Alternative Faculty, Alternative Writing
As the Internet has flooded its way through every aspect of contemporary life, it has changed many things. One of the things net champions claim as a victory is the proliferation of blogs. According to Technorati’s “State of the Blogosphere 2008” (http://technorati.com/blogging/state-of-the-blogosphere/), at that time there were 900,000 blog posts within the previous 24 hours! That number is still growing, as all estimates indicate thousands of new blogs are started daily.
Besides being easy and cheap (in many cases free), blogs are celebrated as an alternative to mainstream media. They offer democratic options, a chance for the people to be heard, an interactive media versus a passive broadcast model, and so on. While blogs do all of these things, they can also be amateurish (in the best and worst sense of the word), intermittent, and orphaned by the official media and their makers. In other words, they are kind of like adjunct faculty members, and so I wanted to visit some blogs run by and for adjunct faculty, link to them for reader interest, and comment on what I see there.
First, Online Adjunct Jobs (http://onlineadjunctjobs.blogspot.com/) offers simple information in a straightforward format. It doesn’t judge or comment: it just shares links and position descriptions with interested parties. (There are several other sites doing this as well, but not necessarily through a blog format.)
The Adjunct Faculty Toolbox (http://adjunctfacultytoolbox.blogspot.com/) shares tips on teaching better and more efficiently, as well as tips on professional positioning, with interested adjuncts.
Adjunct Central (http://bcs.bedfordstmartins.com/Adjunctcentral/player/index.aspx) is a blog from a publisher (Bedford /St. Martin’s). I found this fascinating: a publisher is so realistic about the nature of academic labor that it has set up their own site to support adjuncts. This includes sponsoring Adjunct Advice (http://blogs.bedfordstmartins.com/adjunctadvice), a blog where Gregory Zobel shares advice for adjuncts. (This recently moved to Bedford Bits: http://blogs.bedfordstmartins.com/bits/?author=160.) This advice ranges from the extremely practical to humor that borders on bitter tension release.
pisspoorprof blogs on Burnt-out Adjunct (http://burntoutadjunct.wordpress.com/), and the blogger is as tired as the title suggests. This blog exists to air non-rhetorical questions rhetorically (no one is going to answer the question of what parents would say if they knew who was teaching their kids and what they were paid vs. what tuition costs), and to share specific challenges. Lowly Adjunct (http://lowlyadjunct.wordpress.com/ ) is just as tired, and shares just as much frustration with the world and workplace.
The Unknown Adjunct (http://unknownadjunct.wordpress.com/) is somewhat less tired, and not accidentally, more fully linked in to other blogs. Adjunct Law Prof Blog (http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/adjunctprofs/) primarily focuses on breaking law-related news, but also provides updates about academic labor, especially those specific to law.
At Blog U, Confessions of a Community College Dean (http://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/confessions_of_a_community_college_dean) addresses) offers an administrator’s perspective on running a community college, which means the blogger has to address adjunct labor (and repeatedly). Community College English (http://cce.typepad.com/) doesn’t focus explicitly on adjunct faculty, but given the nature of the gig…
A 2004 article from The Chronicle of Higher Education sums up the story of the Invisible Adjunct, who blogged about the state of adjuncts: http://chronicle.com/free/v50/i34/34a01001.htm
However, the link there to the archived blog goes…nowhere. The Invisible Adjunct is invisible once again.
You know who else is invisible in this tally? The hard sciences. You can find any number of online job posts for faculty members who can teach chemistry, physics, etc. You can also find countless faculty members teaching science as adjuncts, and review their names, credentials, and pictures online. However, if any faculty members both self-identify as adjuncts and publish commentary about it online, I haven’t found it. Most often it is the folks in the humanities that do.
One of the other ways in which invisibility shows up is in the use of pseudonyms. A number of these bloggers take on persona, in part to accent their authorial roles and in part, clearly, to protect their professional hides. Venting may be necessary. It may even be useful for the community if you’re articulating things that no one else will say. However, since there are usually reasons no one will say these things, saying them may come back to bite you in the, ahem, to haunt you.
Besides venting and sharing, I see the writing done by and for adjuncts in the blogosphere as doing and indicating a number of things.
First, adjuncts are using blogs and the Internet to find jobs. (Old news, I know.)
Second, adjuncts are using adjuncts are using blogs to organize politically. (Newer news.)
Third, publishers are using blogs to help adjuncts, but their choice to do so is a symptom of the current labor market.
Fourth, adjuncts are using blogs to vent, but need to protect themselves as they do so. This perpetuates their invisibility.
Fifth, individual adjuncts blogging often seem really tired and frustrated.
Sixth, by contrast, collective bloggers or blogs that are markedly linked to other blogs aren’t defined as much by their fatigue and pain. A lesson, perhaps?
Seventh, adjunct blogs are defined in part by a continual emphasis on practical matters, such as efficiency and economy. These are not traditional defining elements of academic discourse for higher education…though they’ve long been part of the conversation for K-12 teachers.
And eighth, adjuncts can use blogs written by administrators to flesh out their understanding of the bigger picture and perhaps empower themselves.