Friday, October 17, 2014

Adjunct Instructor: ‘I was practically giving my work away. It was charity.’

In These Times
October 15th, 2014


For three years in the early 1970s, journalist Studs Terkel gathered stories from a variety of American workers. He then compiled them into Working, an oral-history collection that went on to become a classic. Four decades after its publication, Working is more relevant than ever. Terkel, who regularly contributed to In These Times, once wrote, “I know the good fight—the fight for democracy, for civil rights, for the rights of workers—has a future, for these values will live on in the pages of In These Times.” In honor of that sentiment and of Working's 40th anniversary, ITT writers have invited a broad range of American workers to describe what they do, in their own words. More "Working at 40" stories can be found here.
In the 1970s, communications professor Jack Hunter told Studs Terkel that his was an “invisible industry.” “Since the Second World War,” Hunter explained, “We’ve had phenomenal growth. There are seven-thousand-plus strong teachers in this discipline.” The centrality of communication and persuasion to human society meant that “communications specialists do have a sense of power,” said Hunter. He was “high on the work.”
Forty years later, Maria (a pseudonym), who until recently taught English composition classes at a Texas community college, similarly describes her work as invisible. But she does not have the same sense of power—as an adjunct professor, she says that she is treated as disposable, even though her work teaching incoming students communication skills is still just as crucial. Maria says that drastic changes have occurred in higher education since Hunter’s day—most notably, tenure-track faculty now constitute just 24 percent of the higher education workforce, according to the American Association of University Professors.

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