April 20th, 2015
In applying for a tenure-track job, I know I need to mention how my research plans fit in with the scholarship of the department’s tenured and tenure-track professors. But should I also talk about how it complements the work done by all of the non-tenure-track instructors in the department -- i.e., those with titles like adjunct, lecturer, or clinical faculty member?
Interesting question, and one that gets to the heart of a fraught issue over the have and have-nots in academia today. It reminds me of a controversial column published last month in The Chronicle by a tenured professor complaining about the role of adjuncts in a failed tenure-track search. Be sure and read it.
In the old days, the quick-and-dirty answer to your question would be: Adjuncts don’t count; don’t mention them. And that would still be true in many departments today. The fact is, even if 70 percent of a department’s courses are being taught by adjuncts, major departmental policy and hiring decisions are still monopolized – in many (and maybe most) places -- by tenured and tenure-track professors. The tenured, of course, make a case that they are the ones with years of past history and future investment in the department, compared with adjuncts and other contingent instructors who come and go.