How Come Everyone’s Talkin’ Smack About Adjuncts?


lanceBy Lance Eaton

I have a request for the great wide Internet.  Please stop talking about me as if I’m some partially-crippled frenzied zombie.  I am not an invalid.  I am not incompetent. I am not ready to self-destruct.  Maybe I should blame myself for using the Google Alerts for letting me know when the Internet is talking about “adjuncts.”  I just know that I read a lot of negative press about adjuncts from full-timers, administration, other part-timers, and culture at large.  Sure, there’s the token appreciation from all the segments, but whether discussing us in positive terms or negative, the basis of the discussions is not necessarily something this Freeway Flyer finds useful.

I am not a lesser-instructor than my full-time peers.  When I have evaluations, that’s where a significant number of students say that I made them worked harder and they liked it, that I know my stuff, and how to effectively communicate it. With each passing year, I’m becoming more experienced than some of my peers, when one considers the number of classes that I’ve taught, and the time I regularly put in to perfecting my craft.

I often read that I’m not up to date with respect to my fields of knowledge.  News flash! I have full-time professors seeking my advice; it’s clear that I hold specialized knowledge in my field and in teaching that make me effective.  I’m also publishing academic work and presenting at national and international conferences.

Then, there are the articles that claim that adjuncts are all “overworked.” I am not overworked.  While I can certainly feel underpaid and undervaluded for the work that I do (given the above mention of more classroom experience and publications than some of my full-time counterparts), I loathe the “overworked” cliché that is associated with adjuncts for many reasons.  First, it seems silly in the sense that actual “overworked” people are those who work physically exhausting jobs that take significant tolls on their bodies.  By contrast, saying that academic teaching six or more classes is being overworked feels insulting to those people who do work such demanding jobs.

The point here is not to sell myself as a better-than full-time instructor.  Rather, I feel the way adjuncts are portrayed is often bleak and dark even when those doing the writing applaud the work of adjuncts.  The ongoing discussion of the role of adjuncts needs to be more positively framed; too often, we are discussed in a almost regretful manner. Maybe, I should just turn off my Google Alerts.

What bothers you about the way adjuncts are discussed within the academic culture?  What alternative ways of discussing the role of adjuncts can we imagine or utilize to improve this possible self-fulfilling prophecy?

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