You Call This Progress?

I was appalled to read the Chronicle article about the AAUP “plan” to provide “Better Pay, Job Stability, and a Career Path for Contingent Faculty” — to present this plan as anything but the atrocity it is…well, I am shocked and infuriated.  

 Since I haven’t heard many speak out against this yet — and I have waited a few days and fumed silently — I will speak my own mind.  

 First, the most immediate cause of intense suffering among the one million adjunct professors in this country is extremely low pay.  To say that this plan offers better pay is simply not true. $550 to $700 a credit hour?  Are you kidding? And using a university in Tennessee as a model?  Whyever for?   There is no indication of what a full-time tenure-track faculty member is making in the state of Tennessee, or how these numbers square to that. No percentages, no comparisons.   It is ridiculous, and bordering on dangerously irresponsible,  to put forth such horrifying low wages as a national baseline pay rate.  Am I the only one who believes that universities across the country paying more than this will quickly adjust their rates downward?   

 I’m barely surviving in Philadelphia, working at three colleges per semester, where my pay averages just over $1000 a credit hour.  What happens when universities across the country see such meagre figures and decide that they can drop their pay rate and still be in line with the AAUP recommendations?    While it might be possible to live a subsistance lifestyle on the horrifyingly low numbers suggested by this plan in a place like Murfreesboro, Tennessee, it would never be possible in Philadelphia, or D.C. or New York.  Why on earth would the AAUP even name such low figures, when any research would show  — see Josh Boldt’s crowdsourced information — that numbers are already higher than that  – although certainly nowhere near high enough -  in other areas of the country?  Why on earth would the AAUP not use the MLA’s recent suggested figures, which go much farther toward setting the bar at a livable and respectable wage for professors nationwide?  There is no talk here of pay parity is this so-called plan.  Why not?  This is a union, for heaven’s sake.  This is supposed to be an organization standing strong for the professionalism and the working and earning conditions of the country’s faculty.  

 Then a “promotion” to teaching FIVE courses per semester for $32,000?  $16,000 a semester for five courses is little over $3000 a course, which brings us right back to what adjuncts in Philadelphia are already earning, on which they are struggling to survive.  And FIVE courses?  Keep in mind that these are still going to be the most undesirable courses, the low-level, heavy writing, endless paper-grading and student-conferencing courses.  Is there any consideration given to the quality of work possible when teaching FIVE such courses, especially for pay so low that the need to find additional work elsewhere would still exist?  Again, why is the MLA recommendation not being acknowledged as a better plan?  This AAUP plan may as well say, “After several years, they’ll stop beating you, but you still won’t get much food.”  

 There is no talk about benefits, or healthcare.  No talk about professional development support.  No talk about sabbatical leave for research and writing and publishing.  And most important, there is no talk about immediate changes to the power structure of university governance.  Why not?  

 Who has the AAUP consulted in putting together this atrocity?  Other adjunct activist organizations?  Other unions?  Have they made any attempt whatever to be part of a coalition of national activists involved in the work to reclaim high-quality academic professional status for the country’s university professors and scholars?  

 Or are they simply pimping out the most vulnerable professionals in this broken system?

 This looks much more like a sell-out to the corporatized administrative powers that have overrun our universities and pushed them into near-ruin.  This corporatized system now keeps over 75% of America’s university faculty in powerless, low-wage, precarious positions, dependent on a managerial power class that has colonized academia.  What has the AAUP done to try and effectively stop the ever-increasing number of low-wage part-time faculty hires over the last thirty years?  I invite answers.  For now, I will  just say that after thirty years of….well, let’s just call it little or nothing…..we get THIS plan?  

 Am I the only one who thinks this looks more like a plan that administration would dream up in order to keep its control of the impoverished, powerless majority faculty?   It certainly does not look like something an organization claiming to work for the betterment and stability of our profession would suggest.  

 I wonder:  would those in the AAUP making these suggestions want to live and work under the conditions they propose?  It is highly doubtful.   It shows just how out of touch the AAUP is in regard to the struggle and the real solutions of our country’s professoriate.  

 I speak for myself alone, and may well be a voice in the wilderness here, but I strongly urge part-time faculty, and the full-time faculty involved in this struggle, along with other unions, other professional membership and faculty activist organizations, to raise their voices all across the country against this ridiculous and insulting “plan”.   

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14 Responses to You Call This Progress?

  1. VanessaVaile says:

    Reblogged this on Tales from the Adjunctiverse and commented:
    Homeless A nails it: whatever was the AAUP thinking? For sure not progress by any other name. More like ultimate admin fantasy.

  2. Pingback: Reblog: “You Call This Progress?”

  3. Charles W. Raymond III says:

    Homeless Adjunct speaks the truth to power – or would that s/he could. The AAUP suggestion simply sucks.

  4. dzenmar says:

    I completely agree with you. My first thought upon reading the AAUP’s plan was- how is this better? I, for sure, do not want to teach 5 heavy duty intense courses for 32,000.! That is a lot of work for wages that are barely subsistence. It seems to be getting a little beyond ridiculous that- supposedly some of the brightest minds in the nation, collectively, cannot fix this- or even make a decent start towards fixing anything! But of course, they don’t want it fixed- as long as money is to be made on the backs of adjunct workers, who cares how they (we) manage to stay alive?

  5. irreveranting professor says:

    An important note about the AAUP: it was formed to represent FULL time tenured and tenure track faculty (back in the hey days), so yeah, their plan makes good sense for their purposes. And that’s the brutal reality.

  6. Ann Larson says:

    Excellent post. Appealing to the professional organizations will never work. They just don’t get it and never will.

  7. Pingback: Coalition on the Academic Workforce Report Released | John A Casey Jr

  8. Paul Kronos says:

    Insight; Where I teach as an adjunct, the school is going from the quarter system to a semester calendar and CUTTING ADJUNCT PAY BY 10%….with great warbling to justify and explain why. No full time tenured faculty even squeaked a peep, either in public or in private as the administration has made sure to keep them off-balance with the most recent contract negotiations with the AAUP. As I see it the folks who pay dues to the AAUP are moving financially ahead because of/on the backs of – the contributions from the lowly paid adjuncts. Additionally, the subject of nepotism cannot be avoided as I am daily confronted by it, the consequences of it on the students learning opportunities and motivation and just overall institutional health….a subject as of yet not “homelessly” addressed.

  9. concerned cynic says:

    In the 1980s, as an adjunct without a PhD, I was paid $5000 per course, or $1650/credit hour by first tier public universities. Plus mileage when I had to drive to a branch campus 25 miles away. The comparable pay now should be at least $3000/credit hour. Despite being an adjunct, I always had access to health benefits and could contribute to TIAA-CREF.

    The reason why universities can get away with paying adjuncts very badly is the glut of PhDs. Many PhD courses in the USA should be shut down.

    The heavy reliance on adjuncts, and their low pay, are unintended consequences of the tenure system. I have long advocated the following amended tenure system.

    1. Rookies are hired on 5 year fixed term contracts. At the end of this contract, one can apply for another 5 year contract.
    2. At the end of the second 5 year contract, one has to go up for tenure. Failure would require departure. The 10 year tenure clock I am proposing has been the reality at Chicago, Rochester, Wash U, and Stanford for a generation.
    3. A university can offer tenure to any untenured academic, at any time. Likewise, an untenured academic may apply for tenure in any year other than year 10. Lack of success would not lead to dismissal.
    4. Tenure would expire the year one turns 60. Academics let go before their 62nd birthday would be entitled a monthly amount equal to the Social Security to which they would be entitled if they retired in at age 62. Academics would enjoy job security for a span of time sufficient to raise their children, pay off their mortgages, and fund their retirements.
    5. Starting at age 61, academics would be hired on renewable 3 year contracts, with negotiable pay. The current system of tenure cum no compulsory retirement is completely unsustainable. People also forget that retirement was never truly “compulsory”; some academics were invited to stay on for reduced pay as the employer saw fit.
    6. Starting at age 70, academics would be hired on 1 year contracts, or by the course.

  10. Pingback: Reblog: "You Call This Progress?" - Adjunct Project

  11. Pingback: Reblog: “You Call This Progress?” | Adjunct Project

  12. My first thought is that they will do exactly what they’ve proven they have no problem doing. Hire people at the low rate and then fire them when they get too costly. It’s not like most adjuncts have unions to protect them from unfair firings. In fact, they don’t even call it firing, they call it, “not inviting to teach”.

    In Ohio, adjuncts aren’t even allowed to form a union.

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