The exploitation of adjunct faculty

I have discussed previously that the US higher education system is not sustainable. In particular the low teaching loads in many institutions will have to increase in light of funding issues, and/or faculty salaries will have to decrease. And many professors will have to realize that their research is simply not for it and they will have to concentrate on teaching.

In fact, such an evolution has already been unraveling for a few decades, in the form of the replacement of tenure tracks faculty by contract teachers that go by various titles like adjunct professor, professor in residence, etc. For example, the proportion of tenured and tenure-track faculty in the US went from 45% in 1975 to 24% now. The share of graduate students in teaching is stable at 20% and the slack is taken by part-time faculty, whose share went from 24% to 41%. This shows that there is now a two-class society in higher education: rather well-paid regular faculty with low teaching loads, and exploited contract faculty.

Why exploited? Because their pay is low, they get no benefits, their classes can be canceled anytime, and they ofter have to teach at several places simultaneously to make ends meet. Below is a video from one such contract worker describing the situation at Marist University. While this seems to be a rather extreme case, it is not that far off what is happening at other places.

How is this going to pan out in the long term? I maintain that there is going to be higher teaching loads and lower pay for everyone but in a few top research institutions. This could take some time, as the current privileged faculty first needs to be replaced by attrition.

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