While I am not fond of university administrators as a class, like most people’s relationship with their Congressman, I am very supportive of my university’s President, Lesley Di Mare. I am also impressed by CSU-Fort Collins President, Tony Frank, who I know from his three month stint as the dual President of CSU-Fort Collins and Pueblo a few years ago. This only makes me admire him more:
The university already has made significant strides in supporting adjunct faculty in the last couple of years, such as supporting a legislative bill that allows the university to offer multi-year contracts to non-tenured teaching and research faculty, and creating a new committee on campus that represents non-tenure track faculty, Frank said, but more could be done.
“We have ambitious goals for our academic programs at Colorado State, and they cannot be achieved without the full engagement of our adjunct faculty. So in the coming year, I’d like to challenge Provost Miranda and our faculty to take our focus on adjuncts to the next level and continue to make improvements in these core areas,” he said.
I’m not sure I could name another President of any American university who would even mention the phrase “adjunct faculty” unless under threat of death or a work stoppage, let alone put them front and center in his state of the university speech. Yes, Frank still has to put his university’s money where his mouth is, but this is a necessary first step. It is a win-win for everyone involved.
Just yesterday, I got asked the question, “Why do you care about adjuncts so much?” My answer was that even if I’m not in a trade union, I believe in solidarity. If that’s not cynical enough for you, then how about this?: There but for the grace of God go I. I care about adjunct labor because that could have been me, and still could be me if permanent austerity remains permanent.
But don’t think this is all about survivor’s guilt. What’s good for adjuncts is good for the tenured too. Contrary to a recent insane study, it only makes sense that happier teachers teach better, and a living wage makes people happy.
So do better working conditions for professors of all kinds. While I thought that Reason 91 from the anonymous genius behind 100 Reasons NOT to go to Grad School is more than a little elitist, it accurately describes the effects of the forces that created contingent labor face in the first place:
Of course, if you have the good fortune of being hired for a faculty position, you’ll likely have a better paycheck than you had in grad school. However, it’s just as likely that your new institution (where you may spend the rest of your career) will have lower standards, a greater number of ill-prepared students, fewer resources, and less name recognition than the university at which you completed your graduate work. That last item (name recognition) may sound trivial, but in a business in which prestige is so important, the status of your institution can strongly influence both your sense of self-worth (see Reason 25) and your quality of life. Moreover, your professional identity becomes closely associated with the institution at which you work. For almost every graduate student contemplating an academic career, there is a real sense in which the view forward is a view downward. There are people with Harvard PhDs teaching in Lubbock, Bakersfield, and Tuscaloosa. Where might a PhD take you?
No administration will ever fix the problems of the tenure track folks in Lubbock, Bakersfield and Tuscaloosa as long as there’s a giant adjunct pool willing to replace them at the drop of a hat. [I actually saw this argument made explicitly over at Edububble the other day.] Increasing adjunct pay is not just the right thing to do, it is also the self-interested thing to do because it improves the value of teaching in general, which (as if anybody actually needed to be reminded) is a task that falls to the tenure track and non-tenure track alike.