By Lance Eaton
There comes a point in every semester during which the Freeway Flyer must partake of the powerful and seductive dance I like to call: the Adjunct Shuffle. The dance can take many forms, and one often feels promiscuous thanks to all the partners one has. However, with the right amount of finesse, politicking, and plain dumb luck, one can come out feeling like Fred Astaire or Ginger Rogers. Although at times, the dance resembles something more like the “Truffle Shuffle” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5whaRkuipU&feature=related); humiliating, slightly perverse, and an abandonment of all that is good in the world.
In a perfect world, classes, like the stars, would align and the Freeway Flyer’s schedule would resemble a well-oiled machine in which one has enough classes to earn a good living, and one commutes from one campus to the next at a leisurely pace—as opposed to the mad-dash. However, life as a Freeway Flyer is far from a perfect world. It’s a messy one. Loveable, but messy.
Each semester, adjunct faculty wait for that moment when the Chair/dean/almighty being in charge sends forth that email concerning the next semester’s (or even next year’s) schedule. This is a very tricky situation. Thus, before the dance can even begin, the adjunct must consider the following questions and create a ranking that properly weighs the priorities:
How many courses does the school allow adjunct to teach? Generally, schools offer from one to four courses, though the heavier workloads often require special dispensations from the higher powers. But knowing the maximum and whether the Chair will push for maximum course load, is key for prioritizing.
How much does the school pay per course? Two courses taught at School A could be the equivalent of three courses at School B.
How long does it take the adjunct to get from that school to others? Transportation can be the killjoy of any potential schedule and freeway flyers should have some sense of how long it takes to get from one school to another. Factor in time of day, since traffic spikes. Remember that driving to a campus is half the battle: parking is the other half. If taking public transportation, what back-up plans are in place when the train is late or the bus doesn’t show?
How likely is the course to run? Freeway Flyers need to consider the viability of their courses. That Thursday afternoon course might be really convenient, but how likely is it to actually run?
How prepared is the adjunct for the potential courses offered (or how much will the adjunct faculty have to prepare)? It may sound like a fantastic new course to teach; but if the you haven’t taught it will it feasibly work for the instructor (and more importantly, the students)?
What’s the minimum amount of classes that one needs to make it financially? What’s the maximum number of courses a Freeway Flyer can handle without over-stretching him/herself? This comes down to budgeting and knowing what the adjunct needs to survive.
About the Freeway Flyer: Lance Eaton has a Master’s Degree in American Studies from the University of Massachusetts in Boston where he focused primarily on Popular Culture and Gender/Sexuality studies. He also has a Master’s in Public Administration from Suffolk University, where his concentration was on nonprofit organizations. He teaches at several schools in the Greater Boston area including Emerson College, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, and North Shore Community College. He’s professionally written and presented on topics such as comics, zombies, audiobooks, and adaptation. He also keeps a running blog with his students at http://hitchhikingadjunct.blogspot.com. When not flying from school-to-school, he also enjoys reading comics, cycling, gardening and cooking.