Don’t Be Kind to Adjuncts
By Steve Street, The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 24, 2008
“This year, don’t be kind to adjuncts,” writes Steve Street, a lecturer at the State University of New York-Buffalo who has taught at various colleges since 1980, never on the tenure track. “Don’t be kind unless you can also put equity for us—proportional pay, benefits, security, and opportunities for professional development and advancement—front and center in department meetings, faculty senates, budget allocations, and even mission statements.” Street’s opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education argues that the academic staffing system is irreparably broken and simply being more generous to adjuncts won’t mend it. The current hiring system, in which 68 percent of academic appointments are off the tenure track, can’t be fixed by setting target ratios for full-time and part-time faculty or making other nominal policy changes, he writes. Street cites a number of colleges and universities with innovative hiring and retention policies—including the University of California system and the University of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville—and argues that these programs work precisely because they don’t bow to custom. “The inequity that’s become the norm continues to weaken academe in more pervasive and insidious ways,” he writes. The best way to support adjunct faculty, Street says, is to consistently urge change—by bringing up the issue in department meetings, asking about how teaching assignments are allotted, starting conversations about lack of adjunct office space. “Take whatever small but real steps you can to keep contingent equity a goal.”
The entire commentary is available at the Chronicle of Higher Education Web site. Login or subscription may be required. AAC&U's Network for Academic Renewal will hold a working meeting, Shaping Faculty Roles in a Time of Change: Leadership for Student Learning, on the topic of faculty roles on April 2-4, 2009, in San Diego, California.