Kezar told me that this high attrition rate has nothing to do with the quality of instruction adjuncts provide; it is entirely a function of the compromised working conditions adjuncts face. Tenure-track professors have a wealth of career-development tools at their disposal; in contrast, Kezar says, universities do not give adjuncts the basic resources they need to properly teach their courses, such as sample syllabi or learning objectives. Since most departments hire adjuncts at the last minute, they are often inadequately prepared to enter the classroom. Universities do not provide adjuncts with office space, making it difficult for them to meet with students outside class. To make matters worse, many adjuncts teach at several colleges to make ends meet: Commuting—sometimes between great distances—further reduces the time they can devote to individual students.
“We have lost an entire generation of scholarship because of this,” Debra Leigh Scott, an adjunct activist and documentary filmmaker, told me. “Adjunct contracts not only drive professors into poverty, it makes it next to impossible for them to do the kind of scholarship they have trained an average of ten years to do.” Scott suggests that the loss of academic scholarship has ripple effects throughout society, since fewer scholars are contributing to national discussions on issues like the ethics of business and the value of the humanities. “If you lose these expert voices then who is really left speaking?” she asks. “You get the pundits on either side, but there is not a lot of depth to the conversations being held. There has been a dumbing down of discourse across all platforms.”