Sunday, February 14, 2010

Diversity or Fragmentation?

Thanks to a fellow Adjunct Nation list member for this: it seems adjunct life has finally hit the big time -- the January 31 business section! Whether we should cheer or not is a matter of perspective: is the diversity of paths beaten to the doors of our shared academic limbo a strength or a weakness? Can anyone take our professional status seriously if it's advertised as a "fall-back plan" for hard times?

The article, by Phyllis Korkki, is entitled "Back to School, as an Adjunct," and, in a nutshell, it promotes the dictum "he who can't, teaches" as the latest recession survival strategy. Korkki states, "Becoming a teacher can be rigorous and time-consuming, but at the college level, part-time teaching is a realistic option for some professionals. Postsecondary schools are often willing to be flexible about academic credentials in return for real-world expertise" (emphasis mine).

So, any professional can be a teacher these days--and the market agrees, according to Korkki: "The need for part-time professors, known as adjuncts, is high right now. Education is one of the few areas of the economy that has been expanding, partly because so many of the unemployed are returning to school." Again, we can look at this positively or not, which is just what the "Letters to the Editor" in response to Korkki's story do. One letter touts the adjunct life as a Baby Boomer's dream, " ideal encore career." Another letter (my personal favorite) decries the "casualization of the academic labor market," suggesting American universities are slipping off the international pedastal with the shift away from tenure-track positions (a trend more or less lumped in with the increase of adjunct hiring). Will reducing our job profile and expectations to something "any professional" can do help adjunct professionals have a coherent voice out there? Or will it fragment us even further?

Please share your thoughts!


  1. The Gray Lady is slow off the mark. That particular meme has been out there making the rounds for some time now. At least 3 a day hit my news reader.

  2. I looked at the survey and found that only a few questions were applicable. Could you do a separate survey for ONLINE adjuncts?

  3. Thanks for the heads-up, VirtualProf. I will plan to do a survey for online adjuncts, but I'd need some input from those who've been there. Any suggestions for relevant issues?