Evan Rowe is a former professor at Broward College, who wrote about his frustrating experience as an adjunct for New Times. He was terminated after his articles appeared, and sued the college for its retaliation. His case is pending.
On September 8, the Miami Herald ran an article — "Part-time teaching gigs can offer paid, unpaid rewards for full-time professionals" — that was a public relations piece for the disastrous/lucrative conditions in American higher education. It made adjunct teaching sound like a sunny side hustle, but ignored a horrific trend at universities nationwide: administrators making obscenely high salaries while adjuncts who do the bulk of teaching are paid a pittance.
For the vast majority of citizens in America, the economy has grown worse over the past few decades. But that decline has also produced an even more comfortable class of silly professionals. Naturally, comfort can often lead to cluelessness.
The Herald's piece on adjunct professors provides cover for the trend of upward redistribution of wealth and power within higher education. This process goes by many names: "corporatization," "neoliberal higher education", etc. The Herald piece repeats the administrative propaganda line that adjunct professors are professionals who are happily moonlighting from other sectors. Reality, however, is more stark: the adjunct teachings corps in America is primarily composed of credentialed professors who should be — but are not — paid a living wage.
In the United States, business competes to control the state. This longstanding policy undermines, or should undermine, any notion that there is equality on the basis of being human. We all know that one's value in this system — including access to control, or attempt to control, the state —- is determined by private power, not suffrage. This is not a new feature, but the balance of power prior to the Reaganite acceleration of upward redistribution has shifted to levels such that ever more spaces — spaces like the academy that were once thought to be protected — are now getting their own 3rd world super-rich walking amongst the dirty adjunct peasantry.
In the year and a half since I first wrote on this topic, I hoped to help people get a sense that in order to compete with what is happening, the level of bravery is going to need to increase. I know that some who read this will find it hollow given the fact that I was effectively terminated for speaking out, and openly encouraging others into what I see as a proper theater for disobedience. But nobody is going to have a perfect
I am glad to see that during the past 18 months, much has been written on the the plight of the adjunct, with increasing rhetorical force. This piece in the Atlantic — called "There Is No Excuse for How Universities Treat Adjuncts" — is a good summary of just how absurd the situation is. But it's also important to break down some of the arguments of the upward redistributionists, and their internalized business language.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Administrators and college presidents love to say that using low-paid adjuncts on temporary contracts is wonderful example of a flexible labor force. If precarious, or "flexible," labor is so healthy, then so must be precarious property — shouldn't it? I mean if these concepts make everything work for the common good, then they must work at all levels, should they not? If the adjunct precariat is good for higher education, then so must be precarious upper level administration — right? How about administrators be given semester-long or year-long contracts, and/or be paid as independent contractors who foot their own bills for insurance and benefits?
This dream scenario will happen only once there is a total output of enough viable disruption. For me, this means being able to 1. Disrupt 2. Carry out the disruption at a certain rate or frequency 3. Get away with it. and 4. Have the support of roughly 20 to 33% of the population.
These are guidelines for turning rhetoric into reality. I suggest the merits of going on the offensive — as a means to bring instability to an opponent, instead of simply defending against the instability your opponent brings to you.
If they tell you precarious labor is acceptable, then you must make them feel the precarity themselves.