Posts Tagged ‘adjuncts’

Adjunct

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.

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Higher-Ed Ladder Fig. 6

According to a new study by Demos, the major cause of the rise in college tuition costs is not, as is often believed, administrative bloat or construction binges, but the decline in state funding for higher education.

In the past, state funding for education often rose and fell along with the economy: since higher education funding is viewed as “discretionary” spending, it is often a target for cuts when states are forced to close recessionary holes in their budgets. However, in the past decade, state funding for higher education has diverged from that trend. Six years after the great recession, state higher education funding per student remains 27 percent below its pre-recession level. Unfortunately, declining state support for higher education means that many students today have no choice but to take on significant debt to finance their educations, the negative effects of which are increasingly evident in young people’s lives.

The fact is, public higher education in the United States no longer exists. Because more than half of core educational expenses at “public” 4-year universities are now funded through tuition, a private source of revenue, they have effectively become subsidized private institutions.

Addendum

Higher-Ed Ladder Fig. 2

The other interesting piece of information in the Demos study is the enormous increase in part-time faculty. As Figure 2 shows, the number of employees per thousand students changed little between 1991 and 2011. But the composition of universities’ staff has changed dramatically. At both types of institutions, the relative number of full-time faculty has remained approximately constant and the number of executives and administrators has actually slightly decreased relative to the size of the student body. However, both types of institutions are employing substantially more part-time faculty (as well as professional staff—admissions and human resources staff, IT workers, athletic staff, and health workers). At the same time, the relative number of non-professional staff—workers providing clerical, technical, skilled craft, or maintenance services—shrank dramatically.

Low Wage Protest

Protests for pay of at least $15 an hour and a union for fast-food and other low-wage workers (including adjunct professors) are taking place around the United States today, marking the biggest effort yet in an ongoing campaign by labor organizers.

In addition to the protests in the US, workers in 123 cities in 35 countries were expected to join the demonstrations in the first worldwide coordinated strike.

“Workers occupied a McDonald’s in Glasgow, stormed a McDonald’s restaurant in Sao Paolo and blockaded a McDonald’s in Paris, holding a six-meter long sign that read, ‘Stop Social Destruction and Tax Avoidance’,” organizers said in a statement.

The world-wide protests were coordinated by the International Union of Food Workers.

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