Adjuncts and graduate students, like most Americans, are optimistic to a fault, even to the point of doing themselves a great disservice.
Take, for example, tax protections for the inordinately wealthy. Many Americans vote to keep them in place and elect officials who trash the already suffering middle class in order to protect the top 2%. Americans don’t take a stronger stance against the widening income gap because their optimism has them convinced that they are one lucky break, one entrepreneurial idea, or one winning lottery ticket away from joining their ranks.
Similarly, adjuncts and graduate students frequently step back from making waves in academia’s waters or ruffling the feathers of administrators for fear it will inhibit their chances of making tenure. And, of course, they never fight to end tenure and put everyone on a level playing field because they want to believe they’re one meritorious achievement from being granted tenure themselves.
It’s time for a reality check. Do you think you can handle the truth? Here it is:
You’re not going to get tenure!
Tenured professors are, at best, an endangered species and their numbers dwindle more with each year. Currently, they make up only 30% of higher education’s faculty and a percentage of that number are, in all reality, more administrator than teacher. The “top-down” management style that permeates America’s colleges and universities values administrators over teachers and enjoys keeping faculty in check by stripping it of job security. Plus, part-time labor can be paid less and isn’t entitled to benefits.
College presidents used to come from backgrounds of scholarship and public service. They viewed higher education as an opportunity to teach young adults about the world they’d soon inherit, train then to think critically, then send them out in hopes they’d make the world a better place. Research and scholarship, both seen as essential to the greater good, were revered.
Today’s college and university presidents and the administrators they hire are a very different breed. Many have corporate backgrounds and are more focused on increased profits than the common good. Students are customers and the job of faculty is to give those customers the basic services needed as the customers pay their way to a “skills certificate.” Research and scholarship matter only when tied to large grants or opportunities for intellectual property copyrights.
The American public just gave control of the federal government to a party that is noted for its love of corporate elites, Wall Street banks and hedge funds, and union-busting politicians. Where in that quagmire will academics have an opportunity to rise without a fight?
And so, my instructor friends, it’s time to accept this truth: In administrators’ eyes, you are a way to a means. Admin loves that they can get highly-educated professors at a bargain-basement price. They don’t care that you have multiple jobs or that you struggle to pay rent and feed your kids. Admin doesn’t care that you’re one bad medical diagnosis from being ruined and dying in abject poverty. They’re just happy they can get caring people to work part-time with no benefits. Admin doesn’t care that students drop out at a higher rate when adjuncts don’t have time and resources to meet with them and provide guidance. They just rack up the tuition and living expenses already paid then move on.
Admin sees adjuncts and students like tissues in a box – if you pull one out and toss it away, another will pop up.
So, if you stay silent and avoid taking a stand because you’re afraid you’ll blow your chance for tenure, hear this: It’s already blown! Your only worth is how much you save admin, not how talented or cooperative you are.
The world you’re in now is the only world you’ll have.
Isn’t it time to stand up and fight to make it better?