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'The Great Shame of Our Profession' How the humanities survive on exploitation

ZinheadZinhead Registered User Posts: 2,366 Senior Member
For those whose kids are interested in pursuing a career as a humanities professor, read the following article and be warned. From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

http://www.chronicle.com/article/The-Great-Shame-of-Our/239148/
Tenured faculty represent only 17 percent of college instructors. Part-time adjuncts are now the majority of the professoriate and its fastest-growing segment. According to the 2014 congressional report, adjuncts’ median pay per course is $2,700. An annual report by the American Association of University Professors indicated that last year "the average part-time faculty member earned $16,718" from a single employer. Other studies have similar findings. Thirty-one percent of part-time faculty members live near or below the poverty line. Twenty-five percent receive public assistance, like Medicaid or food stamps.

One English-department adjunct who responded to the survey said that she sold her plasma on Tuesdays and Thursdays to pay for her daughter’s day care. Another woman stated that she taught four classes a year for less than $10,000. She wrote, "I am currently pregnant with my first child. … I will receive NO time off for the birth or recovery. It is necessary I continue until the end of the semester in May in order to get paid, something I drastically need. The only recourse I have is to revert to an online classroom […] and do work while in the hospital and upon my return home." Sixty-one percent of adjunct faculty are women.

And these are the institutions that demand we pay $50,000+ a year in tuition.
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Replies to: 'The Great Shame of Our Profession' How the humanities survive on exploitation

  • MassDaD68MassDaD68 Registered User Posts: 1,254 Senior Member
    edited February 14
    Wow. What an eye opener. My experience with the business schools has been that many teachers are merely moonlighting. They were CPA's teaching a grad school tax class or an undergrad accounting class. You had other business professionals teaching classes also. But those are business school classes.

    It never occurred to me that many professors teaching the other humanities classes were poor and receiving public assistance. Wow. Almost speechless.

    And yes. Totally nuts they they want us to pay $50K/year for tuition alone.
  • GoNoles85GoNoles85 Registered User Posts: 781 Member
    Interesting topic. I have plenty of thoughts to share on it. I will post when I am not in class.
  • HuntHunt Registered User Posts: 26,734 Senior Member
    I have mixed feelings about this. I think a fair number of adjuncts are moonlighting out of interest, and not for the pay (in fact, I've done it myself). I think a lot of these younger adjuncts are clinging to a remote hope that they'll eventually get a tenure-track position somewhere, and that has gotten extremely difficult--in part, it seems, because colleges have begun to use so many adjuncts in order to save money.
  • PetraMCPetraMC Registered User Posts: 136 Junior Member
    "Wow. What an eye opener. My experience with the business schools has been that many teachers are merely moonlighting."

    Was this recent, @MassDaD68 ? Because IME the situation has become much worse over the last 5-10 years, especially in public universities.

    As a parent, it's one of the stats you should look at when researching schools. When the %age of adjunct professors is very high, ask some questions.
  • ZinheadZinhead Registered User Posts: 2,366 Senior Member
    Wow. What an eye opener. My experience with the business schools has been that many teachers are merely moonlighting.

    Business adjuncts differ from humanities adjuncts because typically business instructors can make considerably more money working outside of academia. The business adjuncts I know who teach do it for various reasons including prestige, professional advancement, recruiting or just for the diversion. Teaching is not their primary source of income.

    The ability of humanities adjuncts to get paying jobs outside of academia that are pertinent to their academic backgrounds is much more limited.
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 60,430 Senior Member
    edited February 14
    Re #1, #3, #6, #7

    The difference is that the moonlighting adjuncts in business, engineering, CS, law, etc. are in a position where it is choice for them to do it out of interest or professional advancement, but they would be perfectly fine without such jobs, since they have a more favorable non academic job market to work in for their main source of income. There are far more non academic jobs for someone with a PhD in CS than for someone with a PhD in English.
  • OHMomof2OHMomof2 Registered User Posts: 9,329 Senior Member
    edited February 14
    @PetraMC As a parent, it's one of the stats you should look at when researching schools. When the %age of adjunct professors is very high, ask some questions.

    It was an important piece of the puzzle for us in choosing a college,along with student-faculty ratio and other measures of academic quality.

    It seems to me that PhDs in humanities are also able to work in industry if they choose. The skills that they developed critiquing literature or their research in a social science (whatever the humanities are considered to be) should also be applicable to various types of business, government, whatever. Becoming a tenured professor is a difficult level of employment to achieve, apparently, but is it more difficult than a similar level in businesses outside higher education? Could they get that better paying work with only a bachelor degree, or a master's?
  • ucbalumnusucbalumnus Registered User Posts: 60,430 Senior Member
    edited February 14
    OHMomof2 wrote:
    Becoming a tenured professor is a difficult level of employment to achieve, apparently, but is it more difficult than a similar level in businesses outside higher education?

    In many other types of jobs, there is a more gradual gradation of job quality, versus the huge cliff between tenured faculty members with a high degree of employment security and relatively high pay versus adjuncts who are low paid often-part-time temporary employees. To make an economic analogy, academic job quality, at least in fields where there are few non-academic job opportunities for those with PhDs in the field, has a very high Gini coefficient -- i.e. much closer to winner-take-all than many other types of jobs.
    OHMomof2 wrote:
    Could they get that better paying work with only a bachelor degree, or a master's?

    It may be a difficult thing for someone who has invested a large portion of his/her life in PhD study of something to essentially abandon it and look for entry-level generic bachelor's degree jobs.
  • MassDaD68MassDaD68 Registered User Posts: 1,254 Senior Member
    Another thing that I find refreshing about adjunct teachers is that they bring current first hand business knowledge to the classroom. I would think the same would be true to computer teachers. Who the heck wants a tenured computer teacher? I want someone on the cutting edge of technology. Not some guy who will be teaching me some ancient computer language that is barely used anymore. Great if you got a researcher in the field, but honestly how many of them are realistically available to students?

    Those currently employed in the field are the most powerful IMO. I remember taking a summer class one year that was taught by an IRS guy. It was a wonderful class that taught us the procedures as well as the tax law. My wife's accounting classes at night were almost exclusively taught by employed CPA partners. In fact, I recall the university promoting the fact that many of the professors were local industry executives. The not too subtly point being that if your an excellent student you might get a job.

    The world is changing fast and you need the classrooms to be lead by the current leaders in that industry not some ancient guy in an ivory tower.
  • chzbrgrchzbrgr Registered User Posts: 111 Junior Member
    Agreed on all points. Adjuncts have their place, but it is extremely unusual for adjuncts in the humanities to be doing it for any other reason than a desperate attempt to piece together an income after graduate school. It is highly unlikely that they will ever make it onto the tenure track.

    Worth noting that the sciences have a similar but distinct problem, the "postdocalypse". Unlike in the humanities, in the sciences you are expected to do one or more postdocs of a year or two, often moving nationally or internationally between them. The number of faculty positions is radically smaller than the number of postdoc positions.
  • sylvan8798sylvan8798 Registered User Posts: 5,708 Senior Member
    MassDaD68 wrote:
    The world is changing fast and you need the classrooms to be lead by the current leaders in that industry not some ancient guy in an ivory tower.
    While this may be true of courses taught by business people to upper division and grad students, it is the intro courses that are more often taught by adjuncts. And they are ore likely to be ONLY adjuncting rather than moonlighting.
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