Mammas don’t let your babies grow up to be college professors.

17 11 2012

I’ve spent so much time writing about technology lately that it’s been a long while since I mentioned the farce/tragedy that is adjunct faculty labor. However, Reason 87 of the 100 Reasons NOT to go to graduate school actually applies to all of us:

When the supply of workers exceeds the demand for labor, workers’ wages tend to fall. This is the situation in academe. There are far too many PhDs produced every year for the academic job market to absorb them all (see Reason 55), and universities fill most of their teaching positions with poorly paid graduate students and adjuncts (see Reason 14). While the “glut” of PhDs seems to be slowly attracting more and more attention, it is in fact nothing new. The problem has existed for decades. Unfortunately, there is reason to believe that the situation is getting worse. In January 2010, under the heading “Another Reason to Just Say No to a Ph.D.,” Gabriela Montell posted an informative graph on the Chronicle of Higher Education hiring blog. It was the work of economist Michael Mandel, who used Bureau of Labor Statistics data to determine that the “real earnings for full-time workers with a doctoral degree” had dropped 10% between 1999 and 2008. Looking at these numbers, Mandel concluded, “there’s no sense of a PhD being a desirable degree.”

Does this mean that we’re all doomed to end up like Julia Roberts’ alcoholic community college instructor in “Larry Crowne?” I think everything’s relative.

I was talking to a friend of mine in our business school the other day (who likes me despite the fact that everyone over there things that I’m a dangerous radical). I mentioned that I don’t begrudge him his higher salary because I know how markets work, yet I can’t believe that the pay gap between our disciplines is that big. I think the people who make more in academia should do more to help the people who make less in academia because their exploitation leads society to undervalue teaching in general. Eventually that will come around to bite even the highest paid among us right on the butt.

Even now, are business proffies really happy? After all, half of them secretly want to be Mitt Romney and the other half aren’t so secret about that goal at all. Certainly the adjuncts among us would prefer the terms and conditions of employment of even the lowest paid tenure track art professor than what they probably face now. It’s a recipe for unhappiness all around.

And that’s before we all get replaced by the superprofessors. [You didn't think I could get through a whole post without a MOOC reference, did you?]

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5 responses

17 11 2012
nicoleandmaggie

Help how?
p.s. The only time the business profs I know are unhappy is when they have to deal with business students. I’m not sure I begrudge them their higher salaries and lower class loads in that respect.

17 11 2012
Jonathan Rees

1. Organize. 2. Stop demanding pay raises that match the private sector when adjuncts can’t put food on the table. 3. Teach more classes like the rest of us.

17 11 2012
nicoleandmaggie

Do you really think that the money not paid to business school professor salaries is going to go anywhere remotely like adjunct salaries? At state schools it will go to less money provided from the state government. Also: business school adjuncts are well paid– ours get well over 10K/class. Additionally, if b-school professors teach more classes, doesn’t that mean that there will be fewer jobs for the relatively well-paid adjuncts who teach the classes they don’t? It’s not like b-school professors can take on a comp 101 class. On top of all that, b-schools are generally money makers for the rest of the university. The tuitions they bring in pay for programs in other schools.

I’m not in a b-school, but I’m not getting the logic.

17 11 2012
Anne

The sad state of PhDs in America is a direct contrast to the exalted state of PhDs in Austria. Here everyone who is anyone has a PhD. You can not be taken seriously at any job if you don’t. I think this has something to do with the worship of status and not having nobility since the breakup of the Hapsburg Empire after WWI. They actually do go around calling each other Doctor. It took me awhile to acclimate but I now use my lowly degree, Magister, to identify myself as it really does make a difference how you are treated even in the doctor’s office.

19 11 2012
Breakin’ up is hard to do. « More or Less Bunk

[...] What I know about teaching comes from experience, both as a content provider and from providing individual guidance. I would still be able to use my individual guidance skills if I no longer had the chance to provide content, but it’s my content knowledge that makes me most qualified to teach college. That knowledge, along with the disciplinary skills used to develop it, is what my employer is primarily paying for when they hire me in exchange for my low (but still living) wage. Even if I didn’t have to become a TA in Koller’s world, I could easily be replaced by one which would only force my wages down further than they already are. [...]

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