Lisa Liberty Becker is absolutely right: there’s something seriously wrong with a university system that has “gone the way of Walmart,”
profiting from the continued manipulation of the lowest rung. However, these customers aren’t shopping for $2 T-shirts but for an education. You can give that lowest rung more pay and say it’s better than nothing, but a 50 percent raise on low pay still equals low pay, and one-year contracts don’t provide stability. These conditions affect the courses that college students and their parents pay huge bucks for, thanks to astronomical tuition rates now averaging $35,000. For one of the courses I taught last spring, the school collected $105,000 in student tuition — more than 16 times what I was paid to teach said class.
Adjunct professors across the country—who make up almost three quarters of college and university classroom teachers in the United States—have responded by forming unions and collectively bargaining for contracts, to increase their pay and to obtain longer contracts.
That’s a start. But, Becker is correct, it’s not enough.
I respect those speaking up against university administrations when administrators have so little respect for them, and their union wins are certainly moral victories. However, the cracked framework of the college system persists even after these protests end and union contracts are ratified, and administrators continue to fill adjunct spots with little difficulty.
The problem, as adjunct and tenure-track faculty both know, is the rise of the corporate university, which is governed by boards of directors, run by CEOs, and has all but eliminated faculty governance.