I’m writing a syllabus for a course that will pay $3800, eight bi-weekly pay checks of $400—after taxes. I’ll be employed until the end of 2012. Then, we’ll see about next Fall. My boss, one of them, has assured me that I will not be teaching in the Spring. Admissions are down at the university, and after the surge of new students in the Fall the need for faculty drops.
This has been standard at every university and college where I’ve been contracted to teach. Spring and Summer courses are for the full-time faculty and the few senior adjuncts. The rest of the part-time faculty apply for food stamps, bag groceries. Whatever.
You should take this time to write, one of my department heads suggested a few years ago. She was a tenured professor. She had just cut me down from three courses to only one—1/3 of the income I’d counted on for the semester. Sorry. Last minute changes.
She suggested I spend my unpaid “partial sabbatical” writing poetry. She said my work always reminded her of Lord Byron. She had a job for life. She made six figures a year and had excellent health insurance.
After our meeting, I sat in my car sobbing, panicked about how I’d pay my rent. Lord Byron? I thought. Seriously, fuck off.
Flash forward. My latest university of employ requires all writing professors to teach from the same textbook. On page 181 of this collection, a few pages into the essay “Are Colleges Worth the Price of Admission?” by Andrew Hacker and Claudia Dreifus, I found this:
It is immoral and unseemly to have a person teaching the same course as an ensconced faculty member but for one-sixth of the pay of his or her tenured colleagues down the hall. Adjuncts should receive the same per-course compensation as an assistant professor, including health insurance and other benefits.
This in the textbook the adjuncts are required to teach from. Over three years I’ve been away from college classrooms, and U.S. academia remains, in the immortal words of George Carlin, stunningly full of shit.
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