Collectively, we university part-time/adjunct faculty members (hereafter called "adjuncts") are a demographic universe unto ourselves. We come from every academic field and carry every degree imaginable. We bring as many goals and approaches towards our teaching lives as there are individuals. Of course, there's a flip side to this incredibly lively diversity: our badly fragmented professional voice. Most academic analysts I've read--not the bean counters--view the very fact of our relentlessly growing numbers (one stat claims we are now 600,000 strong nationwide) as a troubling development. Yet, U.S. white collar employment in general is trending this exact direction: towards more part-time, temporary and contract positions with reduced wages and few, if any, paid benefits. Clearly, universities have just been ahead of the curve--or worse, they've led the way. Whichever it is, it's had a snowball effect on the U.S. middle class and adjunct life isn't likely to get much easier for it.
Many of us never set out to become "career" adjuncts, but then, who would? Yet, being plucked from the ranks of long-time adjunct teaching to fill a full-time position is increasingly rare (having taught for 10+ years hasn't helped my CV any), and part-timing is no longer just a way to "get a taste for teaching" before making the full-time plunge. On the other hand, those who began teaching part-time to supplement their corporate incomes are probably glad they did, given today's unemployment woes: teaching might just be their mainstay, at this point. Unfortunately, that's a heck of a pay cut to swallow.
So, dear colleagues, what are you experiencing today with part-time university teaching? I'm hoping this blog will give us a forum for discussion and collective problem-solving--even for lively, but respectful venting. If you're like me, you don't have much time for meetings and collegiality in the schools you serve, but a "virtual" community is possible from anywhere, anytime, and we've all got stories to tell!
For starters, please take a few minutes to fill in the attached anonymous survey, "Adjuncts in Academia Survey, 2010." I'm asking for your input on this because (in my free time, ha!) I'm conducting a study on adjunct faculty issues for presentation in March. Your thoughts on these matters are more important than anything else I will have to say. Like I said, this is just for starters, though. It's finally occurred to me after years of grousing about working conditions, pay, lack of health care, etc., that it's time to get together for a nationwide chat and feel a little less alone in today's big, ugly working world. Maybe together, we can figure out some solutions!