Yes, Virginia, Adjuncts Do Write

Several years ago, while I was finishing my dissertation, I was teaching as an adjunct at North Carolina State University. One day while I was walking to my cubicle, I noticed a case tastefully displaying several new faculty publications. One book was in my area, so I contacted a journal and asked if they wanted a review of the book and an interview with the author. They did…but when I approached the author in her office, she said, “But you’re an adjunct. Adjuncts don’t write.”

“Um, this one does…and actually, I think a lot of them do,” I said.

She furrowed her brow. “I don’t think so…”

That same year I was teaching in an experimental freshman composition class designed by tenure track faculty members from both the English and Communications departments. The designers were planning a conference presentation on the experimental class. Since I’d taught in a related program at the University of Iowa, they asked me to present a paper on courses combining composition and public speaking. I agreed, and approached the head of the department for travel money. He told me that as a rule, they didn’t provide travel money to adjuncts. I pointed out that two of his tenured faculty had requested I attend, and that it would be to the college’s benefit. He listened, nodded, and proposed a compromise: the department would provide travel money, so long as I promised not to tell any other adjuncts they’d done so!

Those two experiences sum up the thorny ambiguity with which traditional academia views adjuncts and writing. Adjuncts don’t write and publish. Or do they? If they do, how does that relate to their teaching? We can’t admit they’re really part of our school, so how can we justify paying for them to present at conferences? What about adjuncts who make the transition from adjunct to full time faculty? What role does their writing play in this transition?

This blog is going to explore these questions and more. It’s going to address any and all aspects of the adjuncts and writing. It will look at everything from funding and policies to time management and job search strategies, always with the aim of exploring what role writing plays in these areas for adjuncts. I hope for it to be useful for adjuncts who want to land tenure track positions, but also useful for adjuncts content with their positions, and who teach and write as two sides of their identity, and/or who find writing a natural extension of their teaching. Given the paradoxical nature of the adjunct labor market, I suspect some of the stories will be entertaining as well as useful (at least I hope so).

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