My sympathies wane.

I’ve posted in the past about the scary situation many hopeful profs find themselves in, and the unjust and generally awful adjunct system on which more and more colleges and universities seem to be running.

But then I read articles like this:

The Impermanent Adjunct

And I’m like, seriously, sweetheart? You got full time contractual employment in your field, which I assume means benefits and health care and the pleasant aside of being able to do your entire job at one location, and you’re bemoaning how you’re “contingent labor”? How at the end of the contract (which she does not specify–it may be year to year, but I know a number of schools use 3-5 year contracts for full time instructors/lecturers as well), there’s a possibility that it won’t be renewed?

How you must, every semester or year you work there, demonstrate yourself to be an asset to the department and someone it would be preferable to keep than to let go? How, if the department feels you’re not doing what you’re there to do, you could lose that job at the end of the contract?

Is there any field or job in any profession, other than tenured professor, where that is not the case?

I’m sorry, and I know there are very supportive comments below her article, but it seems to me that a school which a) pays its adjuncts $4000/class (!), b) gives them offices and allots them conference funds, and c) moves competent and established adjuncts up to full time lecturer work when it can, is a school doing it right. Or at least trying to.

Yes, I agree that the “free” service assignment thing is ridiculous, and if lecturers at her school are genuinely pressured to accept those assignments that’s completely unacceptable. (The one time this happened to me, when an adjuncting gig at the end of the spring semester was renewed for the fall contingent upon my taking on a large unpaid additional chunk of work, I resigned the job. I have never looked back, and my only regret was that I did not directly tell them that was why but pleaded “scheduling conflicts” instead. That was cowardly of me. I was much younger, but I still could have done better there.) The school that got its paperwork messed up and didn’t pay her–that’s their failure, not hers, and it’s a big failure and they should be ashamed. And that the culture of tenured-vs-nontenured can be hairy. But don’t think getting a tenured position magically makes departmental politics disappear.

There’s a bit of self-pity in this article. Maybe more than a bit.

She quit because she did not feel “fully secure.” (Hon, you don’t need that kind of security to succeed in life, or work as a scholar, or be happy.) Things didn’t go as she planned. One can be sad about it, or one can make new plans. That’s what most of us do, and unlike many, it sounds like she could do it from a place of financial stability and solid family support. So in that sense, I guess this “year off” thing is exactly what she needs.

I know she’s already gone from her job and may never get it back, but to anyone else in the same position I’d say this: if you like the work you do at that school as a full time contracted (“contingent”?) lecturer, if it challenges your mind and feeds the scholar side of you, keep the job. If you do not, make other plans, and do what you need to do to bring them to fruition. Hell, make the plans anyway, so you have something to set into motion if your fear that your current position will go away is ever realized. But if you make Feeling Absolutely Respected By Everyone And Never Treated Unfairly Ever a requirement for job satisfaction, I predict you will change jobs a lot in your future.

Welcome to the grownup world. Put on your big-girl boots and wade on in. You will be fine.


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