[Marxism] Adjunct abuse

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Dec 3 07:30:17 MST 2008

Breadth of Adjunct Use and Abuse

The use of adjuncts is well known among academics, but many believe that 
these instructors are utilized primarily in certain areas (such as the 
humanities) or certain types of institutions (such as community 
colleges). But a report being released today by the American Federation 
of Teachers suggests that the breadth and depth of adjunct use is 
greater than many realize — such that they are teaching a majority of 
public college and university courses, and are a major force in a wide 
range of disciplines.

The report — “Reversing Course: The Troubled State of Academic Staffing 
and a Path Forward” — is designed to publicize the extent of adjunct use 
with a mind toward encouraging more colleges to either improve the pay 
they offer adjuncts or shift more of their positions to the tenure 
track. Along those lines, the AFT is releasing a new tool that allows 
colleges to calculate the costs of changing staffing policies. The goal 
is to show that modest changes may be possible — even in tight budget 
years like this one — and that over time, such changes could have a 
meaningful impact on the makeup of faculties and the compensation of 

It has been too easy for administrators to ignore the issue of adjunct 
use as something other than widespread, and this study “debunks” that 
view by focusing not only on numbers of individuals, but courses taught, 
said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, the 
AFT union at the City University of New York, at a briefing on the 
report. Part timers are being used nationwide “in all disciplines” and 
in many cases at “completely non-professional salaries,” Bowen said.

“Most people don’t know the situation,” said Lawrence N. Gold, director 
of higher education at the AFT. He acknowledged that there will be no 
immediate shift from relying on adjuncts to creating tenure-track 
positions. But he said that, if more of the public comes to understand 
what has happened to public higher education, progress can be made. The 
AFT and other faculty groups have argued that while many adjunct 
instructors are great classroom teachers, their working conditions — 
such as lack of office hours, being cut off from curricular decisions, 
being forced to move from campus to campus — result in a reduced quality 
of education, and erode the job security vital for academic freedom.


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