The Tyranny of Academia


Via Lumpenprofessoriat: an article from IHE:

For the adjuncts at the six universities and 13 community colleges governed by the Tennessee Board of Regents, the solution they came up with was to ask politely. They worked with administrators to craft and re-craft a proposal to raise the maximum pay offered to adjuncts so that someone working a 5-5 course load (the kind of load that many tenure-track faculty members would consider unworkable) could be assured the chance of topping $20,000 in annual income. They weren’t even talking about such matters as health insurance (which isn’t provided).

Consider Chandra G. Elkins, who teaches composition and developmental reading at Tennessee Tech University and Nashville State Technical Community College. She typically teaches a 5-5 course load and tries to pick up a summer course or two as well. Last year, teaching ten courses over the course of a year, she earned $15,210. This year, she is hoping to earn more, so she has added a sixth course for next semester, which she will teach at Motlow State Community College.

“It’s really depressing. I have to really, really love my job,” she said. “Literally, I could quit my job and get a job at the local Wal-Mart full time and make more money and have benefits.”

Sheila Sullivan teaches at the same colleges as an adjunct. By teaching a 6-6 load, plus summer work, she is able to get her total income up in the $24,000-$26,000 range (no benefits), but already she has received word that one of her adjunct jobs will be paying less next year. She moved to Tennessee to take a temporary position at Middle Tennessee State University that was potentially going to be converted to the tenure track and ended up staying in the area and becoming a regular instructor, but never on the tenure track.

“I don’t feel like there’s anything I can do about it,” she said. The colleges know “that they can get people” to teach despite the low pay, and “that works for them.”

How is that possible? The Tennessee Board of Regents has a very simple policy that allows its constituent institutions to decide in which of four categories to place adjuncts. Colleges can devise systems based on educational experience, market differentials and so forth. But the policy is strict on one thing: It sets maximum levels of pay per credit hour. Because the colleges typically avoid classifying people as being in the most “lucrative” pay category ($700 per credit hour), most earn much less, and a college would be correct in saying that $1,800 is the maximum allowable pay for a three credit course of someone in the second level of adjunct classifications. Paying more would violate state rules.

Guess how it ends?  Unsurprisingly:

After two years of encouraging meetings organized by AAUP leaders in Tennessee, the board — through its presidents council — decided this month that the current policy works just fine, and that there will be no increases in pay maximums.

Outrageous!  For the record, the lowest I ever made when I was working as a part time adjunct was in 2002: a whopping 1300/class, but never in Tennessee.  Just enough to pay for the gas to drive there and get a coffee (but no donut) on the way.  It was not, however, my sole means of income.   Easily Distracted puts it well enough:

Adjuncts at the University of Tennessee system can carry a 5-5 teaching load in a course year and make only $15,000 with no benefits. You could pay someone $200,000 a year, and I doubt they could teach a 5-5 load with any degree of focus or attention to students, but $15,000? No benefits? Seriously, Tennessee: just close down your university system. Or just be honest and make public higher education in the state into a volunteer system, like getting people to work the line at a soup kitchen. And adjuncts there? Seriously, there has got to be a better way to make ends meet, whatever your circumstances and aspirations might be.

9 thoughts on “The Tyranny of Academia

  1. I bet selling those bootleg DVDs was significantly supplementing your income! Seriously, the line about coffee and no donut almost made me feel feelings like a real human being, I think even some slight moistening occurred in the eye area…

  2. I got $1200 once to teach U.S. History (not my field) at a little Bible college in Oakland. Do I win?

    Another way to look at this is if these folks prefer this gig at 6/6, no benefits or security to Walmart, maybe my 4/4 load with salary, benefits and tenure isn’t the grim violation of fundamental human dignity some of my colleagues make it out to be….

  3. Pingback: Class consciousness in the lumpenbourgeoisie « Dead Voles

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