THE “ADJUNCT” FACULTY MYTH
Your taxes and your children’s future
G. Davey, Ph. D.
“Teacher’s Working Conditions are Student’s Learning Conditions.”
All of us as children and as adults learn and accept certain beliefs to help make our world seem a bit more friendly and caring than it often is. In our society we all know that every drug company says that their “customers” come first – that we - you and I – come first. Every politician says that “the people”- you and I - come first. Every airline, every oil company, every business of every type in existence, places “us” first. And every college and every community college puts it’s “students” – our children, our neighbors children and us – first, don’t they? Yet, we all know that being placed first sure still feels like being placed last.
One of those myths is destroying the lives of hundreds of thousands of college level educators in San Antonio and around our country and crippling the future of our children and we are supporting it through out tax dollars. It is perpetuated by administrators in our community colleges and increasingly in other areas of higher education. It’s the myth of the “adjunct” faculty.
We all know the old myth that adjunct faculty are just a few – usually older and sometimes retired – professionals or people who’ve worked in their field for years and want to give back to their communities or colleges. That – sixty years ago – was what adjuncts mostly were. They were few. They were specialists with practical experience. An extra and a blessing! But all that’s changed in the community colleges and most of the colleges you or your children attend or will attend. The “adjunct” faculty are now the MAJORITY of faculty in two year schools and nearly half of the faculty in all Universities nationwide! Why? And if adjuncts are the majority of faculty, in what way are they still adjuncts?
The answer is devastating for them and for you and your children. And no one seems to even notice.
The only way that “adjuncts” are still adjunct is in lack of pay, lack of health and disability insurance, lack of resources necessary to keep up in their fields, lack of retirement and lack of job security. In short, lack of just about everything that you and I once took for granted and necessary as part of having “a job” in America.
Administrators figured out a long time ago that they could do more with less by gradually replacing full-time faculty who had benefits, retirement, appropriate pay scales and who needed costly “resources” to keep up in their fields – like going to conferences, being able to spend time writing and researching and advancing knowledge - with “adjuncts,” people who by definition would receive none of those. They could save a bundle.
Beginning in the early 1970’s there were lots of young M.A.’s and Ph.D.’s - too many in fact - and that trend has continued ever since. Major universities need them to teach their own undergraduate courses cheaply so that senior faculty could concentrate on advanced students – which they always need more of! When you’re young of course you’re pretty confident and think: I’ll be one of those few who get those good jobs! Right?
So, just as community colleges and colleges in San Antonio and across the country had began to have heavier and heavier enrollments and needed more and more equipment, they also had available more and more talented young teachers who needed a job, and for most of them, just about any job - as long as they were teaching - would do.
Would they be willing to work without long-term contracts or tenure? Yes. Would they be willing to work without health insurance or retirement benefits? Yes! After all, young people hardly ever worry about such things – until, of course, they aren’t young anymore! Would they be willing to work for less pay - MUCH less pay? Yes. There was always a chance that they would eventually get that full-time, tenure track position with health insurance and retirement and the money to go to conferences and learn new things in their field and maybe even publish new discoveries, right? It was almost as though they’d do it for nothing. And sadly, many have come very, very close to doing just that. And as hundreds of thousands have had to learn for themselves – you’re not young forever.
So today, all those full-time professors who used to sit in their offices keeping current in their fields and almost always willing to sit down and talk with a student about their grades, their lives, their courses, their girl friends or boy friends, are dwindling away. They are getting older and older, and soon will be gone entirely.
What will be there in their place?
Not new, young, inspired and available professors, that’s for sure! That takes too much money – money that could be better spent on buildings and high salaries for administrators and high-priced marketing firms pushing higher enrollments! And the legislature couldn’t be happier! So all those full-time, expensive professors are being replaced by “adjuncts,” who don’t have those resources, that time, those offices, nor funds to keep up in and contribute to their fields!
And best of all, the public doesn’t even know!
“Adjuncts” have to teach as many as twice as many classes in order to earn half the pay of their predecessors. Their offices are most often their cars, as pointed out in Melissa Ludwig’s superb article in the Express News last month. Their doctors – when they get sick or need medical treatment – are Emergency Room physicians who are overwhelmed with acute medical needs of accident victims, stroke victims and people who have had a heart attack. You know – people like you and I that need attention now because it’s an “emergency.”
And when they get older – and many are getting older much faster now – will they retire? Of course not! Where will their money come from? Nothing has been set aside from their employers for retirement. Many will work until they can’t stand anymore. Terrific for their students, right? And then what?
And only God himself – and public charities - can help them if they’re hurt in an accident or become too ill to work.
So, how will our students do? Won’t they also bear the cost? You bet!
The quality of education goes down, no matter how bright and idealistic and dedicated those professors are. Imagine you and your family having none of the things that you rely on to as the necessities of life. How well would you do your job decade after decade under those circumstances? How innovative would you be as the years wen’t on? How creative? How energetic? How inspiring if you teach?
All of this has been made possible by continuing to perpetuate a simple lie: that the new, so-called “adjunct” faculty are truly adjuncts at all.
Nationwide, 45% of the college professors in America (and more than 50% in community colleges) are employed as “adjuncts” working without the bare necessities for doing their job or keeping their families safe and fed. If anything is a national disgrace, it’s that. And the future of our country – the success of your children - depends on them.
The most important and influential national educational organizations, such as The American Association of University Professors (www.aaup.org) have been arguing and pleading for years to bring this horrible and tragically short sided, and inhumane practice to an end. And administrations – and Legislatures – everywhere turn a deaf ear. That ear is deaf to them, but it’s just as deaf to you, your children and their future as well.
I ask you, my fellow citizens in San Antonio and Bexar County, what kind of educational institutions do you want for yourselves and your children? What kind of jobs do you want them to be qualified for when they graduate?
You have to care. You have to get involved! You have to tell the Presidents and the Chancellors and our Legislators that their jobs depend on creating and supporting a real faculty where your children’s teachers can work at one institution, not two or three simultaneously; where they have the resources that they need to do their jobs and the basic necessities of life and the necessary resources to keep active in their field so that they don’t have to spend every waking moment worrying about themselves and their families. Every moment spent on those basic worries is not being spent on helping your children who are their students and whose future is dependent on them!
There’s a widely used expression today – not my creation – that is absolutely true and everyone should learn to use it! “Teacher’s Working Conditions are Student’s Learning Conditions.” Our primary and secondary school teachers have all the things that we lack – though not everything that they need, I’m sure – but they have unions and legislature’s would be terrified to support a system for them like that used in community colleges and state universities. Unfortunately or not, the days when a high school education was sufficient for real success in life are long, long gone. You and I know that well.
So, if you or your children or your neighbors or their children attend any of the ACC colleges, start coming to the ACC Board of Trustees meetings at 201 Sheridan Ave. every Third Thursday of the month and demand that the Trustees, your representatives, solve this problem! We need thousands of citizens there! Demand that they require the state Legislature to listen and fund your children’s futures instead of their own pockets. And demand that college and university officials who defend the status quo be replaced. They are stealing your children’s futures!!!
Only if you do that, will your own families and our communities have a future. Focus on lifting the veil of lies, focus on ending the “adjunct” faculty fraud – because that’s exactly what it is.
Gerald J. Davey, Ph. D.
Adjunct Faculty, San Antonio College
BIOG:: Dr. Davey has taught at San Antonio College since 2001. He holds a Ph. D. in Journalism and Mass Communications from the University of Iowa and a Master of Divinity from the Chicago Theological Seminary, where he was a President’s Prize Fellow. He has served as an elected representative on the Adjunct Faculty Council, as Adjunct Representative to the Academic Council and other institutional committees at San Antonio College. He is a member of the Kappa Alpha Tau Honor Society for academic excellence in journalism and mass communication, a NISOD Excellence award winner in 2006, winner of the 2005-2006 San Antonio College Adjunct Faculty Excellence Award and was named a “Top Professor in San Antonio” by San Antonio College in 2006.