On April 20th, a fellow writing for The Chronicle of Higher Education in a column called the “Two-Year Track” published an essay titled “Why Adjuncts Have an Edge (Except When They Don’t).” Well, well, I thought, finally someone will explain just why adjuncts seem always to get the bum’s rush when it comes to getting hired for full-time positions that open up at the colleges and universities where they teach. The writer, a kindly associate professor of English and director of the Writers Institute at Georgia Perimeter College, wanted to explain that the reason adjuncts who’d like to star in the classroom and get a full-time salary often end up in a pile on the cutting room floor. There is no conspiracy against adjuncts, per say, the writer explained. It’s just that “adjuncts usually lack the full-time teaching experience that search committees seek — and that is stipulated in the official job description.”
Oh, really? It’s as simple as that? I read the sentence over and again and then decided that, yes, sometimes really smart, well-meaning people can come up with the most incredible explanations to justify discrimination.
The simple requirement for applicants to have full-time teaching experience keeps 50 percent of our nation’s college faculty from meeting the job requirement and being considered for the teaching jobs that require full-time teaching experience. It seems a simple explanation, doesn’t it? You can’t get a fair shake, because you don’t have full-time teaching experience. Nothing against you, but if you don’t meet that job requirement your application can’t be considered.
The writer goes on to marvel that, “Still, the anger persists on both sides — mostly, I think, because people don’t understand the hiring process….”
The “hiring process” as our writer describes it is as simple as a literacy test, and just as effective in keeping the riff-raff where they belong—on the fringes, disenfranchised and thoroughly downtrodden. Better yet, it’s done under the auspices of fair hiring practices. What could be a more diabolically perfect injustice?
Here’s a suggestion: how about we all agree that teaching four or five courses per semester by piecing together work at multiple institutions is the equivalent of teaching full-time? For each year a faculty member off the tenure-track teaches four or five courses each semester, regardless of how one reached that benchmark, one gets a year’s worth of credit for having taught full-time.
Too radical? Well, so was the notion of giving women the vote, the idea that, yes, women were people entitled to participate in the political process. Sometimes, even the craziest of ideas have a way of catching on when enough people stand up against institutionalized discrimination.