and therefore tuition dollars) while limiting expenditures. This was the ten year plan for raising money to increase the profile of the university.

From where I'm standing, equating a VAP of any kind (or a lecturer or other full-time instructor) with an "adjunct" in the sense in which I mean the term is completely tone-deaf. And yet, the situation I'm describing is what many of us are living, which is why you got the reaction you did on the last post.

Most people I know who adjunct work by the course. We do not consider life as a VAP or lecturer the trenches. Because as someone said, if you make 30K, be grateful.

All of this is behind of my original reaction and really, my main problem with the original post was the suggestion that I shouldn't be angry about my situation. But I am and I have the right to be.

I never bring that anger with me to campus. I am polite and on time and I smile at everyone because I am genuinely really pleased to interact with everybody. It's one of the reasons I've been rehired so often.

But facts are still facts and relying on course-to-course adjuncts to staff entire programs as a way to save money and just because you can get away with it is not an equitable to deal with your workforce. It's not a good way to run a business. And I don't like that it's all the work I can get in my field at the moment, which is why I'm frustrated. It really have very little to do with shame.

Doctor Pion said...

Arghh. Blogger ate my coherent set of thoughts, so incoherence will have to do. Or you will see two versions of the same thoughts. Whatever.

I found the remark in the first comment -- that I think it is important for you to know when ... what you say feels counterproductive -- quite fascinating. Consider the possibility that there is something to learn from the cognitive dissonance between "feels" counterproductive to you and yet "feels" productive to someone lucky enough to have the exact sort of SLAC job you might once have dreamed of.

My advice is that no advice will guarantee that sort of job. You might get lucky, but you might get luckier elsewhere. There are tenure track jobs at financially secure colleges in towns you don't even know exist. People don't apply because they think there is no culture in any college town except the one they know best and because it isn't their dream job.

Stop dreaming.

PS - If you think faculty make financial decisions for the college or give themselves raises or set the pay of adjuncts, it is time for a course in College Structure 101. Ditto if you think every "professor" I had back in those golden days of yore was actually on the tenure stream.

Anonymous said...

A as complete outsider, I think the idea that there is one way to adjunct or one way move to a tenure-track position is fascinating.

In my field we have a class filter (the unpaid internship) that is controversial; the idea is that you only do one or two and that you learn something useful to you and that you make contacts, etc. But a lot of the same discussion occurs around exploitation, what you can expect from unpaid labour etc.

Maybe because of that, everything else - freelance, part-time contract, full-time, etc. - is highly individual to the company/institution and usually spelled out in contracts.

What I'm getting is that at Zenith, there are one-year contracted pros who treat their full time jobs as 3/4 time. That's not cool. But advice to them will be different than someone who's effectively picking up a bunch of small one-off commitments.

T said...

"If you think faculty make financial decisions for the college or give themselves raises or set the pay of adjuncts, it is time for a course in College Structure 101." - Dr Pion

Clearly not, but faculty are the only ones (if there is anyone) who are in a position to demand meaningful transformations to the workplace. Faculty should unionize where they are not and they should be working towards (re?)establishing workplace justice. This is happening in some places. My local has won collective bargaining representation for summer and winter instructors recently, and adjuncts (real adjuncts) are more highly paid here than anywhere else I know.
The thing is, this isn't about some magnanimous reaching down from above to help the little people. This sort of organizing is in all faculties interest.

But! As a contingent laborer, you also need to be able to get through your day to day life, hopefully improving your chances for future success, which I think is more what the op was about. They are related, but not identical issues.

I'm in the process of trying to set that deadline myself. I will be in the last year of my grad program next year, on the market in the fall, and I need to start deciding what it's all worth. I didn't get into this gig to teach, I did it to research, so adjuncting as more than a keep-it-together option doesn't even make sense (note: I really like teaching, but I didn't need a PhD to do that).

Hmm. This conversation depresses me.

T said...


Unknown said...

I think you're on to something Anon 8:22. The problem, though, at least if I understand your point correctly, is that the person who only gives 3/4ths of an effort, while ethically in the wrong, from a professional standpoint is probably taking a shrewd and intelligent tack.

The game for a VAP, if played correctly, is to maintain the appearance of dedication and commitment, all the while cutting whatever corners one can manage to cut in order to do what really counts toward the ultimate goal, which is a tenure track job. And what counts is writing and publishing.

The scenario TR describes in which someone commutes on a weekly basis while maintaining a residence 100 miles away, however practical it may be, fails to meet the standard. One cannot maintain the appearance of dedication and commitment while commuting weekly.

But at the same time, perhaps keeping up the appearance no longer matters. If the VAP can manage to churn out some publications during the term of the appointment, the ends may well justify the means.

People have been commenting on the disappearance of loyalty in the corporate world for a long time now. Company's no longer invest in their employees; to move up the ladder, people have to jump ship and go elsewhere. This is very much the case in higher education. And it seems that a newer, younger generation of recent Ph.D.'s are now hip to this fact, albeit to the dismay and disdain of the tenured class.

The thing is, this is the world the tenured class that preceded TR's generation inadvertently helped make. When they began to eschew administration, they basically handed off the administrative function to an entirely new,non-academic administrative class whose orientation was corporate not academic.

C'est la vie, c'est domage ... (?)

Unknown said...

Christopher says:

The scenario TR describes in which someone commutes on a weekly basis while maintaining a residence 100 miles away, however practical it may be, fails to meet the standard. One cannot maintain the appearance of dedication and commitment while commuting weekly.

Any number of tenure-track and ultimately tenured faculty in commuter relationships commute that far weekly.

Tenured Radical said...

I think he meant daily.

Anonymous said...

My question is, do commuters really not work full time? I've worked with a lot of commuters and I have also been one, and nobody worked less than full time, when they were full time, because of commuting. Right now one of our deans and one of my immediate colleagues both commute 50 miles each way. I've commuted as much as 80. I've honestly never observed commuters to not do work. I've often heard people voice concerns that it was a potential problem but as I say, that problem has never materialized, at least not for me. Am I weird?

T said...

"When they began to eschew administration, they basically handed off the administrative function to an entirely new,non-academic administrative class whose orientation was corporate not academic.

C'est la vie, c'est domage ... (?)"

Ding! Ding! Ding!

Anonymous said...

~rolls eyes~

I'm a full time, non-tenure lecturer. On my campus, that makes me something other than an adjunct. While I am not especially well paid, at least I have a multi-year contract and benefits. Most of the time, I have very good relationships with my tenure-track colleagues. Maybe that's because, on this campus, non-tenure faculty make up about half of the instructional staff. We simply cannot be ignored.

I do get annoyed sometimes with a few of my tenure-track colleagues who make assumptions about why anyone would accept such a position (uh, because the job market sucks and I'm tied to my geographic location by family circumstances). And I get annoyed with a few who also assume that I should be *more* involved on campus than they are, under the premise that contingent faculty had better never utter the word "no." Everybody needs to set some boundaries.

This is not to say I'm uninvolved - I'm typically one of a very small handful of faculty (of whatever status) who do advising, participate in new student orientations, serve as faculty sponsor for student clubs, etc, etc, etc.

But, as mentioned above, I get paid crap. And since I teach in the neighborhood of a large public R1, affordable family housing that isn't a student slum is a challenge. So I live further away and I suck it up and commute more than an hour each way. That means I'm not usually willing to attend a lot of evening activities on campus because I don't want to be driving home at midnight. Some people might see that as a lack of dedication; I see that as maintaining sanity and making necessary sacrifices.

If the University folks want me on call 24-7, then perhaps they can do what some foreign universities do, and provide all faculty with on-campus housing.

PS: our adjuncts (part timers) are paid so poorly that many of them qualify for food stamps. This is for people who are teaching a 3/4 or 4/5 load. Most TT faculty don't know this. Not to say that TT faculty are the cause of this state of affairs though, and certainly not the enemy.

Knitting Clio said...

This problem is not limited to those on visiting appointments. There's a noted case of a tenure-track professor at the University of Massachusetts who was denied tenure because she refused to live in Amherst (I heard her say she "didn't like cows" at a reception at Radcliffe), so she was seldom on campus outside of class.

On the other hand, my colleagues in art, music, and theater are expected to engage in creative activity in their respective fields. This usually means performing or having juried exhibits in New York and other major cities. Somehow they manage to cram this in around a 4/4 teaching load. How the manage to do this is beyond imagining.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, and it would be a totally rational response on MY part to fire YOUR sorry a$$ for putting in minimal time for the actual job I had hired YOU to do. "

Whoa. TR, if this is really how you feel, then you are MUCH more anti-labor than most tenured profs I know. I mean, your whole premise, that the only possible reason that some adjuncts are on campus a minimal amount of time is because they're spoiled, childish princesses is just baffling in its condescension.

At any rate, my impression is that it's usually the hypermobiles who are the real spoiled princesses. Usually the only reason they can afford the hypermobility is because they're doing it on the family dime. And it takes a certain careerist narcissism to be willing to ditch one's local relationships at a moment's notice.

Anonymous said...

"Yes, and it would be a totally rational response on MY part to fire YOUR sorry a$$ for putting in minimal time for the actual job I had hired YOU to do. "

Whoa. TR, if this is really how you feel, then you are MUCH more anti-labor than most tenured profs I know. I mean, your whole premise, that the only possible reason that some adjuncts are on campus a minimal amount of time is because they're spoiled, childish princesses is just baffling in its condescension.

At any rate, my impression is that it's usually the hypermobiles who are the real spoiled princesses. Usually the only reason they can afford the hypermobility is because they're doing it on the family dime. And it takes a certain careerist narcissism to be willing to ditch one's local relationships at a moment's notice.

Anonymous said...

Actually, TR, what you suggested I wish was, in fact, a rule. When I was a grad student at the university where I currently teach, all the faculty in my department lived nearby; now that I am on the faculty myself, I am the only one who does. Never see them Mondays or Fridays, and guess what, they all want to do their teaching on Wednesdays after the train arrives from New York at 11 am. Rest of the week? Guess it's my problem.

Unknown said...

This is along response. I'm going to have to post it in installments.

Looking back over this thread as well as TR's original post(s), I think it's clear she was caught in a confusion of terms. She used the word 'adjunct' in a generic sense to refer to any and all non-tenure track or tenured faculty. C'mon people, this can be forgiven. Moreover, it may arise from her specific institutional experience. And what I mean by that is institutions will often utilize their own nomenclature to designate non-tt faculty appointments. Put more pejoratively, institutions may often play fast and loose with their nomenclature in order to elide the existence of a vast under-class of faculty appointments. But that kind of move is another matter and probably one that deserves its own separate consideration.

Again, as I look back over the posts and the thread, I think TR was speaking of a very specific and arguably narrow kind of hire. Simply put, she was speaking of the newly minted Ph.D. who failed to get a tt position during the hiring season and instead gets a one-year VAP appointment. And let me be clear. BY VAP I mean a full-time Visiting Assistant Professorship, which is based on a one-year terminal contract, and which provides a full-time salary (usually around $40k give or take) along with health benefits.

I agree with everyone else that this is not an 'adjunct' position according to the standard usage of the term 'adjunct'. The 'adjunct' category refers to those of us who work as college instructors who are paid on a per-class, per-semester basis. More to the point, the rate of pay per class is quite often only 1/3rd or 1/2 of the rate paid per class to both VAPS and tt faculty -- and of course, these positions provide no health benefits or job security of any kind.

She fucked up the terminology. That's it. Let's move on.

I actually think the more interesting, and debatable aspect of her argument concerns whether the VAP should be in residence at the institution at which they have been hired for the year. As I read her, I take it that she thinks they should. (correct me if I'm wrong, TR) That said, I doubt she gives a rat's ass what they do on their weekends.

Unknown said...

At one level, I think she makes a compelling case when she speaks of the scholarly benefits for a young Ph.D. that may come from being in residence. (can we leave aside the issue of personal romantic relationships and commuting couples for now?) However, in my view TR's argument is compelling only to the extent that said scholarly benefits will in fact lead to an eventual tt position (most likely elsewhere) during the next round of hiring. And there's the rub.

As for scholarly benefit for its own sake? Fuck that. Color me cynical, but in the present job climate, scholarly benefit for its own sake for someone not yet appointed to a tt position is an antiquated luxury. (I suspect TR and I may disagree on this, but I'm not sure) For me, and for most recent Ph.D.'s (to disclose, I am not a recent Ph.D., I got mine in 1999) the word 'benefit' in the phrase 'scholarly benefit' means one thing and one thing only: a tt job.

Many may bemoan this. TR may bemoan this. But it's reality.

So the question comes down to what kind of commitment should the person appointed to the VAP position make to the institution offering the position? On this, I think TR (and Historiann) have been clear. They both seem to feel that the minimal commitment is that the person given the VAP position ought to move to the city or town where the institution offering the job is located. Fair enough.

The more I think about the question, the more I realize I disagree. Or at least, I think there are some other factors and considerations that ought to be included in the overall equation. Location is certainly one of them. However, for me, location in this instance has noting to do with condescension toward rural areas versus metropolitan ones. Location has to do with the very real and very likely possibility that after the one-year term for which the VAP was hired is over, the VAP may find hirself jobless in Bumblefuck. And as I said earlier, being jobless in Bumblefuck is a very different matter than being jobless in, say, Chicago, or Boston, or even Denver.

I live in a major metropolitan area and I am a 'career' adjunct. (I use that word laughingly) Personally, were I offered a one-year VAP in an isolated or rural location 200 miles away from where I currently live, I would decline the offer. Now if they up-ed the offer to, say, two or even three year, I might reconsider. Might. Although honestly, at my age etc., I doubt I would give up my bird in the hand (a variety of semi-reliable adjunct gigs) for the proverbial two in the bush.

Now, were I 27 or 32 or even 35-years old, and just out of grad. school, I might feel differently. But at the same time, given the reality of academic hiring, I might not, especially if where I went to grad. school is located in a major metro area and where I was ofered the VAP was in Bumblefuck. So yes, I do understand why the 32-year old who's just completed hir PH.D. might balk at the VAP position in Bumblefuck.

But the reasons have nothing to do with cafe-society or other metropolitan amenities. (at least for me) I come back to what I said before. Being jobless in Bumblefuck is a scary proposition; being jobless in Chicago is less so, if only because there's a good likelihood that I could find adjunct work there. I doubt there's much adjunct work in Bumblefuck. (yes, yes, I realize there's adjunct work everywhere, but you folks do get my point, I know you do)

Unknown said...

I realize many reading this have taken VAP positions that required them to move 200, or 500, or even 1000 miles from their starting points. To paraphrase Frank O'Hara, 'bully for you'. And it worked out for many of you. Again, hallelujah! What I think you folks need to realize, though, is that the ground has shifted vastly and in this day and age, you are the exceptions not the rule. The odds are that the VAP is going to end up in the adjunct pool after their year-long sojourn not the tt one.

good enough cook said...

Christopher, you might be interested in a related conversation taking place chez New Kid on the Hallway: http://newkidonthehallway.typepad.com/new_kid_on_the_hallway/2011/04/an-observation-which-is-really-choosing-a-side-because-yes-i-think-there-are-sides.html

Bright-eyed and Bushy-tailed said...

Wow. Well, I've never posted here before, and I tend to shy away from conversations about how impossible it is to get a TT job (since I'm one of the apple-cheeked, bright-eyed ABDs who is working her ass off adjuncting and writing and conferencing, who just feels like it HAS to pay off, because SO TIRED, OH GOD, etc.).

But listening to all this belly-aching makes me think that maybe I will be the one to get the job. Why? Because I am willing to move to the middle of nowhere, teach a full course load of brand new courses every semester (fourth semester in a row!), sit on committees (despite my lack of security in future years), volunteer to supervise undergraduate thesis work, host departmental parties, be a part of departmental strategizing and planning (despite knowing that I will likely never reap the rewards), and countless other things that most of the commenters on these last two posts seem to think they don't have to do.

I'm plain old grateful that there are a bunch of whining yutzes making it easier for Pollyannas like me to score that elusive job. Keep it up!!!

recent Ph.D. said...

I swore I was going to stay out of this one, but somebody needs to buy me a beer if Bright-eyed and Bushy-tailed is a real person.

TR, I love your blog. I disagree with some of what you said in this post and the other one, but what I'd say has already been covered. I think the conversation has been good for all of us -- that is, if we can come out of it taking each other's perspectives more seriously even when we disagree.

Brian W. Ogilvie said...

@KnittingClio: I'm curious to whom you refer in mentioning this: "There's a noted case of a tenure-track professor at the University of Massachusetts who was denied tenure because she refused to live in Amherst (I heard her say she "didn't like cows" at a reception at Radcliffe), so she was seldom on campus outside of class."

I've been at UMass Amherst (in History) since 1997 and I haven't heard the story. Please tell--who is it? We have an active faculty union, and living in Amherst is not one of the standards for tenure. My colleague Heather Cox Richardson was commuting from the Boston area when she got tenure. I myself was living in Middlebury, Vermont, where my wife taught, and keeping a two-room apartment in Amherst when I got tenure in 2003. (For those who don't know New England geography, I had a 3-hour commute each way, mostly on two-lane country roads.)

However, I knew when I decided to start commuting that I should not use the commute as an excuse to skip department meetings, refuse committee service, or refuse to meet with a student whose schedule conflicted with the days I was normally on campus. If that meant spending an extra night or two on campus, so be it. I even drove down several times the night before a snowstorm only to wake up to find the campus was closed. But that was one of the tradeoffs I accepted.

If someone can commute without harm to their teaching and institutional service, that's great. If their commute causes such harm--or serves as an excuse for such harm--then the results, not the commute per se, can and should be considered in tenure or reappointment decisions. The principle applies whether we're talking about a tenure case or rehiring or reappointing a contingent or probationary faculty member. Being "seldom on campus outside of class" suggests that the person was shirking on office hours, committee work, etc., but without knowing more I can't judge whether I'm right.

And @Chris: "As for scholarly benefit for its own sake? Fuck that. Color me cynical...." Really? If scholarship is a reason you went into the profession, why shouldn't it matter? When I was commuting, you know what suffered? My scholarship. I was spending 6 hours each week driving and another 2-3 hours each week maintaining a second home (shopping, cleaning, cooking). My teaching and service didn't suffer, but my reading and writing did.

If you're a recent Ph.D. and don't have many possessions, the cost of renting a truck, putting your stuff in it, and moving to Bumblefuck, then moving back to LA/Cambridge/NYC/wherever afterwards, may well be worth it in terms of having the uninterrupted time in between to do scholarly work and get it published.

And finally, those of us who grew up in places like Kalamazoo, Mich., and who have lived in places like Oxford, Ohio (only 20 miles from Hamilton!) and Amherst, Mass., often bristle when people characterize any place that has fewer than a million residents as "Bumblefuck." It is possible to enjoy life in such places. And the cost of living is a lot less (well, except for Amherst).

Anonymous said...

To commute or not? It all depends on your personality. I like putting some distance between me and work. I practice my classes for the day driving in, so I hit the ground running, and decompress listening to news on the way home, so I arrive refreshed. I don't spend less time on campus than others.

Right now I don't have that kind of distance between work and home and I think it's sort of bad for my work.

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a tenured radical. You all should retire, immediately.

Tenured Radical said...

@Anonymous 4:21 -- there's an original idea. You should start applying for administrative jobs.

The title if the blog is ironic, dear heart.

Contingent Cassandra said...

I think Christopher nailed it, both about the terminology confusion, and about the reasons for thinking twice about moving to a place with fewer job opportunities for a one-year gig. I'd also add that most landlords inquire very carefully into tenants' finances when first renting out a place, but not at all thereafter as long as the rent is paid. Being out of work *and* needing to move is not a good combination, and it's a real possibility for a VAP who has relocated to a one-college town for a year. Of course, it does mean that those who are especially brave (or who have family, friends, or partners who will allow them to store stuff and move in for a while if necessary) will have a better chance to take advantage of what may, indeed, be quite good non-centrally-located VAP positions. It's just that such positions are a gamble, and not everybody can afford to, or chooses to, gamble (and those who really need the work are understandably tempted to try to maximize the gains while minimizing the risks).

Going back to the original post, I strongly endorse the idea that "getting your foot in the door" is not a reason to take a visiting job. I was never misled by a hiring department, but was encouraged by well-meaning advisers to take a position in a department that would soon be hiring over a more secure full-time contingent one. It wasn't good advice.

I also commuted an hour each way to a college on the outskirts of a major metropolitan area for some time: a half-year and another full year of VAP (full time) work, plus a number of part-time semesters, over the course of 5 years. This college couldn't find enough adjuncts/VAPs in their immediate area, but knew there was a good supply within longer commuting distance, and so bowed to reality and paid a transportation allowance to those traveling more than a certain distance. I even heard mention of a guest house/bunk house that was available by prearrangement and in emergencies, though I never used it. Those strike me as a viable approaches -- and good alternatives to complaining about the habits of long-distance commuters -- though ones that are less likely to be offered in the current job climate.

Anonymous said...

I'm one of those who sacrificed so much by following all rules -- move anywhere, don't marry or have kids, be very very good and virtuous, never take an extra job, always publish in very safe places, etc., etc., that I sort of lost myself. Separated from everything I enjoyed and loved, and sacrificing, sacrificing, sacrificing, I lost the will to live; this did not help my publication record or the profession very much.

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