High registration fees at conferences and workshops ignore the growing group of people who have a PhD but are not securely employed and have no institutional support. Often, there are only reduced rates for students. High conference fees creates a barrier of entry for adjuncts, lecturers and other non-tenure track faculty members to participate. We can make this situation a bit less unjust by pledging to create a reduced or waived fee category for contingent faculty in any conference we organize, lobby with academic organizations we are members of to create this category of fees, or - for more privileged members of the profession - forego honoraria or payment of travel expenses to make lower registration fees possible. Sign this petition to pledge on one or more of the actions we can take http://www.thepetitionsite.com/108/832/205/inclusive-fees-campaign/
Over at DailyNous, we read that the University of Oregon has sent a letter to international graduate students warning them that they would face deportation if they were to join a strike being undertaken against the university by the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation (GTFF).
Several things should be said about this.
1) The threat appears to be credible. As I understand matters on the basis of conversations with folks who have had hiring responsibilities that frequently involved graduate students on the type of visa that is likely involved here, all the university would have to do is report to Homeland Security that the students are no longer complying with the conditions of their visas.
2) The above highlights the extent to which international graduate student labor is an extreme form of the sort of captive, precarious labor provided by un-unionized graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) more generally—and the importance of which once led Marc Bosquet, in one of his seminal pieces on the academic labor system, to characterize actually granted PhDs as "the waste product of graduate education." Because international graduate students typically have no legal option but to work for their university employers, they represent possibly the perfect form of GTA labor.
3) Graduate Teaching Assistant unions—which may cover more than TAs narrowly so called, also including graduate students teaching as adjunct faculty, etc.*—represent a threat to this academic labor system. I'll say a little more about this third point, and draw some general conclusions, in what follows.
[In the mean time, I encourage folks to consider adding their names to the open letter that John Protevi is hosting on his blog, calling on the University of Oregon to abandon its current tactics against the union and to grant them the very reasonable benefits they are demanding.]
We're talking about rankings this week. (Do we talk about anything else, any more?) While we're doing so, I'd like to encourage everyone to read and meditate on this extraordinary post by Kate Bowles, which takes off from the heartbreaking story of Professor Stefan Grimm, "a senior UK academic who has died after being put on performance management for the insufficiency of his research. He was 51."
The piece is a meditation on the professional culture and the emotional world, all too familiar, that almost inevitably surrounds not just a death like this but also any number of other real abuses which we have become all too capable of overlooking, if only by virtue of their excessive familiarity. It bears, heavily, on rankings, and the uses to which they are put. But it also calls us out for the way in which we participate in, and facilitate the whole process. As a tease, I'll simply leave folks with these two paragraphs.
Some days they will also drive each other for you. They will whisper about each other, and turn a blind eye to each other, and not quite find the time to act on their own secret critical thinking about any of it. They will also surreptitiously maintain each other through care and coping practices and shrugs in the corridor and exchanged glances and raised eyebrows in meetings and Friday drinks that become chronic, secretive drinking problems so that they can get some rest without writing emails in their heads at 3am.
In fact, if you get the scarcity, intermittency and celebratory settings for occasional reward just right, then the toxic alchemy of hope and shame will diminish their capacity for solidarity, and they will keep the whole thing going for you, in the name of commitment, professional standards, the value of scholarship, academic freedom, the public good of educational equity.
How we ought to understand the terms "civility" and "collegiality" and to what extent they can be enforced as professional norms are dominating discussions in academic journalism and the academic blogosphere right now. (So much so, in fact, that it's practically impossible for me to select among the literally hundreds of recent articles/posts and provide for you links to the most representative here.) Of course, the efficient cause of civility/collegiality debates' meteoric rise to prominence is the controversy surrounding Dr. Steven Salaita's firing (or de-hiring, depending on your read of the situation) by the University of Illinois only a month ago, but there are a host of longstanding, deeply contentious and previously seething-just-below-the-surface agendas that have been given just enough air now by the Salaita case to fan their smoldering duff into a blazing fire.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'll just note here at the start that I articulated my concerns about (and opposition to) policing norms of civility/collegiality or otherwise instituting "codes" to enforce such norms some months ago (March 2014) in a piece I co-authored with Edward Kazarian on this blog here (and reproduced on the NewAPPS site) entitled "Please do NOT revise your tone." My concern was then, as it remains still today, that instituting or policing norms of civility/collegiality is far more likely to protect objectionable behavior/speech by those who already possess the power to avoid sanction and, more importantly, is likely to further disempower those in vulnerable professional positions by effectively providing a back-door manner of sanctioning what may be their otherwise legitimately critical behaviors/speech. I'm particularly sympathetic to the recent piece "Civility is for Suckers" in Salon by David Palumbo-Liu (Stanford) who retraces the case-history of civility and free speech and concludes, rightly in my view, that "civility is in the eye of the powerful."
Posted by Leigh M. Johnson on 14 September 2014 at 16:39 in Academic freedom, Academic freedom , Adjunct faculty and hyper-exploitation, Disability Studies, Ed Kazarian, Feminism, Gender trouble, immaterial labor, the social factory, and other Autonomia notions, implicit bias, Improving the philosophy profession, Leigh M Johnson, Philosophy, Political Economy of higher education, Politics, Racism, Salaita affair, Women in philosophy | Permalink | Comments (12)
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[Update: I didn't realize that these rules (and the story) are acutally seveal months old when I posted this. That said, we haven't as far as I know discussed them here, so I'll leave the post up to facilitate that.]
There has been talk for some time suggesting that the Affordable Care Act might have the effect of forcing colleges and universities in the United States to start providing health-care to many, or even all of their part time instructors. For some, this has seemed like a very promising possibility, since it might alter (perhaps radically) the fiscal calculus that has tilted in favor of ever-increasing use part-time instructors at most American institutions.
Corresponding to this, there have also been fears among those working as traditional, half-time adjuncts and even more those working those who had full or nearly full time contingent contracts that their courses would be cut or their positions eliminated. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, we all want adjunctification to end; but if the effect of destabilization were simply to force all adjunct positions to be maximally precarious, that would, at least in the short term, be movement in exactly the wrong direction.
Accordingly, people have been waiting anxiously for the Obama administration to issue their rules for calculating how many 'hours' part-time instructors are actually working for the purposes of determining their eligibility for ACA.
They're out. And the best short characterization of them that I can think of is that the administration has imposed a set of rules that effectively neutralize any possibility that ACA will significantly affect the way universities use adjunct labor. Details and a few remarks below
This is part 3 of a 3-part series of interviews with philosophers who left academia right after grad school or in some cases later. See part 1 to see what jobs they held, and part 2 on how they evaluate their jobs. This part will focus on the transferrable skills of academics.
The burning question of academics who want to leave academia is: What transferrable skills can they bring to the private sector? The responses of the seven people I interviewed clearly indicate that the skills that are transferrable are broad and fairly high-level.
This is part 2 of a 3-part series of interviews I conducted with seven philosophers who went on to a non-academic career after obtaining their PhDs. For more background on these philosophers, the work they currently do, and the reasons they left academia, see part 1: How and Why do they end up there? This part will focus on the realities of having a non-academic job.
One of the main attractions of an academic job, especially one of a tenured academic professor, is the autonomy (intellectual and in terms of time management) it provides. However, there are downsides as well: the increasing pressure to churn out publications (which some of the respondents already alluded to in part 1, lack of support, and isolation lead to mental health problems in some academics. So how do philosophers with experience in academia and outside evaluate the work atmosphere?
This is the first of a three-part series featuring in-depth interviews with philosophers who have left academia. This part (part 1) focuses on their philosophical background, the jobs they have now, and why they left academia. Part 2 examines the realities of having a non-academic job and how it compares to a life in academia. In part 3, finally, the interviewees reflect on the transferable skills of a PhD in philosophy, and offer concrete advice on those who want to consider a job outside of academia.
Does having a PhD in philosophy mean your work opportunities have narrowed down to the academic job market? This assumption seems widespread, for example, a recent Guardian article declares that programs should accept fewer graduate students as there aren’t enough academic jobs for all those PhDs. Yet academic skills are transferrable: philosophy PhDs are independent thinkers who can synthesize and handle large bodies of complex information, write persuasively as they apply for grants, and they can speak for diverse kinds of audiences.
How do those skills translate concretely into the non-academic job market? To get a clearer picture of this, I conducted interviews with 7 philosophers who work outside of academia. They are working as consultant, software engineers, ontologist (not the philosophical sense of ontology), television writer, self-employed counselor, and government statistician. Some were already actively considering non-academic employment as graduate students, for others the decision came later—for one informant, after he received tenure.
These are all success stories. They are not intended to be a balanced representation of the jobs former academics hold. Success stories can provide a counterweight to the steady drizzle of testimonies of academic disappointment, where the inability to land a tenure track position is invariably couched in terms of personal failure, uncertainty, unhappiness and financial precarity. In this first part, I focus on what kinds of jobs the respondents hold, and how they ended up in non-academic jobs in the public and private sector. Why did they leave academia? What steps did they concretely take to get their current position?
I hope this series of posts will empower philosophy PhDs who find their current situation less than ideal, especially—but no only—those in non-tenure track position, to help them take steps to find a nonacademic career that suits them. And even if one’s academic job is as close to a dreamjob as one can conceivable get, it’s still fascinating to see what a PhD in philosophy can do in the wider world.
Thomas Frank has a nice analysis up on Salon.com on college tuition and debts. In it, he points out that the crisis is of long duration, and people have been asking for more than a generation when the “college bubble” will burst. Along the way, he shows that a number of standard explanations (overpaid professors, insatiable student demand for gymnasiums, etc.) don’t make any sense, at least not on their own. His concluding point, though, seems vitally important. Here’s a good-sized chunk of text (with significant ellipses); I’ll follow with a couple of additional thoughts:
A few years ago in a discussion thread at Leiter Reports I was roundly pilloried for suggesting that universities would be better off if they went back to the system where university administrators worked part time and were appointed by faculty senates.*
But consider the takeaway from this article about university executive compensation during the great recession:
“The high executive pay obviously isn’t the direct cause of higher student debt, or cuts in labor spending,” Ms. Wood said. “But if you think about it in terms of the allocation of resources, it does seem to be the tip of a very large iceberg, with universities that have top-heavy executive spending also having more adjuncts, more tuition increases and more administrative spending.”**
How many people reading this got merit, let alone cost of living, raises during the three year period from 2009-2012?
While the average executive compensation at public research universities increased 14 percent from 2009 to 2012, to an average of $544,554, compensation for the presidents of the highest-paying universities increased by a third, to $974,006, during that period.
Brian Leiter and Simon Evnine have already signed this letter from students at The University of Saskatchewan who are attempting to convince university administrators not to gut their humanities programs. The organizers are inviting people to add their signatures by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and any relevant information you would like to share (institutional affiliation, education, etc).
It's a very nice letter, citing Nussbaum and Bromwich on the value of the humanities while still explaining to the administrators how fantastically bizarre it is to claim to be building a top research school while destroying the humanities. With respect to the proposed changes, the authors write:
Such poor definition entails that the university has failed in whatever duty of clarity it possessed. We know from reading the brief only that some future program shall exist, taking ‘the best parts’ from each of four programs: Religion and Culture, Philosophy, Women and Gender Studies and Modern Languages. Forgive us if we remain sceptical of the virtues of such a combination. The attitude of presumption that must be required for university administrators to suppose that they, and not the cumulative force of tradition, are sufficient to develop a new program from the base materials of these four programs is beyond us, and our understanding. Most plausibly, the four programs shall be made into one ‘interdisciplinary’ program, which offers more upper-level classes than any of the four previous programs individually, but fewer than the four programs collectively. Most students, however, are not interested in a poorly-defined ‘interdisciplinary’ program, but instead are interested in Modern Languages, or Philosophy, or Women’s and Gender Studies, or Religion and Culture. Most universities, considering applicants for postgraduate degrees, are not interested in students who have taken poorly-defined ‘interdisciplinary’ programs, but are instead interested in philosophers, or linguists, with a thorough education in their subject.
Anyhow, please take time to read the letter and if you support it send in your info to the above e-mail address.
In comment #9 at this post, Susan makes a kind of canonical case I've heard from lots of assessment people.
First, I should say that I agree with 95% of the intended answers to Susan's rhetorical questions. We should be much clearer about what we want our students to get out of their degrees, and we should put in the hard work of assessing the extent that we are successful.
But "assessment" in contemporary American bureaucracies almost always accomplishes exactly the opposite of the laudable goals that Susan and I share. And there are deep systematic reasons for this. Below, I will first explain three fallacies and then explain why everyone involved in assessment faces enormous pressure to go along with these fallacies. Along the way I hope to make it clear how this results in "assessment" making things demonstrably worse.**
Posted by Jon Cogburn on 11 March 2014 at 10:37 in "Austerity"? You mean class war, don't you?, #ows; Occupy Everything, Academic freedom, Adjunct faculty and hyper-exploitation, Advice to graduate students, Anthropology, anti-fascism, beyond cynicism; or, what's so funny about peace, love, and understanding?, Big Data, Cognitive Science, Debts: student, national, and otherwise, Disaster capitalism, Economics, Jon Cogburn, Neoliberalism, Oh, FFS, Organizing labor, Psychology, Silliness not worth a FFS, Teaching Philosophy | Permalink | Comments (10)
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However, one additional factor needs to be put into the equation: undergraduate student-workers, who do lots and lots of service and clerical work: checking books out of the library, answering phones in department offices, and on and on. Marc Bousquet estimates in How the University Works that UG student-workers are the largest labor component, by number, at some big public schools.
Should they be part of the bargaining unit, or should the bargaining unit negotiate their work conditions and limits to the number of them employed relative to full-time clerical workers, is a good question, but one or the other is needed I think.
Article in Jacobin here:
On February 18, the tenure track and non-tenure track faculty who make up the University of Illinois-Chicago faculty union UICUF Local 6456 will walk out of the classroom and onto the picket line for a two-day strike. Barring a dramatic change-of-heart by university administrators at the bargaining table the weekend, it will be the first faculty strike at a major research university in a very long time....
Every entering UIC student takes at least one writing course; most take two. Not surprisingly, our writing courses are overwhelmingly taught by lecturers (i.e. non-tenure track faculty), on year-to-year contracts and paid a standard salary of $30,000. Furthermore, although the administration carries on endlessly about the importance of merit, they’re unwilling to mandate a promotion track for non-tenure track faculty, the whole point of which would be to reward merit....
The term “shared governance” is invoked to disguise this evisceration of power but what it mainly means is that faculty senates can “advise” the administration and the administration can then do whatever it wants. To call shared governance real governance is like saying your dog has an equal say in how your household is run because sometimes when he whines he gets fed.
One of our issues in this strike is to take back decision-making power over the issues that matter to us — curriculum, teaching conditions, the distribution of monies, and the like. The administration is fighting ferociously to retain that power — since giving it up would in effect be returning it from management to workers.
This Slate article* about the recent Johns Hopkins plan** is symptomatic of a seriously -- and unfortunately widespread -- mistaken approach to the political economy of higher education, namely, a short-term and ahistorical focus on the TT section of the entire labor system, mislabeled as "the job market."
Abstracting for the moment from the details of the Hopkins plan, the article's premise that "there aren't enough [tenure-track] jobs for PhDs" is an unfortunate reification of the multiple decisions of university administrators to produce the current situation by their hiring decisions. The endorsed conclusion "therefore we should restrict the number of PhD students," by unquestionly accepting the premise, just reinforces the dynamic that produces the current situation.***
In the discussion that followed Anca Gheaus' guest post on the gender situation in the German academy, there was some mention of the fact that in many European job-markets, faculty searches are not truly 'open,' so that internal candidates are strongly preferred to those from outside the hiring institution. Clearly, when taken to an extreme—institutions becoming highly resistant to hiring anyone but their own PhDs and/or post-docs—such a practice can be very detrimental to any process of diversification within the academy. But I wonder if there might not be other situations in which an over-emphasis on 'open' searches is actually detrimental.
I'm thinking of the situation in the U.S. academy, where the norm is very strongly against not only hiring a department's own PhDs, but also hiring any currently employed non-tenure track faculty into tenure lines, or even adjuncts into full-time NTT lines. Given that the galloping precaritization of the professoriate as a whole is fast becoming a structural crisis, I wonder if it is not time to examine the possible merits of encouraging departments to commit to making at least a certain percentage of their full-time and TT hires from within the ranks of their current part-time and NTT faculty.
My six year old Thomas is reading Star Wars books designed for six year olds. He's actually very good at it, but he does consistently misread the word "universe" as "university." Since it occurs quite a lot in these books, he's constantly telling me things like the following:
My name is Qui-Gon Jinn.
I am a Jedi.
The Jedi are a very special group of beings.
For many thousands of years, we have worked to promote peace and justice in the university.
This explains quite a bit (cf. Eric's post of earlier today).
Posted by Jon Cogburn on 21 November 2013 at 19:59 in "Austerity"? You mean class war, don't you?, #ows; Occupy Everything, Academic freedom, Academic freedom , Academic publishing, Adjunct faculty and hyper-exploitation, anti-fascism, Jon Cogburn | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
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Michael Kremer calls my attention to this post by Alex Usher (itself a response to this one). The significance of the post is three-fold: (i) one of the big corporate players in MOOC (massive open online courses) world, Udacity, is changing its strategy from competing with traditional universities to focusing on corporate training--this is accompanied by very forthright commentary by one of the intellectual (and corporate) pioneers of the very idea of MOOC; (ii) the mainstream press is silent on (i); (iii) there is, in fact, no mechanism to keep score on the opinion-leaders of the mainstream press (who have by-and-large been cheerleaders for MOOC and their corporate sponsors).
Over a decade ago the maverick economist, Robin Hanson from overcoming bias, tried to promote interest in (iii), but I don't recall what happened to his ideas.
Anyway, here is a generous excerpt from Usher's post:
There was a big story in MOOC-world last week, which the mainstream press has surprisingly yet to pick up on; namely, that Udacity, one of the three big corporate MOOC players, has just left the building.
Udacity, if you recall, was created by one Sebastian Thrun, a computer scientist at Stanford. It was he who kicked off the current MOOC craze by opening up one of his computer science classes to the world, and then finding out that 160,000 people around the world had signed up. Thrun left Stanford to start Udacity which, along with Coursera and EdX, has been part of the Holy Trinity of the MOOC revolution.
Last Thursday, Fast Company Magazine put out a story (hagiography?) on Thrun, which contained some staggering statements from the man himself, including:
(on looking at data on drop-outs) “We don’t educate people as others wished, or as I wished. We have a lousy product”.
(on providing remedial education) “These were students from difficult neighborhoods, without good access to computers, and with all kinds of challenges in their lives… it’s a group for which this medium is not a good fit”.
(on the value of Udacity courses) “We’re not doing anything as rich and powerful as what a traditional liberal-arts education would offer you”.
From a guy who cockily said he was on the verge of finding a “magic formula” for education, and that by 2060, thanks to MOOCs, there would only be 10 universities, this is some funny stuff.
Philosophers should read this online issue of MLA Profession, since so far MLA > APA on professional issues. (Don't believe me? Check the date on this APA page.) Which doesn't mean it should stay like that; but it does mean we have a good model. Think of the leading folks writing on US HE issues: Bérubé, Massé, Newfield, Bady, Bousquet: they're all English folks. Let's fix that by developing a robust set of philosophers working on HE in general and philosophy work conditions in particular. IMO, these issues require us to drop the near-exclusivity of focus on the TT sector of the employment system, and to see it as one sector only. The last slides of this presentation tries to do that; the earlier slides are a stab at a brief historical survey. A conversation starter rather than a definitive statement.
There is a growing body of evidence that student evaluations not only 1) do not measure teaching effectiveness, and may well be negatively correlated with it, but also 2) that women and other visible minorities fare worse across the board on them. In other words, they're ineffective at measuring what they are frequently seen to measure and highly discriminatory in what they do measure.
The current state of the research is nicely summarized by Philip Stark in this post at The Berkeley Blog, which should be read in its entirety. Even having previously known about much of what Stark discusses, I was particularly stunned by the following:
• students’ ratings of instructors can be predicted from the students’ reaction to 30 seconds of silent video of the instructor: first impressions may dictate end-of-course evaluation scores, and physical attractiveness matters
• the genders and ethnicities of the instructor and student matter, as does the age of the instructor
It's enough to make one wonder how we have allowed the practice of conducting these evaluations to go on for so long and why anyone takes them seriously at all.
One remarkable dimension of the story making the rounds about CUNY failing to pay some of its adjuncts is that these faculty are represented by a union. Approximately 400 faculty missed one paycheck, and 100 more than one. None of these faculty have yet been given their full back pay, nor will they until the end of the term. And their union representatives have, at very least, proven incapable of forcing the university to treat the adjuncts in a fairer and more reasonable manner.
It's worth dwelling on this for a moment. If ever there was a clear cut case for a strong union push, including for a union supported walkout, this is surely it. And yet, nothing. Not even an effective demand that the university absorb whatever supplemental costs may be involved in paying some of their most economically precarious faculty what they are owed in a timely fashion.
This situation is evocative of some of the ways that existing unions have failed adjunct faculty, and it raises some questions about how—or whether—things might improve in this regard.
An email landed in my inbox this morning about widespread non-payment of adjuncts in the CUNY system. I'll reprint it below the fold. IANAL, but those who are might want to comment on this in light of NY's "Wage Theft" law.
Here, though, read how Anthony Galluzo, one of those affected, describes his situation:
I'm supposed to be paid--finally--tomorrow, although classes started the last week of August. The explanation? Well, I was hired late--the week before said classes began--and there is a state mandated pay schedule. Fantastic. A system apparently designed with long term employees in mind, hence the glacial in-processing, even though it now runs on casualized permatemps hired at the last minute. This scenario was compounded by the fact that the secretary in the English department only submitted materials for one of my courses. I am teaching three. A fluke that happens all too often, as I've since learned from other adjuncts. Of the several adjuncts I talk to, I don't know one who was paid on time.
If you've been affected by non-payment, late payment, or partial payment, contact Debbie Bell email@example.com. To offer support of any kind, contact Jonathan Buschbaum. Below the fold, more details:
Speaking of placement, I can't get behind the paywall to this Chronicle article entitled "Scholarly Groups Chip Away at Taboo of Nonacademic Careers." (This part should be read in a Troy McClure voice: "and I don't condone people sending me the PDF, because that would evade a key part of their business model.")
The headline seems off though, because for at least ten years now I haven't had any such "taboo" (and I don't think I'm exceptional here); my standard advice has been for grad students to prepare themselves for multiple job markets, academia being only one of them, so that if you don't get a TT offer, you are already prepared for non-academic fields. (To be precise, getting a TT offer only means moving from one sector to another in the political economy of philosophy instruction; TAs are *already* in the "job market.")
In fact, however, even that doesn't seem responsible, so starting this year I tell them that it's *academia* that should be their Plan B, that is, if you get a TT offer, sure that's great, give it some thought, but your primary plan should be the BGN sectors (business, government, non-profits). I also add in academic administration, too, because, hey, that's the growth market, right? No matter what I think of administrative bloat, I think I have an ethical obligation to counsel grad students as to all their career options.
[UPDATE: I have been unable to find any information on Andrew Carson, so I wonder if this is a real person or a pseudonym. I also hope that at one point the data will be released to interested parties, so we can check for accuracy; for all I know this is a hoax.--ES]
I haven't had a chance to look at his approach, so I will just report his bottom line:
If you are applying to graduate schools in philosophy and are trying to decide which schools you want to apply to or attend, and if you are concerned about your placement prospects after graduation, you need to consider (1) how a school ranks in your chosen specialty and (2) how well that school places students overall. You cannot just rely on overall faculty rankings, for these bear no relationship to how well a school places, although many will find these rankings important for other reasons. What does appear to matter as far as placement is concerned is the school's ranking in your area of specialty. If it ranks well, then you have a much higher chance of getting a tenure track or permanent position in academic philosophy. And some schools just appear to have better placement rankings than others. For example, both Northwestern University and University of Massachusetts, Amherst are not ranked above a 3 in any category (except Continental philosophy and Social and Political Philosophy, respectively), but they have some of the best placement records.
Why is that? I wish I knew. That is a question worthy of further exploration...[Emphasis in original--ES.]
In my piece over at Inside Higher Ed, I argued that the Figlio, et al working paper recently published by the NBER “does a great deal to sow confusion" regarding the fact that the pedagogically effective NTT cohort studied were not badly paid, part-time, semester-to semester 'adjuncts.'
One key effect of this confusion is to obscure how the study, when its results are fully published, will likely contribute further evidence for a positive correlation of faculty pay and working conditions to a range of student outcomes.
Lest we doubt the effectiveness of confusing this issue, consider this piece by Cedar Riener that apeared today on The Atlantic's website. Misconstruing the Northwestern study as showing that adjuncts are better teachers than tenure-line faculty, the author argues that we should stop studying “university salaries or labor practices” or trying to argue that pay correlates to performance. Rather, he claims, we need to make a purely moral argument for paying adjunct faculty better.
In other words, Riener is asking us to throw out some of the strongest arguments we have for de-adjunctification in favor of one that is unlikely to move any administrator or policy maker—let alone to advance the cause of college faculty of any description in the larger political arena.
Our very own Ed Kazarian writes in Inside Higher Ed here. (Congrats Ed!) He nicely summarizes our earlier discussion here at NewAPPS (here, here, here), and shows with patience how the NBER economists used very misleading rhetoric in their piece. Kazarian calls attention to why their bogus rhetoric (tenure vs non-tenure) matters. I quote his concluding remarks:
[T]here is nothing about teaching-intensive faculty that is incompatible with their being eligible for tenure — especially if one fully intends to build long-term relationships with them and keep them around.
Why, one is led to ask, can we not have "efficiency" and tenure? The answer, if there is one, must have to do with other ways in which non-tenured faculty differ from those with tenure. The authors mention academic freedom — an important consideration.
But they otherwise ignore the degree to which non-tenured faculty lack a secure position from which to question, criticize, or oppose the actions of university administrators.
And here, indeed, is another sense of "efficiency" that administrators at many institutions might well wish to cultivate, allowing them to enjoy a pedagogically effective, but largely vulnerable, and therefore easily controlled faculty.
Meanwhile, I called Adult Protective Services right after talking to Margaret Mary, and I explained the situation. I said that she had just been let go from her job as a professor at Duquesne, that she was given no severance or retirement benefits, and that the reason she was having trouble taking care of herself was because she was living in extreme poverty. The caseworker paused and asked with incredulity, "She was a professor?" I said yes. The case- worker was shocked; this was not the usual type of person for whom she was called in to help.
Of course, what the case-worker didn't understand was that Margaret Mary was an adjunct professor, meaning that, unlike a well-paid tenured professor, Margaret Mary worked on a contract basis from semester to semester, with no job security, no benefits and with a salary of between $3,000 and just over $3,500 per three-credit course....