It's been more than a decade since Cary Nelson summed up his views on problems facing higher education in Manifesto of a Tenured Radical. As Nelson would be the first to admit, the issues he identified in that book have not changed -- or at least not in the direction he would want.
In discussions about the use and abuse of adjunct faculty members, "conversion" is a controversial topic. Typically it refers to a decision by a college or university to convert some number of adjunct positions into a number (typically a smaller number) of tenure-track positions. The idea of conversion has been key to the reform proposals of national faculty groups.
When critics question the validity of the calculations U.S. News & World Report uses to rank colleges, one answer the editors of the magazine have given is to note that it publishes not only the total rank, but also data on how colleges perform in the various categories that go into the rankings. So a prospective student who cares more about faculty resources or competitiveness or any other factor can see how colleges do there, and judge accordingly.
Like most of us who work in higher education, I really don’t have the time, or the courage, to be an activist for adjunct faculty rights. But I’m making the time and I’m summoning the courage because I’m not only an adjunct; I’m a parent and a citizen who is concerned — indeed, afraid — for the future of higher education.
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