Re: Relevance?

Michael Cahill (MCBlueline@AOL.COM)
Thu, 8 Feb 1996 13:40:04 -0500

In a message dated 96-02-07 12:57:01 EST, (Ruby
Rohrlich) writes:

>The effects [of the adjunct teacher system] are several. First,
>[adjuncts], mainly women, find it very difficult to live on
>adjunct salaries.... This means there may be a constant turnover of adjunct

>teachers, and it becomes difficult for the individual teacher to gain
>experience in teaching her subject. The more the number of adjunct
>teachers, the fewer the number of full-time teachers, and the decrease in
>this number means the decrease of the power of full-time teachers as a
>body, and perhaps the decrease in the resistance to such budget cuts, and
>to the activity of the legislators in passing them and of the college
>administrators in implementing them. When this is happening throughout
>the nation, it constitutes a very serious form of downsizing with complex

Hello Ruby,

I agree that adjuncts are in a difficult position. Their plight ramifies
throughout the post secondary system, at the same time endangering and
maintaining the status quo at many colleges and universities. The effects of
adjunctancy on the lobbying power of faculties and institutions might well be
an interesting question for activists to explore.

With regard to the part-time system, and the role of women in it, I refer you
and other members of the list to the Spring 1994 issue of the _Anthropology
of Work Review_ edited by Jagna Sharff and Lucie Wood Saunders. If I
remember correctly, someone else on the list has already mentioned this

In that issue, The late Mary G. Edwards does a fine job of building up a
picture by citing the numbers. She notes that since the early 1970s
part-timers have come to constitute about 40 percent of all faculty in the
US. (The _Wilson Quarterly_ recently [Winter 1996] put the total number of
US faculty, full and part-time, at 833,000 people.) According to Ms.
Edwards, as much as twenty percent of teachers work full-time on temporary
contracts with little security of employment.

The statistical profile detailed in Edwards's article appears as follows:
Part-time faculty are 90 percent white, somewhat younger (thirties and
forties) than full-timers, and "have spent a number of years in graduate
training." Many have masters or PhDs, but Edwards speculates that a number of
them are "discouraged workers of the professoriate." The number includes
long-term ABDs lost in the "never-never land" of lengthening doctoral
programs. [WARNING: GRADUATE STUDENTS NOTE WELL: just *had* to put this in
for John Stevens!] More than half of full-timers have PhDs, but only 15
percent of part-timers do. As you go up the tiers from communty colleges
(where nearly half of part-timers are employed) to the big schools, however,
you find that more and more adjuncts have PhDs. That, plus the fact that
graduate students "traveling through" appear to constitute a decreasing
percentage of part-timers suggests the status is becoming more permanent for
many "finished" academics (pardon the phrase), if no more secure.

While Edwards argues that, since the mid-seventies, there has been "serious
erosion" in the wage and job status of all college faculty (she puts the '87
modal faculty income in the $30-40,000 range; that year, 30 percent earned
less than 30 grand, *full-time*), part-timers appear the most vulnerable.
The average part-timer pieces together a living teaching courses that pay
between $1,000-4,000 each. The estimated annual income of an adjunct with a
full teaching load at a certain large public university was between $8-16,000
a year. Full-time faculty salaries for that school averaged $50,000
annually. [Figures for 1989.] Moreover, part-timers at many schools have
lacked health insurance, a real scandal in my view.

According to Edwards, only 27 percent of full time faculty, but more than 43
percent of part-time faculty are women. She suggests that the part-time
ranks are starting to fill up with the increasing numbers of women earning
PHDs who can't get full-time jobs. [Althouth, it should be kept in mind that
more women are also getting full-time positions because there are more women
out there seeking jobs. In fact, the majority of doctorates, Edwards notes,
will soon go to women.] She concludes that the "feminization of academe may
coincide with the larger impoverishment of the profession."

Edwards questions whether women are getting good jobs in proportion to their
numbers and to their academic quality relative to men. She feels that some
of their research, on women or from a feminist viewpoint, is "denigrated as

Howsoever this may be, there appears to be a feeling in certain quarters that
the quality of academic output, generally, is down, and that there's been a
dilution of talent in post secondary education as a whole -- students and
teachers -- at least in the middle reaches and below of academic
institutions. The issue of the _Wilson Quarterly_ I referred to earlier
details the indictment. This is the setup for real downsizing in which whole
departments could be lopped off. Under these "extraordinary" circumstances,
tenure will be no defense.

Complex reverberations indeed. Mike Salovesh, what do you think is going on

Mike Cahill