by Sandra Keifer
I can say this because I’m one of you. Here is a newsflash to the older women of the local college adjunct faculty—you who are supported by engineer husbands and teeter precariously on the high wire of self-esteem, eternally grateful that any local college would hire you:
Not only do you fail to be part of the solution, but you’re a very tangible part of the problem.
You’ve “got yours” already, and while your spouse may chide you (as a parent would a child) that you’re giving away your labor for pennies, you love that warm feeling teaching gives you. You fool yourself daily, telling yourself that your work is above the market, above the value of money. You may even be smart enough to realize that the administrators at your school are skimming the fruits of your labor as deftly as any Koch brother, but you don’t like to dwell on those thoughts. They make you feel uncomfortable.
Those thoughts may even tear down some of the feelings of smugness and beneficence that fill your giant heart, and here is another thought—a very new one, in your world—that may disturb your false sense of magnanimity:
You are hurting young teachers.
Your willingness to work for minimum wage (or less, pursuant to your own confessions) only helps the administration, populated by men (mostly) who are making six figures and enjoy security on a level that may surpass even that of your employed spouse. The college is betting that people like you will continue to swell its ranks, propping up the decades-old system that devalues education and pads their own futures. Administrators are betting that you will chide rabble-rousing young adjuncts who want better pay and benefits because we can barely pay our rent; they are hoping that you will refuse to participate in any scheme that could lead to something that resembles pay and benefit equity with full-timers.
They are praying you will turn that iron cheek, Maggie, and tell the younger adjuncts to sit down and work harder because, in your heart of hearts, you selfishly believe that if teaching paid better, more qualified people would vie for your job and take it from you—and you may be right. Is this, however, what is best for students? Do you consider this fact when you tell yourself that you always have the students’ best interests in mind, or have you rationalized your ethical egoism, Ayn Rand?
Yes, older women of the local college adjunct faculty, keep telling yourself that your work is sacred, unrelated to money, and focused on the future of our community. Don’t worry about what is really best for students or young teachers. You’ve got yours; we’ll just have to find our own way.