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


2 thoughts on “Adjunct Professors

  1. Darth Brady-
    I ‘m glad to see this subject brought up. As a perpetual student it seems, I’ve often been super impressed by what I have learned fro adjuncts, and I know my wife totally agrees. Her most influential prof at her biz grad school was the sort of uber-adjunct, the professional in residence. He was a former VP of a Fortune 500 for HR. I can’t speak with any sort of study to back me up but from my experience it seems like the adjuncts I’ve had in B-school have been the most desirable – they have direct professional experience that related to what we were learning more than say the Latin prof…
    My current grad school was threatened with the revocation of their AACSB accreditation, and in order to keep it, to meet the “required” PhDs in residence, they threw their adjuncts overboard. I lost a lot of direct contact with pros in my field(MSIS).

  2. I don’t see why you would be upset with the Dean for his admitted liberal bias. You are a committed right-winger and choose to blog as often as possible on why you are right and the rest of the world is wrong (or left, as you would put it).

    I skim the dean’s blog once in a while but frankly, the topics don’t capture my interest as much as others do.

    Regarding this topic, I have to say I have been schooled in several learning environments – two year colleges when I was trying to decide what to do early in my education, an outstanding university known for its excellence in Communications (Columbia), a renowned International University (UBA in Buenos Aires), and an online university since I am a perpetual student ( Capella) where more often than not I will take a professional course here and there.

    Frankly, my best college experience, believe it or not, was the two year college I attended. Many of the people I went to school with claim the same type of experience. Now, admittedly, I went to one of the best (if not the best) two year colleges in the country (Miami Dade Community College’s Wolfson Campus) before moving abroad. But the passion the faculty had for teaching was simply unmatched. I can’t say that for the rest of the institutions I attended.

    So… to address the point of your post directly, whether adjunct or not, the importance is how much the facilitator (read “teacher”, “professor” “whatever”) puts into his craft. He can do it at a two year, he can do it at an Ivy League. I assure you kids at Harvard University don’t necessarily get a better education than someone at another University. I have plenty of clients that are Harvard educated, and frankly their level of conversation is no more profound than someone who attended University of Miami, Pepperdine or Cal Tech.

    Plus, it’s not like professors at these other universities say “Oh no, I can’t teach you that. You have to go to Yale for that.”

    The college experience is all about who is teaching the courses and how. Professors all work off the same books. What differentiates them are not the institutions, or what point in their careers you find them in when you sign up for a course ; it’s their passion for the art they have chosen to indulge in – that of teaching.

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