Some years back, faculty activists started talking about adjuncts as "freeway flyers" to reflect how they had to drive from campus to campus. Cyrus Duffleman is an abused adjunct, but he's not worried about exceeding the speed limit as he moves from one campus to another to another on his "long day" -- the day on which all of the various teaching and tutoring jobs he has landed require him to be present.
Just about any discussion of academic hiring these days, after the natural focus on the tight market, tends to come around to the issue of "dual career" hires or "partner accommodations." Most colleges say that they take the issue seriously and work hard to find positions for the partners of those being recruited. But what's the right way to do so?
A steady stream of reports from faculty groups warns of the consequences of having too large a share of sections taught by adjuncts. Many of those reports also say that colleges take advantage of part-time instructors, failing to provide them with adequate salaries and benefits -- or with the prospect of full-time employment. Based on these ideas, the major faculty unions and also many disciplinary groups have called for colleges to hire more full-timers and have them teach more courses -- while also providing part-timers both with better compensation and with more respect.
Last year, a small community college in Michigan considered a plan to stop employing adjuncts and to have a temporary services agency instead do the formal hiring. The idea was to save the college money and also to save the adjuncts from contributing to a retirement system in which few of them would ever vest.
I’m sick. And I don’t mean sniffles and tickle in my throat. I mean swallowing pitchforks and a jackhammer on the brain. That kind of sick. The doctor calls it strep throat. I call it hell on earth.
In this state, in this death-bed existence, I feel lucky.
I have written a lot about unfair pay for adjunct faculty, or how they aren’t included enough in most departments. These are all important issues, but I think I’m overlooking one of the biggest problems in the adjunct profession: health benefits.
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