November 18th, 2014
Most tenure-track and tenured faculty have tremendous empathy for the plight of adjuncts. Aside from a few “lifeboaters” here and there, the prevailing attitude in the academy is a self-aware and very correct “there but for the grace of [favorite deity], go I.”
But when it comes to concrete measures to improve academic labor conditions, many ladder faculty still feel, and not without reason, like their hands are tied. Say, for example, that your department wanted to take a stand and refuse to depend on underpaid part-timers to “cover classes.” The administration could smirkingly take half your courses off the books, and then use “under enrollment” as an excuse to shutter your whole department.
Still, over the past year I’ve come up with a few real measures that professors can take to fight the adjunct tide—like hitting campuses right in their U.S. News rankings or making it abundantly clear to students and parents just how underserved they are by an overreliance on low-paid teachers.