I don’t think anyone has remarked on the article about adjuncts from the latest Academe, the AAUP publication. Written by an economist (rare among AAUP authors, I believe), it gives a credible description of part-time faculty. The article is based on the Department of Education’s National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, which surveyed 26,108 faculty and staff in 2004.
The overall conclusion from James Monks of the University of Richmond is that you can’t make easy generalizations, since part-time faculty are diverse. But Monks does blow out of the water the idea that most adjuncts are desperate “freeway fliers” — Ph. D. holders forced to go from school to school teaching a class here and a class there because they can’t get tenure.
To begin with, 79 percent of the part-time faculty surveyed do not teach at another school. Furthermore, only 35 percent of part-time faculty want full-time jobs at the institutions where they are teaching.
Of those who do want full-time positions, 68 percent do not have Ph. D.s (or a prime professional degree such as an M.D. or J.D.); 14 percent are retired. Only 19 percent have Ph.D.s and also want full-time positions.
The stereotype of struggling adjuncts is not entirely wrong, however. Those who lack Ph. D.s but still want full-time positions have a familiar look. There are slightly more women than men in this group, they are youngish compared to other groups (44 years old on average), and they are “disproportionately” in the fields of visual or performing arts or English.