Adjunct Professors

As the faithful reader no doubt knows, there are a few blogs I regularly visit. The two I picked on the most through the last election cycle, A Liberal Dose, and Pressing the Flesh, have been somewhat absent in their postings of late. PTF has made a couple abortive efforts to, as he puts it, get back into the jump-rope game. I suspect that the liberals have realized that politicians are, well, politicians, and the changes they thought they voted for were simply promises made to get elected. At least PTF has the fortitude to actually go after the democrats for their failings.

But that’s not what this post is about. The other blog that I frequent in the one written by the Community College Dean. He posts nearly every weekday, and while I have often found myself quite frustrated by his own admittedly liberal bias, I still read on. Which brings me to a regular topic of discussion on his blog–the role of adjuncts at Universities, Colleges, and Community Colleges.

In the most recent post Dean Dad (his psuedonym) discusses the possible states of nature that could arise if adjuncts form unions and enter in to collective bargaining agreements. He has regularly bought in to the notion that adjuncts aren’t paid enough, and that it is unfair to adjuncts that they cannot earn a living wage in that role. In addition, many of his readers talk about adjunct positions as a sort of training ground. He wrote back in May 2007 comparing AAA Baseball and students, and faculty. It is a good read, and I commend it to you. In that article, he writes that in baseball AAA teams are a place to learn one’s trade before moving on to the “big league.” He then notes that this analogy is a good one for students wrapping up their 2 years at the community college, but that he “loathe it applied to faculty.” He points out (rightly) that graduate school is, in itself, the minor leagues. (I would argue that so is the tenure process.) He writes that “To add the expectation of years of adjuncting and chair-pleasing before even getting a shot at a full-time job – effectively, yet another level of apprenticeship — strikes me as adding insult to injury.”

Ahh, what about the fact that the analogy is flawed on its face? AAA ball *is* about development. Adjuncting isn’t. As I have written here before, an ‘adjunct’ should be serving the college/university as an additional job to that which they already have. They aren’t there as some sort of “developmental pool.” It is this trend away from adjuncts working a fulltime outside job, and bringing that experience into the classroom, that I personally believe has cheapened the role of adjunct.

I am not sure if there is an appropriate sporting analogy. I mean, softball leagues would be my first thought. You aren’t doing “ball” as your job, but you do it because you love it (or you love beer.) Of course, you don’t bring all that professional “cred” that adjuncts bring to the classroom. Perhaps the best analogy is that of swim coach. Most often the coach was a good to great swimmer themselves when they were younger. They have been there. They have done that. They have the “Cred” that the young swimmers need. They almost all have full time jobs, though (and in my experience almost all have been teachers.) Only a few, the truly “gifted,” go on to be those swim coaches that get to coach full time, for college or national teams. Do you hear Swim Coaches complain that they have to coach for 3 or 4 different teams, and never get that shot at being the “big team” coach? Nope. They know–they UNDERSTAND– that their role is different. Yup. I like this analogy.

*note: editorial changes/additions since first posted 10 Oct 07