A Declaration of Educator
by Steven R. Van Hook, PhD
to people outside of academia, itís hard to
find much sympathy for the plight of adjunct
instructors taking on much more of the college
teaching load for much less pay.
The economic trends
are systemic, certainly not specific to academia.
Any groups expecting disproportionate public
sympathies are bound to be disappointed.
Other trends in the
economy may be closer to the average personís experience.
Most every time
Iíve whined about the life of an adjunct, I hear
stories back of conditions even worse (in aviation,
health care, retail Ė just to name a few).
In the retail
industry, for example, over the last 20 years fulltime
jobs fell from 80%, to now more than 70% working
part-time, saving employers substantial payroll costs.1
Itís a telling
In 1975, nearly 60%
of all higher education faculty were in the tenure
system. Now more than 70% of faculty are
part-time adjuncts, and by the time the trend peaks,
it could be 85%.2
Adjunct instructors are
intractably replacing tenured professors Ė if for no
other reason, you can hire adjuncts at
4-for-the-price-of-1 tenured. And adjuncts often do as
good a job (if
Even though Iíve
been one for some 15 years, I donít like to think of
myself as an adjunct (or an appendage) to an
institution; and certainly not as a contingent worker
(contingency on institutional whims).
I prefer to call
myself an independent educator, dependent on my own
energies and abilities, even if the IRS wishes to
misguidedly classify me as an employee; an instructor who
does other things too (website publishing, freelance
writing, sailing instruction, weddings at sea, etc.)
The institutions I
teach for are adjunct to my life; are contingent on my
availability and preferences.
Itís a change in mindset Iíve
worked for over many years of independent teaching.
demand certain sacrifices.
Iíve held a number
of jobs I really loved, but paid for with lower wages:
reporter, social worker, dog washer ...
Iíve also held
well-paying jobs I was not so happy at. What Iíve
learned in some 40 years of working: the more they
pay, the more of yourself you often have to sell.
So here we independent educators
stand strong, educated, aware, if not united.
instructors we are short on any kind of
powerbase. We may hope to climb ourselves into a rare
tenured or contracted spot. Those who have, Iíve
seen, sometimes turn cold to their sister/brother
adjuncts left behind.
In spite of the road miles and
segmented lives that keep us apart, we can network,
share resources, cherish one another in our mission.
And through it all, we
can better empower our students to fix the many wrongs
soon to be in their hands, with the many rights they
inherit as well.
1 Greenhouse, S. ďA
Part-Time Life, as Hours Shrink and Shift.Ē New
October 27, 2012.
2 Figlio, D,
Schapiro, M, and Soter, K. ďAre Tenure Track
Professors Better Teachers?Ē
National Bureau of
Economic Research, September, 2013.