The rage of the educated class

One reason I quit grad school more than 20 years ago at the University of Texas at Austin was the sweatshop exploitation of temps -- adjuncts, "pool people," part-timers, non-tenure track teachers. At the time, the academic job market had tanked, and it seriously looked as though that's where I'd wind up, too, with my eventual Ph.D --teaching remedial English in some non-tenure track position, even on a part-time, no-benefits basis.

Fast foward to last year: I leave The Dallas Morning News and in the back of my head, I think: If worse comes to worst, I can always teach. I have backgrounds in journalism, literature and drama; I could go with any of those three areas. Plus, I know chairmen of departments. Heck, I even know deans.

Then my professor-dean-department head friends start telling me the grim news. They've had hiring freezes for years, or if they're at least hiring people, they're hiring only adjuncts, and at wages that should shame them. They have no choice. $2000 per class or less -- imagine teaching five classes, a murderous schedule, grading hundreds of papers or tests week after week, and still making less than $15,000 with no medical benefits. I have a relative who's an award-winning, book-published professor. He hasn't been able to get a full-time teaching job commensurate with his experience and achievement for five years.

In short, for all of the screaming and gloating about the death of mainstream media, academia is actually in worse shape -- and there's barely a peep. I tried to get some journalist-contacts interested in this, even a couple who write about education. Shrugs.

So now it's a front page story in the New York Times. The estimate is that 70 percent of teaching positions at colleges and universities are now filled by adjuncts and temps. The article is decent, although it doesn't convey a fraction of the frustration and bitterness of the exploited, the trickle-down effect on students.

It also doesn't even address what would seem a key question: Why are parents paying full-load tuition for their little darlings to go to college -- tuitions that have skyrocketed in recent years when, as in Texas, they were "deregulated" in another fine example of free-market thinking -- yet their children are being taught primarily by temps?

November 20, 2007 8:59 AM |



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