Writing in Forbes, Tom Lindsay offered an interesting perspective on the trend toward increased spending on college administration along with shifting the proportion of faculty from tenured (with good wages and benefits) to adjunct (with low wages and no benefits). In fact, he puts this into a context which goes beyond Michelle Chen’s referenced article in The Nation.
I had the opportunity to live in the world of adjuncts during the couple of years when I was winding down my stint as a college instructor. There are indeed issues around the need for faculty to be available to interact with students in and out of the classroom, and there are certainly issues around using adjuncts to lower faculty costs so that money can be spent elsewhere. Tom and Michelle address those at some length.
Additionally, though, it bothers me that full-time faculty members don’t seem to care much about the fact that they are working side by side with adjuncts who have advanced degrees and much experience in the professional world, and yet could be making more money cutting lawns for a living. On campuses complete with Peace and Social Justice majors and unflagging support for increases in the minimum wage, this attitude always struck me as oblivious at best, and uncaring at worst.
The fact that adjuncts continue to teach, for their own love of the profession and the students, seems also lost on campus administrators. They shortsightedly welcome the cost reduction benefits, but fail to acknowledge (and market) to incoming students the value that working adjuncts bring to the campus by integrating outside experiences, perspectives and connections.