Craig Smith over at the AFT published a blog entry recently that talked about making the process for hiring part-time faculty as rigorous as that used when conducting searches for tenure line faculty. Before you scream, hear me out. Right now, part-time faculty are perceived and treated as completely dispensable. Why? Partially, because it’s a buyer’s market. There are way too many people with graduate degrees out there who have visions of sugar plums and who think they are different, and eventually they’ll find a full-time job. You know who you are. Admit it. No one’s looking. One of the most dangerous aspects of having above average intelligence, is thinking you’re smarter than other people. That’s a blog entry for another day.
The other reason part-timers are treated like so many plastic forks is that, like plastic forks, an adjunct is easy to acquire. Talk to people who have lost a piece of fine silver or china sometime. They’re fanatical. They won’t rest until they’ve found the perfect replacement. Fine silver and china are costly, special, and dare I say it, cherished beyond their monetary value. Departments value some (not all, of course) full-time faculty like this. Finding those faculty was a time-consuming, exhaustive and expensive process that involved not only faculty on the hiring committee, but the dean of the college. Lots of people make an investment of time when searching out a full-time faculty colleague.
What if hiring part-timers were handled similarly? What if not only the hiring committee members, but the dean invested time and effort in choosing the part-time faculty candidates? Part-timers would be vetted by their colleagues-to-be, and seen as superior candidates. Such candidates would be valued as colleagues, if only by the hiring committee members who selected them, as well as the dean who ok’ed their appointments. Right now, part-timers are hired like the teenagers who work at McDonald’s. Not so shockingly, they are paid like burger flippers, and treated like fast-food intellectuals.
Me? I want to be seen by my colleagues as the filet mignon of the part-timers in my department. I am sick to death of being seen as just another piece of rump roast.