Check out the story of Arik Greenberg, an adjunct teacher of theology at Loyola Marymount University. According to a story on PBS.org, Greenberg has
been active in the movement to unionize adjuncts, and, at the invitation of the Service Employees International Union and the New Faculty Majority Foundation, recently took his case to the Rayburn building in Washington, DC, where he briefed congressional staffers on the working conditions of these part-time faculty.
I agree with Greenberg’s closing sentiment:
I’m fully educated; I stayed in school. Two masters and a Ph.D. I’ve published a book. I’ve paid my dues. I’ve followed the rules to realize the American dream, but I am now living the American nightmare. And I am not alone in this. I’m ready to work. All I want to do is contribute to the scholarship in my field and to teach my students effectively and passionately. But I need to earn a decent wage in order to do so.
Greenberg’s nightmare consists of (1) living under crushing school-loan debt, and (2) having no opportunity within his desired field to advance and prosper. The bigger problem comes from the second aspect — why can’t dedicated, qualified individuals have fair access to the professional benefits of others in their field?
Greenberg’s testimony should shock us into seeing how markets work. Markets “seek” and/or “find” points of weakness and exploit them. In this case, with regular faculty protected, what was once a source of just-in-time help for student overflow became an institutionalized strategy for cost containment. Although administrators and regular faculty may not like adjuncts’ situations, the full-timers also know that they they will bear the burden of changes to the status quo.They want first to keep their own jobs, and then possibly support better conditions for adjuncts. Yet, colleges and universities now receive so much scrutiny on everything from tuition and fee costs to curriculum and standards, the environment never allows — and never will allow — a “breather,” a stable moment for containing the adjunct scenario and developing a reform that works for everyone.
Adjuncts need to unionize and to be supported in their efforts to unionize. No other way exists that I can see to advocate for professionals who most certainly deserve better than what the market currently allows for them.