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Are You an Adjunct by Choice or Circumstance?

  • A is for Adjunct

    Over seventy percent of the teaching faculty in higher education in the United States are part time, contract employees. They are eligible to teach only a limited number of classes, at a much lower pay rate than their full-time, tenure track colleagues, and mostly without benefits and with very little power in their departments or institutions. But that isn’t really the whole picture. Not every contingent college instructor is looking for an academic career. What follows is a quick set of overgeneralizations and stereotypes that perhaps give the big picture.

    Many adjuncts are people who want to be professional academics. These are people who spent years and studied, wrote and earned advanced degrees in order to pursue academic jobs. They often don’t have other income, and might be loaded with debt from school. They may even be making less as an adjunct than they did as a grad student. They adjunct because they want to be on the tenure track and this is the best they can do for now. They continue, semester after semester, year after year, in the hope that someone will give them that tenure track opportunity that they have worked so hard to achieve.

    However that’s not the whole story, many adjunct faculty members are teaching courses as a sideline, as a hobby, or a way to earn a few extra bucks. They may want to boost their resumes (Some don’t have CVs.) and gain credibility in their fields, and perhaps find potential new employees. They may be retirees with a pension, or full-time professionals in their fields who just want to share what they know by providing the benefit of their real world experiences to students.

    In the massive amount of time I spend trying to learn more about all facets of working in higher education in order to build a better Profology, (Join your colleagues here now!) I frequent various groups and boards throughout the online universe and it seems that neither group really knows too much about the other. Those who wish to be on the tenure track, are appalled when the adjuncts by choice say things like “if you don’t like it, find another job.” and the adjuncts by circumstance don’t seem to understand why the “choicers” aren’t angrier about pay and benefits. It appears that the “choicers” are less concerned about issues of how much respect they get from their full time colleagues and their institutions.

    I think that by knowing each others stories and situations, whether we are adjuncts by choice or circumstance, or on the tenure track, or whether we are school staff or administrators, we can better understand each other and improve not only our particular situations, but higher education itself.

    Are you an adjunct by choice or circumstance? Please tell your story here.


  • Vanessa Vaile
    Vanessa Vaile A significant distinction and another collecting point.for stories.. the more the better as long as we link them to make a bigger node. I'll repost the call on the NewFac Adjunct Stories Tumblr,
    June 26, 2013 - 1 likes this
  • Robert  Ostrow
    Robert Ostrow I have said this in a blog before, that if you are going to teach as an adjunct instructor, you must have supplementary income. Let us be realistic, the full time professor, is not going to give you their job. As a well known professor once told me, you a...  more
    May 18, 2015