Critical Readability

My critical readings of the best and worst of online media

Archive for the tag “college”

Meet your new professor: Transient, poorly paid – In Plain Sight


Meet your new professor: Transient, poorly paid – In Plain Sight.

This is a pretty good article, but it fails to address some really major points.

Most people probably don’t know what it means when I say I am contingent faculty, or that 3 out of 4 faculty in this country are contingent faculty. People think professors are paid well and guaranteed stability (tenure), and those that aren’t tenure-track (contingent) are on an annual renewable contract like the rest of the business world. This is a much better analogy: Walmart hires a wide variety of workers, from CEOs and other skill/knowledge-based jobs that pay well to temporary unskilled seasonal labor at Christmas or other holidays that pay a fraction of what permanent laborers make. Corporate jobs are the academic equivalent of tenure-track jobs, contingent faculty are the academic equivalent of temp labor hired at Christmas to stock shelves for half the salary of the permanent shelf stocking laborer (albeit we’re highly skilled and educated and drowning in student loan debt). Typically speaking, when Christmas passes, Walmart’s temp laborers are “not rehired” (they’re not fired, mind you, just not rehired).

Now imagine if Walmart decided to try to trick the system by dividing the calendar into 4 3-month holiday seasons so they could only hire temp labor for half the salary. Upside? Much cheaper pay, you don’t have to pay for benefits, and you don’t have to pay unemployment taxes. Downside? You have to re-train new employees every three months. But, what if you kept rehiring the same temp labor at the end of their contract? Now they work the same number of hours as permanent laborers, have the skills of permanent labor, but you spend half the money, don’t have to give them benefits, you never have to give them a raise (even for increased COL), you do not need a reason to “not rehire” them, and you don’t have to pay unemployment taxes. Now imagine Walmart starts only hiring permanent temporary labor – imagine that there are no jobs as a permanent (full or part time) shelf stocking laborer available, so 3 out of 4 are permanent temporary laborers. This is what it means to be contingent faculty – we’re permanent temporary labor.

Not only do most university contingent faculty get paid in the poverty range (literally), many are on food stamps and very few of us (myself included) would be eligible for unemployment. I had more work stability when I worked at K-Mart in college, and they actually gave me raises when I performed well. If Walmart actually did this, it would be labor exploitation. When academia does it, it’s running a university like a business. It’s white-collar labor exploitation, and the only reason it still exists is because they can get away with it because the public has no idea it’s happening.


Alumni Donations?


I understand that in the grand scheme of things giving money to my former universities will ideally provide younger students with the same opportunities that I had. I also understand the urge to give money, especially to my undergraduate department.

But right now, nothing makes me more irate Read more…

Are Today’s Millennials The ‘Screwed Generation’? : NPR

Since I made the decision to pursue higher education to the extent that I did, I sometimes find myself in the uncomfortable position of talking with people who assume I look down on them for having less education. In reality, I believe that I am the foolish one for earning a Ph.D., not them for their decision not to work toward a bachelor’s degree. In fact, some of the most financially successful people that I know either learned their trade through experience/apprenticeship, or  have limited education and thus no debt (or both).

That doesn’t necessarily mean that I think education is valueless, quite the contrary. I believe Read more…

The closing of American academia – Opinion – Al Jazeera English

The last line of this article really struck a chord with me: “My father, the first person in his family to go to college, tries to tell me my degree has value. ‘Our family came here with nothing,’ he says of my great-grandparents, who fled Poland a century ago. ‘Do you know how incredible it is that you did this [earned a PhD], how proud they would be?’ And my heart broke a little when he said that, because his illusion is so touching – so revealing of the values of his generation, and so alien to the experience of mine.”

Reading this statement elicited a very similar response in me – my eyes teared up when reading about how proud this dad is of his daughter because it reminded me of how proud my parents are of me and my PhD. I also feel the same sadness that the author does – being raised by someone how lived the American Dream and told me my whole life that I could do anything if I just work hard enough. In reality, when 2/3s of college instructors are adjunct or contract, when education is being de-funded, when the educated class is being impoverished, and jobs are vanishing, there is no such thing as “if you just work hard enough you will be (financially) successful.” I think that’s something all of the approximately 1 million adjunct faculty can certainly attest to. Even the slackers among us are overworked, to say nothing of the overachievers.

And that’s saying nothing about the kind of education these students are going in debt to receive. In my most highly-enrolled semester, I got paid $25 per student for the entire semester. And I am one of the lucky ones – I do not get paid below the poverty line and I do receive benefits. Even teaching hundreds and hundreds of students, I refuse to not assign research papers or include written questions on my exams. There are those of us who have high standards, but more likely are the adjuncts who would never even think of assigning their classes of 100 or 200 or 600 students 10-15  pages of writing per student. Because they simply do not get paid enough. I don’t care what Romney says about class size not mattering, it is not possible to be the best teacher you can be to 600 students.


1. The next time you think professors get paid too much, remember that the high salaries of tenured faculty are drastically offset by the 2/3 of faculty barely making a livable wage (or well below, in most cases).

2. We must stop telling students that college education is a means to a job – my generation (and their generation) cannot be anything they want to be, even if they work really, really hard. Many will not find jobs in their fields. This is only multiplied by the decreasing quality of their education (despite the best efforts of those of us who really care) and their increasing debt.

Read the original article here: The closing of American academia – Opinion – Al Jazeera English.

U. of Oregon Courts Hard-Hitting Tactics in Persuading Students to Raise Fees for a Renovation – Buildings & Grounds – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Way to go University of Oregon students! I’m proud of you for resisting this renovation because of the increase in student fees. Students across the country are paying more and more to go to college, and significant portions of their money is going to non-educational expenses. More students need to resist these changes and remind administrators that students are paying for an education, not a fancy union. Read more: U. of Oregon Courts Hard-Hitting Tactics in Persuading Students to Raise Fees for a Renovation – Buildings & Grounds – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

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