The Politics of Academia — The Life of an Adjunct Professor

Tonight on PBS Newshour the story of a California adjunct professor, Arik Greenberg, will be discussed.  Also, here is the story posted on the Newshour website and an excerpt:

Adjunct professors now make up half of all college faculties, and 76 percent of instructional positions are filled on a contingent basis, according to the American Association of University Professors’ annual report on the “economic status of the profession.” There’s no starker way to consider adjuncts’ economic status than to hear that they’re paid an average of $2,000-$3,000 per class, with few to no benefits. At SUNY New Paltz, for example, between 1979 and 2008, adjunct pay has fallen 49 percent, while salaries for college presidents have increased 35 percent. The plight of adjuncts — what we’re calling “adjunctivitis” — is the subject on our upcoming Making Sense report.

In Shadow Campus, my debut novel after 9 nonfiction books mostly on workplace politics, one of the lead characters is an adjunct professor. The way he is treated, the feeling of being a second class citizen, low pay despite total commitment to his students are part of the political climate of academia all too familiar to many of our most talented teachers.

Shadow Campus is also a story of a young female professor’s contentious bid for tenure at a university where the emphasis is on “fit” rather than competence.  Her unwillingness to accept this, like Arik’s real-life refusal to accept his plight of “adjunctivitis,” launches a set of events leading to her near demise.  For Meg Doherty the issue, like being an adjunct, is being a woman for whom “fit” is a difficult criteria to define.  It’s fiction with a dose of reality at its core — an insider’s look at the underside of politics — not just in academia but where so many of us work.

I created the character, Rashid because I have worked with so many excellent adjunct professors. They are often better teachers than tenure track faculty. It’s important that colleges and universities reward skill and dedication, provide insurance benefits and pay salaries that reflect quality non-tenure track faculty work. Research would not be possible without the excellent teachers who build university reputations and also make it possible for those who pursue the publication/research route to have the time needed to do so

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