Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"Adjuncting Around"

"The Administrator," a blogger posting from the U.S. northeast at Confessions of a Community College Dean, replies in this post to a series of questions posed by about the hiring process and prospects as they relate to those with a career in adjuncting. The questions refers to himself as having been "adjuncting around" for a significant portion of his career and presents The Administrator with the following questions (somewhat summarized):

Does adjunct experience count for something positive, or does it mark me as a loser? Does it matter to a prospective employer that I have been geographically limited in job my searches by my partner's job? Does it matter to a prospective employer that I once had a tenure-track teaching position at a four-year school but didn't get tenure because I lacked the PhD? Does it matter to a prospective employer that I'm getting kind of old to be doing this adjunct stuff full-time, or does it demonstrate how much I love teaching and working with students?

Perhaps the bottom-line questions are these: Is there such a thing as too much adjunct experience? Is a large accumulation of adjunct experience ever a desirable trait in the hiring process?

The Administrator sets his answer against the backdrop of three factors: academic profile of the institution, geographic location, and the needs of the institution/department at any given time. His answer is rich and insightful – if overly gentle – as he addresses the topics of teaching experience, a degree’s “sell-by” date, the politics/ethics of hiring committees, issues of geographic diversity, age, and the myth of academic meritocracy. Perhaps equally important to note: he offered himself as a resource for further questions.

The post is worth a read – don’t miss the comment.

Happy start of school to all those currently underway!

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Mothering: The Adjunct and the Academy

Tamara over at My Pre-Midlife Crisis is an adjunct professor - has been for a few years now. She describes herself as "a member of the divorce-club, married to my polar opposite, pre-midlife...and feeling the crisis setting in." She and her current husband have apparently just begun to participate with a "pre-adoptive foster parent" program in hope of addressing the difficulties of infertility.

In her recent post Tamara talks about the balancing act she's in making decisions to teach/not to teach, when to teach, how much, and how these decisions weave together (or don't) with other demands on her life and time. Of central concern in working through her decision-making process is her life as a parent. She writes of her recent decision to turn down an offer for teaching a third class: "I said "no" and explained why. I explained that I wanted to spend time with my child. My child. Baby Missing-in-Action. Baby MIA. Baby MIA will need me more than I need the extra money from teaching the second section, and will need the stimulation of a parent more than I need the stimulation of 25 undergrads."

What catches my attention about this post is the wrestling that Tamara is going through to balance the demands of a mother with the demands of an academic life and career development. I know those struggles, even though my own children are grown well into their twenties now ... I'm still a "mom" first in their eyes, but there's little room in the academy for that reality. There's work being done on the topic, and that's good news, but in the meantime, it seems to me that "hard choices" are falling on women in the academy, particularly the increasing number of adjunct staff outside the protections of tenure securities.

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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Missing the Obvious

Heather Barbour at Athene provides a pdf link to recent report from the American Political Science Association. Heather describes herself as a “political analyst, writer, and college professor,” and in yesterday’s post laments the recommendation that “was not” made by the APSA to hire adjunct staff when tenured positions do come available. She writes:

Only 24 percent of full-time, tenured political science faculty is women. However, an increasing number of women, and decreasing number of men, are teaching adjunct or in non-tenured positions.

No surprise there.

What is really surprising is what the report *did not* recommend as a means to fill the gap: giving adjunct faculty first shot at full-time tenured positions. In other words, hire from within and use your adjunct pool, which we know has plenty of women in it, as a kind of apprenticeship program instead of as a temp agency.

The recommendations they do make -- about encouraging more women in graduate school, making research more collaborative, etc. -- are all fine, but you can tell they've been made by people who never had to do a strategic (SWAT) analysis. I don't doubt these things will help, but geez, talk about missing the obvious.

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The Phantom Professor

Have you heard of the Phantom Professor? the adjunct instructor who was “found out” for writing anonymously about her experiences in teaching at a small private institution? I’d only been able to piece together bits of this story, but today David St. Lawrence at Ripples provided a synthesis of the Elaine Liner story. David highlights some of his favorite episodes with links directly to those posts. Go take a look.

The upshot on the E. Liner story is that her contract for an annual contract for a wage of $18,000 will not be renewed at Southern Methodist University – a small, private university in a very affluent part of Texas, but her writing continues online at Phantom Professor, and her stories about all the “Brads” and “Ashleys” can be quite a hoot.

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Thursday, July 28, 2005

Adjunct Staff and Departmental Inclusion

Comments left on a previous post mentioned an interest on the part of adjunct staff to be included in departmental discussions. Here is an interesting exchange of opinions that published in the April issue of the NEA's Advocate. As I understand it, the discussion raised quite a response from readers. It's a short read ... let us know what you think.

In that same April issue there's an article about a union victory for adjunct staff at Prairie State College in Chicago Heights. Yeah!

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Sunday, July 24, 2005

Response to Comments

I didn't experience much of the sense of "non-entity," but I think that had more to do with the fact that I didn't know I was "supposed to" feel non-existant. I did adjunct work at a small technical college, was given the desk/work area of the instructor I replaced, and more or less (forwardly) moved in, including myself in whatever conversations were taking place around me. Looking back at those experiences now from the vantage point of having moved on to graduate study at a more substantial university, I can see that I "imposed myself" there in ways that I didn't then know how to recognize. It's a little embarrassing to realize only now that I hadn't really been welcomed ... I think I was just too doggone excited at the time to be getting a first job teaching college that I didn't notice I wasn't suppose to fit in... ha!

Teaching as a graduate assistant now is "payback" for my ignorance then. Now I'm feeling the "cheap labor" regard and non-entity status. Professional interaction with full-time faculty on pedagogical concerns? ... rarely happens.

In answer to Anonymous re: professional associations, I did come across an article I found encouraging. This piece written in the NEA Advocate pointed me to COCAL: Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor. When I tried to track down an online presence for the organization, I could only find the Chicago Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, but through their website I found this page that lists resources branching in dozens of directions. If any of the rest of you do any reading there, maybe you could post back here to let us know what you find of interest.

That's about it for me, except to say that I'm glad to find connections here.

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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Getting Started

Coming Soon: A community of adjunct, temporary, and contingent staff discussing issues pertinent to their journies through academe