Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Rise of the Planet of the Adjuncts

From this story in The Atlantic:
College faculties have grown considerably over the years, and as the AAUP notes, the ranks of the tenured and tenure-track professoriate are up 26 percent since 1975. Part-time appointments, however, have exploded by 300 percent. The proportions vary depending on the kind of school you're talking about. At public four-year colleges, about 64 percent of teaching staff were full-time as of 2009. At private four-year schools, about 49 percent were, and at community colleges, only about 30 percent were. But the big story across academia is broadly the same: if it were a move, it'd be called "Rise of the Adjuncts." 

Over three decades, the number of adjuncts has steadily increased. Some of that surely reflects the growing number of grad students, but there's some kind of feedback loop at work here, no? More grad students means more students seeking funding, more students adjuncting, more classes being taught by grad students... With abundant cheap labor available, schools have little incentive to spring for TT lines, and every incentive to increase the numbers of grad students, leading to more students seeking funding, more adjuncts teaching classes... And now we're in a situation where supply greatly outpaces demand for PhDs. Smokers here claim it is harder to get VAP and adjunct positions now. Given the supply vs. demand situation, that would not be surprising, at least on the above reading of the data. But over at Crooked Timber, Michael Berube says it's not that simple. He argues there are two distinct labor markets, a national market for TT jobs (PhD required), and a regional/local market for adjunct jobs (mostly held by MAs): 
according to the 2004 National Study of Postsecondary Faculty, 65.2% of non-tenure-track faculty members hold the MA as their highest degree—57.3% in four-year institutions, 76.2% in two-year institutions. There are many factors affecting the working conditions of adjuncts, but the production of PhDs isn’t one of the major ones. 
When I left adjuncting for a fellowship, in 2009, the state U where I worked was about to cut back on adjuncts. Not because they were planning a TT hire (that had also been canceled by the economic calamity of 2008), but because of budget cuts to higher ed. Have adjunct positions rebounded since then, or remained at reduced levels? Clearly, the numbers show more contingent faculty than ever. But the data above doesn't indicate who is filling those jobs. Are VAP/adjunct jobs harder to come by or more competitive than they used to be? Or is it just that for PhDs, they're harder to come by?


~zombie

56 comments:

david said...

The focus on the percentage of instructional staff who are adjuncts seems designed to exaggerate the number of career adjuncts, since many adjuncts only teach a couple of courses here and there, and others split their full-time teaching load between multiple institutions and so would be counted among the instructional staff at each one. The more relevant statistic would be the percentage of courses being taught by adjuncts. In fact, now that I think of it the percentage of instructional staff who are adjuncts would go down if you held the number of courses taught by adjuncts constant and increased the number of full-time adjuncts (e.g., replacing 5 full-time adjuncts with 10 half-time adjuncts). So it is really not obvious what is happening and to what degree as the percentage of instructional staff who are adjuncts goes up. Probably there are more people trying to make a living as adjuncts, at least on a temporary basis. But the statistics in the chart could be explained by a move away from people who work full-time at a particular institution as adjuncts in favor of people who teach a college course here and there on the side, as several people who I know do.

Anonymous said...

I take option (3), namely, that hiring data from almost a decade ago (2004), well before the economic crash, is a shitty star for us to sail by. Of course more adjunct jobs were going to people with M.A.s then. But we don't live in that world anymore. Here on Planet Earth 2013, PhDs are in competition for adjunct work everywhere..."and there's not enough love to go 'round."

Anonymous said...

Zombie,

You ask: "Are VAP/adjunct jobs harder to come by or more competitive than they used to be? Or is it just that for PhDs, they're harder to come by?"

Is your worry that some departments will pass over PhD's in favor of MA's? Or that so many existing jobs are held by MA's that there are just too few jobs for new PhD's or new MA's? I hope places aren't passing over PhD's just because they're PhD's and not MA's.

Anonymous said...

Your post seems to imply that the economic issue is merely about supply/demand (more Ph.D.s are the oversupply and the reduce in demand occurring because they flood the market, thus making labor more cheaply available) rather than about other economic factors, namely the significant reduction in state support for public higher education institutions.

I would say the latter is the primary cause. Many institutions --
including my own, a massive urban community college -- want nothing more than to hire more FT faculty. It is better for our institution, better for our students, and better for our community to do so. However, the reductions in our funding from the state have been so severe since the recession, and the number of folks retiring is on the upswing that we can't even really afford to fill the existing lines let alone create new ones. It's not for lack of need. We currently have around a dozen FT philosophy professors. But more than half the courses we teach are still taught by adjuncts. We could probably hire another 5-6 full-timers and STILL have courses for adjuncts who just want to pick up a course here and there.

But it is economically impossible for us to fund the TT lines. Salaries, benefits, required professional development. Guaranteed the line from tenure onward. It's fiscally impossible. Our options are to shrink the institution and limit access (first come, first serve) or exploit adjunct labor. And we can't really even do the first, because if we did, we'd KILL our retention, attrition, and completion rates, which are basically the only numbers anyone in the state capitol cares about. If we limited access and saw attrition go up and completion go down, and our time to degree numbers go up, we would just be called an ineffective institution by the politicians and lose more money, etc. Either way, we are screwed.

Anonymous said...

The question is: Would you rather make $100k a year with excellent benefits in a non-academic job + $5-10k on the side adjuncting, $45k with lousy benefits as a full-time TT AP/contract lecturer, or $18-30k without benefits teaching as an adjunct at one or more institutions/campuses? Personally I'd choose option one over the rest, but if the choice were between two and three, two is always better.

Anonymous said...

9:49: When you say "our institution," who are you speaking about? Is it administration, provosts, deans etc? Or is it department chairs and faculty? These are different groups.

I can see why the latter would want more TT FT people, while the former would not (more salary room for admin, for example). We've seen an explosion of higher education administrations (more deans, higher salaries, etc) and a compression of TT FT profs.

Anonymous said...

Most TT positions actually have pretty good benefits; better than many jobs in the private sector.

Anonymous said...

9:49 here. I meant both. As someone who does a lot of work with the faculty union, I'm sympathetic to the view that "Administrators" are petty, self-aggrandizing bureaucrats. And some of them are. But many of the administrators at our institution are not, and many of them recognize the inherent bind we are in and are trying to make the best of a really bad situation. Generally, even when I disagree with their strategies and methods, I find I agree with their motives. Luckily, the faculty union maintains a significant amount of power that prevents many of worst abuses of administrative power and can reign in the petty, self-aggrandizing bureaucrats as needed. But everyone in some leadership position at our college recognizes that as a CC in our state we are basically expected by the state capital to do the hardest job (teach all skill levels, including no skill level), at a very high volume (open access means no one gets turned away), with the fewest resources, and have the highest level of success of everyone college/university in the state. Any indication from us that we need more money ("greedy"), want to turn people away ("deny access"), or have trouble meeting our population demands ("failing taxpayers") is treated in the capital as an excuse to further cut state funding. Add sequestration and the recently enacted limitations on student financial aid, and you've got a recipe for financial disaster. Oh, and the recently effective ACA regulations mean that we will have to hire even more adjuncts because we now have to cap adjunct work at 25 hours a week because we genuinely can't afford to provide benefits to our entire adjunct population.

Again, I don't endorse the exploitation of adjunct labor. My partner is actually an adjunct at my same college. In the past, my partner has taught just as much as I do, and sometimes spends more time at work than I do because of traveling between multiple campuses. (I can't be forced to do that as a FT faculty member.) It's not fair, and the fair and morally correct thing to do would be hire sufficient FT faculty to meet the teaching demands of the college; this would also be the best thing to do for the students. However, its financially impossible to do that -- there is literally no money, and it looks like the state is getting ready to massacre our budget again.

Anonymous said...

Most TT positions actually have pretty good benefits; better than many jobs in the private sector.

can others chime in on this? I'm not sure what counts as "good benefits" for the purposes of this discussion but maybe it's easier for people to describe what they consider to be lousy benefits.

zombie said...

"Most TT positions actually have pretty good benefits; better than many jobs in the private sector.

can others chime in on this? I'm not sure what counts as "good benefits" for the purposes of this discussion but maybe it's easier for people to describe what they consider to be lousy benefits."

Good benefits (YMMV): Healthcare, retirement, moving expenses, start-up expenses, conference travel expenses, maternity leave, sabbatical, flexible hours, pretty much wide open hours in the summer, premium parking (sometimes free!), not much heavy lifting, private office, exercise facilities (sometimes free)

zombie said...

Oh yeah, and add "tenure" as a major benefit. Job security cannot be discounted in these economically uncertain times.

Anonymous said...

The funding argument - that schools simply cannot afford TT hires - is bullshit. Administrative costs have soared over the past 10-15 years. Pay - as well as benefits, travel budgets, etc. - for administrators keeps climbing, despite calls for austerity cuts that restrict the ability to fund TT hires. State schools, in particular, seem to have unlimited funds to hire administrators, fund make-work administrative initiatives, etc.

It's bullshit. It's not that the money isn't there; it's that the money is used to fund administration and its pet projects. I'll buy the argument that schools can't afford it when schools start announcing that they are replacing administrative posts with part-time labor and reducing bloated administrative salaries.

Anonymous said...

Regarding 9:49

It must be so hard for you, being forced to exploit us. Being forced to cut adjunct hours to avoid ACA requirements really hurts _you_ I am sure. We adjuncts weep for you, really.

I am getting quite tired of TT folk asking me, implicitly or explicitly to sympathize with their difficult situation, while at the same time getting little sympathy or support in return from them or their unions.

Anonymous said...

9:49 here again.

Anon 8:56. Funding situations differ from institution to institution. I'm sure what you describe (admin inflation, etc.) is true at some institutions, possibly many of them. I doubt its true at ANY major urban **community college.** I'm a FT TT professor actively involved in managing things at my institution as part of union's efforts to collaborate with administration. We haven't hired any NEW non-grant-funded administrative positions, only replaced SOME of the existing lines (more than a couple hundred admin and staff lines remain vacant precisely because we can't afford them -- and many of those necessary positions). Oh, and where half our teaching is adjunct -- so too is most of our support staff/admin work is also part-time. (You should see some of our FT library staff to student or FT advisor to student or FT financial aid officer to student ratios. They are completely and utterly miserable.) Our only travel expenses for ANYONE, admin or faculty, must be grant-funded or you are on your own. There have been admin layoffs, several in high-ranking positions, but no faculty lay-offs. And while admins -- because they are not unionized -- can be made to work 60 hour plus work weeks for 50-52 weeks a year, and many of our faculty are contracted to a 35 hour work week for 40 weeks a year. Faculty are paid proportionately less. Our tenure is not based on publication or conference presentation, and some faculty choose to work more. But as someone who actively defends faculty contract rights, I assure you once they are tenured (3-4 years), they are fully within their rights to do the contract requirements and nothing else.

I'm HUGELY sympathetic to Labor Rights issues. Instead of doing research with my spare time, I do *actual* Labor Management work. I have also had previous work experience in Administration. I know something of colleges and state funding issues work. And given the VAST difference in how funding works at the level of every state, variations in financial management and priorities from institution to institution, etc. there are definitely some patterns that emerge over all (as you mention, top-heavy pay structures being one of them), but not all schools have that problems. I know the numbers at my school -- if you adjust for hours contracted, the differentials at my institution are very, very far below the national trend and are pretty much justified by the shittiness of most admin positions at my school.

Anonymous said...

Also Anon 9:49

Anon 1:48 ... I'm sorry that you managed to get from my post the impression that I'm OKAY with any of this. I am merely explaining its causes at my institution. Seeing as my own partner is suffering for lack of work, I don't really think its a charitable view that I'm sitting here thinking any of this is justifiable. Which is why I actually am involved in political work and activism via our union. I would love NOTHING more than to see our funding restored, FT lines created, and to provide all of our full and part time workers with benefits. I regard as my social and moral obligation to help those people who are less professionally lucky than me, and contribute significant money and time to further the political and social missions associated with the labor movement. That is why I know what I know about how my institution works -- because I see a lot of things that are seriously morally wrong, and I wanted to try and help fixing them. You won't find my name in any Philosophy journals or in Conference Programs because of it. I won't ever be able to finish my Ph.D. because of it. But I don't really care, because I have zero interest in that world anymore. Being involved in Labor work has changed me thoroughly. I'm sorry your life is horrible, and I hope one day enough people realize -- as I have -- that it needs to be fixed. But the fix can't happen unless someone -- state government -- provides us with EITHER a reasonable amount of money OR the ability to limit access so we can do well with the money we have. Currently we are allowed neither. It's a Repub/Tea Party state, so my guess is relief is not to be had. If you have another solution, though, I'd be truly happy to hear it.

Anonymous said...

to think about this merely in terms of supply/demand (of ph.d.s) is a mistake, since the labor market has been split into (at least two) tiers: non-TT and TT labor. just as is the case in other sectors, this has led to worsening conditions in both tiers (stagnation of wages, cuts in benefits, increased busywork for those on the TT because a) your colleagues off the TT cannot share your advising/governance load and b) the administrators know this and keep you busy with stuff you can play with while they control the real decisions). the situation we have is the result of choices: choosing to prioritize capital investments (mostly in buildings, which after 2008 hasn't really panned out that well, but which accreditors and ratings agencies love) and a balooning administrator class over tenure track teaching.

there are more college students now than ever: berube makes this very point in his further research, and christopher newfield's work (at unmaking the university) supports it. the problem isn't that there are too few classes to teach, the problem is that universities increasingly do not value teaching. in an industry supported by a debt bubble as large as that in higher ed, rent seekers will try to get as much as they can, as quick as they can, before the whole thing crashes. so money goes into the things that sell: pretty buildings with proper names, well tended grounds, "brands," big name research chairs. you can pay an army of contingents to do the actual work, and you can pay them almost nothing to do it (until the point it begins to affect the "brand," as of course Amherst's recent experience with MOOCs demonstrates).

Anonymous said...

Some of you may have seen this, but it's relevant to this thread: the problem is the expansion of administration.

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-11-21/the-troubling-dean-to-professor-ratio

Anonymous said...

Just got this PFO for a 2-year VAP job:

Thank you for your application for the visiting position in the philosophy department at Grand Valley State University. We had over 100 applications from excellent candidates. At this point we have extended offers, and I'm sorry to say you are not among that group. We were looking for candidates with evidence of excellent teaching in our areas of teaching need—Introduction to Philosophy, Ethics, Logic, Aesthetics, Professional Ethics-- whose research areas complemented those of the department, and who seemed likely to be able to transition from GVSU and it's 4-4 teaching load into a tenure-track position elsewhere.

So unless I am having a stroke, this says I didn't the lousy 2-year 4-4 non-TT position (in part) because they don't think I have any chance of getting a TT position? WTF!!!!!

Could we maybe have a thread about this bullshit? I feel like this is a terrible example of moving the goalposts. If a committee is looking to hire people who can go on to get TT jobs elsewhere, presumably to increase the prestige of their department, I feel like the advert should have a line saying If you can't get a TT job don't bother to fucking apply here idiot!

Anonymous said...

"So unless I am having a stroke, this says I didn't the lousy 2-year 4-4 non-TT position (in part) because they don't think I have any chance of getting a TT position?"

If you PhD is in Philosophy, your chances of getting a TT position are pretty terrible.

Anonymous said...

Not to take away from the complete bizarreness of that PFO, but it doesn't conclusively follow from what the letter says that 12:07 did not get the job, even in part, because the SC did not believe the recipient could land a TT-job somewhere else. If the SC was looking for candidates who met two conditions, one could fail to get the job wholly on the basis of not having "research areas that complemented those of the department." (For most small departments, that is usually very much a driving concern.) So, perhaps 12:07 is taking this just a tad too personally, or indeed having a stroke.

Nevertheless, I am extremely curious to know precisely why GVSU felt the need to communicate to candidates that getting a TT-track job at another institution was a criterion at work in their selection process. Very very odd.

Anonymous said...

I got that email as well. I tried to interpret it charitably. But it sort of felt like they were telling me that I'm not only shit out of luck for this visiting job, but probably for life.

Anonymous said...

12:07 -

I'm sympathetic. But I assume what GVSU had in mind was this: we have so many good applicants, that the sorts of things that would normally disqualify you from TT employment (not having a PhD in hand, no publications, etc.) will also disqualify you for this position.

I doubt they literally meant 'don't apply here if you can't get a TT job.' Trust me, if we could get a TT job, we wouldn't be teaching 4 courses per semester at GVSU.

Anonymous said...

I'm thinking it may have less to do with the prestige of the department and more to do with their recognition that teaching a 4-4 puts real pressure on one's ability to build on the non-teaching elements of one's CV (namely, the research). It's possible that a VAP like this would help some candidates--e.g., those who are already closer to getting a TT job and who would benefit from the teaching experience--more than others. I'm not defending this practice, mind you. But that's how I read the part about "transitioning" into a TT job.

Anonymous said...

Truly Bizarro World, because GVSU seems to be arguing the opposite of what less prestigious schools usually argue: "We won't hire X, because he/she won't like it here and won't stay."

Anonymous said...

Regarding the GVSU PFO:

Probably not something they needed to include in the letter, but I read the final line a bit more charitably (obviously importing some assumptions): "We know from experience that a 4-4 load at our institution can be a real time suck and has derailed otherwise promising careers and as a state institution we do not expect to have lines available to offer to candidates we like, so we think that it is important to select someone for the position that seems capable of handling the load and still doing the continuing research necessary to land their next job." They might even regard this as a moral imperative, as paternalistic as it might seem.

Also, for understandable reasons, if they value good teaching as a way to maintain their department, they might want to try and minimize situations where the demands of finding the next job conflict with attention to teaching (since most rational people would choose to prioritize the next job).

So, I don't think this should be read as saying the person who was not selected has no chance of a TT. Rather I see it aimed at the great candidate whose experiences would mean a steep learning curve at a university their size, say someone who has only taught small classes or otherwise seems attracted to a SLAC environment.

It is true that they are making judgments about people's ability to get TT positions after their job, but this market has an oversupply and there will be enough people who can provide evidence of being able to produce with a high-teaching (probably someone who has already had one VAP).

While it can seem like a lot of jobs are filled by inside candidates (so getting hired as a VAP is the first step in working your way into an institution), that is probably not the reality. In many cases, institutions have permanent low-level positions and they can't retain anyone for more than a few years as a full-time lecturer without running afoul of AAUP or doing something sketchy to avoid it.

I don't think this is about prestige, it's about SC being able to alleviate some of the guilt for the hiring situation they find themselves in due to higher-level administrative decisions about how resources should be allocated.

Anonymous said...

This is my favorite job ad: "Applicants must have a Ph.D. in Philosophy, tenure at The University of Memphis, an established research program, a record of teaching and service at The University of Memphis, a commitment to academic excellence, and strong interpersonal and administrative skills." The pool of potential hires has to be very small...I'll guess, one. Obviously they are legally required to post the ad. Still, why do you have to have tenure at UM? Why not consider some new blood? Has philosophy become that incestuous that we now only hire our own?

Anonymous said...

Has philosophy become that incestuous that we now only hire our own?

Wait -- you're saying you think it's possible that in philosophy departments only hire their own members?

That is... an odd idea.

Anonymous said...

It's patronizing: let candidates decide if they want to take on the 4-4 load while still aiming for a TT job. Don't decide *for* them.

Not only is it paternalistic, but it allows dangerous implicit (and explicit) biases to run RAMPANT.

This is a great example to use in discussing implicit biases, as it's an example of what NOT to do.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:19: they must need to promote someone to chair of the dept, but there's presumably a legal requirement to advertise the position.

What is funny about that one that the last bit of information on the actual Memphis has this: Is this posting for UofM employees only?

Answer: No.

Anonymous said...

3:03 - that's awesome. I suppose someone could have gotten tenure at Memphis years ago, trotted off to NYU, and then apply to return?

Anonymous said...

"It's patronizing: let candidates decide if they want to take on the 4-4 load while still aiming for a TT job. Don't decide *for* them."

It almost sounds like you misunderstand how the academic market works. The entire application process - right up until an offer is made - is the SC deciding, not the applicant.

GVSU isn't really deciding anything on behalf of the applicant. They are (very poorly) stating that they only considered applicants who, in their opinion, were strong enough to be considered for a TT job. It's shitty, and not well-worded, but in itself not uncommon. My department will be hiring a sabbatical replacement next year for a 1-year, non-renewable position. And we know that, given the state of the market, we will be able to hire someone who is well-qualified for a TT position but, given the lack of jobs, won't land one. And I already know we will be complained about on this blog, for being "that program," the one that wants strong teaching and strong research record, for a 1-year VAP.

Anonymous said...

I've seen a few searches in the past three years where the eventual hire was a grad school buddy of the department or search committee chair. I wish that these places were as honest as UM and just wrote: "Applicants must have a Ph.D. in Philosophy at X University, be a friend of so-and-so, have an established research program, a record of teaching, service and general brown-nosery, a commitment to academic excellence, no qualms about stealing a job from someone who deserves it more than you and strong interpersonal and administrative skills." That would have saved me some time, effort and expense being a candidate in these fake job searches.

Anonymous said...

There was a recent CC job whose ad said that only current adjuncts would be considered and allowed to apply. I think letting everyone know this upfront is great, even if a little disappointing for non-adjuncts at the CC.

Anonymous said...

This may not be the right place to post this, but I would be very interested in getting a thread going to poll Smokers as to whether this applies equally to philosophy as it does English:

http://www.slate.com/articles/life/culturebox/2013/04/there_are_no_academic_jobs_and_getting_a_ph_d_will_make_you_into_a_horrible.html

Based on the comment section here, I suspect it does.

Anonymous said...

I've read most of this thread. And upon finishing said reading the first thing I thought of was:

http://whitewhine.com/

Am I a bad person?

Anonymous said...

9:44am:

"It almost sounds like you misunderstand how the academic market works. The entire application process - right up until an offer is made - is the SC deciding, not the applicant.

GVSU isn't really deciding anything on behalf of the applicant. "

Yes, I really don't know that search committees make decisions. But GSSU is deciding something on behalf of the applicant: whether they can handle the 4-4 without jeopardizing chances at a TT job down the line.

The qualifications for a 4-4 2yr VAP are the very same qualifications to have a chance at a TT job, so the committee must decide (on their biases) for the applicant, regarding wither the applicant can "handle" the workload without jeopardizing TT chances. Let the applicant decide whether they can handle it. GVSU is hiring for the 2yr VAP, not a TT line, so considerations about the latter are irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

"I've read most of this thread. And upon finishing said reading the first thing I thought of was:

http://whitewhine.com/

Am I a bad person?"

I am not sure wanting to be rewarded for eight years of hard work--granted, scholarly and educational work, which is a first world phenomenon perhaps--is a first world problem.

Anonymous said...

"I am not sure wanting to be rewarded for eight years of hard work--granted, scholarly and educational work, which is a first world phenomenon perhaps--is a first world problem."

You *were* rewarded. You received an education. In all likelihood, and excellent education. And (I would hope) the education you wanted. You worked hard for that education, yes, and that's one reason it's so valuable.

The problem with conversations like this about the market is that we all think we are somehow entitled to a job, that if we don't land a job after the PhD, we were somehow denied something owed to us. But that's just not the case. Are we qualified for a job? Certainly. Did we work hard for it? Absolutely. But that does not mean we are entitled to a job. Or, rather, we are not entitled to a job in the field because we are qualified.

This is a lesson that many academics seem constitutionally incapable of learning.

Yes, we spent a great deal of time and energy on our degrees. We made a great many sacrifices. And it's a damn shame so many of us are not employed in academia. But that's how the game is played. We sat at the table and played the game. We won some chips, we lost some chips. And then, somewhere along the way, we went all in (which, in this analogy, is deciding on the PhD in preparation for an academic job). And many of us lost. But that's how the game is played. We don't get our chips back because we lost. And we certainly don't deserve to win because we played hard or made smart moves.

Yeah, it sucks. Trust me, I know. But in life as well as in poker, one can make all the right moves, and still lose. This is something that needs to be impressed upon everyone going to grad school with the hopes of an academic post: you can make all the right moves and still lose. That's the risk.

Anonymous said...

At least they are for the most part forthright about hiring relatives (nepotism) and friends (cronyism) in the third world. In the first world, human resource departments try to hide or deny the gross unfairness of these hiring decisions. In some cases, the decisions are parts of quid pro quo arrangements, e.g., Philosopher A: "I'll serve as department chair for the next three years if you stack the search committee so that it's guaranteed my buddy Tom from grad school gets hired. I really like Tom and want him to be my colleague." Philosopher B: "Sounds good. But won't it be obvious that the search was rigged?" A: "Yes, of course it will be, but if anyone challenges us, the human resource department will deny it and cover for us." That's a genuine problem.

Anonymous said...

FYI, Anon 9:49 -- the one whose institution WANTS to end a dependence on adjunct labor, was criticized for explaining the fiscal situation of my institution -- here.

My institution just announced a pretty huge funding deal with the state which will allow us to hire a bunch of FT faculty and staff, we hope from our existing part-time pool. Would it be problematic with all of you if we were focus on our existing workers, and not outside candidates? No decisions have been made, its purely a hypothetical question but ultimately we do have to decide how handle the jobs. (Note: not sure yet if any philosophy jobs will be included, but its likely.)

It sounds like institutions are criticized for exploiting part-time labor, but then when FT positions become available and we want to focus giving those positions to our adjunct workers, we are then criticized for being "incestuous" or something?

I understand many people outside the institution have a lot to offer. But shouldn't people who have already labored -- for what are really unreasonable wages and worked conditions -- be first in line when a FT job opens up? Honest question, here, guys from a person who is involved in such decision making processes -- so try not to massacre me with sarcasm and hate. Just looking for something like reasonable arguments for and against this view.

Anonymous said...

Christ Almighty. GVSU is not "deciding something on behalf of the applicant." GVSU has to decide who should get the offer. They have (rightly or wrongly) decided to take into account candidates' TT prospects as GVSU evaluates these prospects based on the dossiers they receive. This is not "deciding something on behalf" of candidates.

To simplify: Suppose of the 100+ applicants only 2 speak English. So, GVSU has only to decide between these two. Applicant 1 comes from an unranked program, has what GVSU judges to be an uninteresting research program, no publications, etc., but has the right sort of teaching experience. S/he could do the job GVSU needs done. Applicant 2 could also do the job they need done but comes from a ranked program, has a publication or two or three or four, and is pursuing what GVSU judges to be a promising research agenda.

GVSU has stated that they would pick applicant 2 for the job because they would judge that s/he is more likely to get a TT job down the line. This is how they have decided to narrow the field, break ties, etc., in their attempt to fairly distribute the good they have to offer.

They might be wrong to do this but if so it's not because they are deciding on behalf of others.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:36,

There is a great difference between saying that ANYONE who works hard for eight years is entitled to a job and saying that someone who has worked hard, produced high quality work--including publications--become an excellent teacher--with several different courses under his/her belt--should have a better shot at a job than he/she is getting. This distinction keeps getting lost in these discussions. What most people are arguing, when they raise the fact that hard work isn't getting rewarded, is that the quality of many people's work WOULD have merited a job four or five years ago. It's not "Oh, I worked hard--give me a job, I deserve one!" It's "I've done everything you asked me to, done it better than a large number of those around me, and now I am getting exactly what those others are getting--nothing." I hate this tired metaphor, but it applies here: the discipline is continually moving the goal posts. I understand that there was never a guarantee of a job, but what really bothers me is that one's chances of getting a job seem to remain pretty stagnant, no matter how much one progresses. And that seems to me a pretty serious thing to worry about.

Anonymous said...

No, here's what I'm worried about, because it actually happened to me.

Suppose a department knows of a candidate that would do very well in a particular 3-3 VAP job. In fact, she's their #1 choice. But the candidate is going on the job market her first year out of her PhD, and they have high hopes for her. So they're worried that a 3-3 load will be "too much for her" and will hurt her chances to get a TT job.

So they don't even tell her about the position: they don't even invite her to apply. They make that decision for her.

GVSU is quite possibly doing the same thing, but one step removed, because they're potentially doing to people who DID apply.

They may very well look at a candidate, and think that a 4-4 will stall their research, and this will hurt their TT prospects.

THAT is deciding for the candidate: let the candidate decide if they want to take the risk that their research will stall.

og said...

"the discipline is continually moving the goal posts."

Well, the economy has been bad and it's still harder to get a job than it was before the economy tanked. Is that what you mean? It's odd to describe that as "the discipline" moving goal posts.

Anonymous said...

10:22, 9:28 here. I'm not quite about the case you describe--a department conducted a secret search in order to save you from applying for their job, in order that they could avoid hiring you and thus saving you from a dead-end job?

In any case, I suppose it's possible that GVSU has a particular candidate in mind, a candidate they will pass over for paternalistic reasons even though s/he is the best person for the job. More likely, however, is the scenario I and others have described--they have decided to give the job to someone they judge to have better odds of a TT job down the line because they judge that they, GVSU, will be doing the most good this way. In this market there are probably dozens of people who can equally well be described as "the best person for the job" (putting aside logical problems), so external considerations come into play, such as whether GVSU will be contributing positively to someone's long-term career or merely extending by two busy years someone's hopes, hopes that are unlikely to be realized.

Anonymous said...

"What most people are arguing, when they raise the fact that hard work isn't getting rewarded, is that the quality of many people's work WOULD have merited a job four or five years ago."

---Maybe. But the jobs aren't there. Philosophers are staring a dying market in the face. And instead of trying to find new ways of employing their skills, they are closing their eyes, putting their fingers in their ears, and desperately hoping that reality will change in time for their own graduation.

Or maybe not. The market was *slightly* better 5 years ago, but not by much. 5 years ago, there were still plenty of well-qualified applicants not getting jobs. Perhaps there were fewer of them. But the difference over the past 5 years is one of degree, not kind. Things have gotten worse. And they won't be getting any better in the short run.

"I hate this tired metaphor, but it applies here: the discipline is continually moving the goal posts."

---No, it's not. The competition is getting better, and there's more of it. The playing field is the same size, and the goalposts haven't moved. But the competition is much, much stiffer. Staying with the football metaphor: the NFL is much, much, much tougher now than it was a generation ago. The Hall of Fame players of a generation ago would likely not have the skill set to compete in today's game. Players are bigger, faster, work with more complicated schemes, etc. The only difference between professional philosophy and professional football - in this regard - is that the generational gaps come more quickly and are much larger.

"I understand that there was never a guarantee of a job, but what really bothers me is that one's chances of getting a job seem to remain pretty stagnant, no matter how much one progresses. And that seems to me a pretty serious thing to worry about."

---Agreed. And that is part of my point. There are fewer jobs, and more people applying for them. And I would say that one's chances for getting a job are not stagnant; rather, they are getting worse. I agree that it's a problem. But it's not one we can solve by traditional means. Philosophers need to do a better job of preparing for non-academic jobs, and need to do a better job of convincing the world of the importance of the discipline. But because most philosophers appear to be unwilling or unable to do such work, they will watch their field choke itself to death.

-10:36

Anonymous said...

"So they don't even tell her about the position: they don't even invite her to apply. They make that decision for her."

Since when do you need an invitation to apply for a job?

Anonymous said...

1:26: It's hard to apply for a position one's own department doesn't tell you about.

They flat-out told me that they thought I didn't want it (without asking me), and that it wouldn't be in my best interest to take the job. If you don't recognize that as paternalism, ... then ... wow ... male privilege.

Anonymous said...

"1:26: It's hard to apply for a position one's own department doesn't tell you about."

---Yeah. If only there were some clearinghouse where jobs are posted, so we didn't have to rely on being invited. Some sort of, I dunno, public posting of jobs one can apply to. Might make the whole process easier, I tells ya.

"They flat-out told me that they thought I didn't want it (without asking me), and that it wouldn't be in my best interest to take the job. If you don't recognize that as paternalism, ... then ... wow ... male privilege."

---Yeah, I agree, that's paternalistic. However, what you wrote was: "So they don't even tell her about the position: they don't even invite her to apply. They make that decision for her." That's not at all the same thing as: "They flat-out told me that they thought I didn't want it." And if you don't see the difference in those statements, then...wow...poor language skills.

zombie said...

"...and who seemed likely to be able to transition from GVSU and it's 4-4 teaching load into a tenure-track position elsewhere"

I won't pretend to know what they were thinking. Given the current job market, the only empirically conclusive way to determine this would be to actually hire from the ranks of tenured profs. That seems... unlikely.

But maybe what they were trying to say, in their weird and clunky way, was that they were applying the same hiring standards to this VAP job that they would use in a TT hire, which presumably means a candidate who has maintained an active research agenda along with a high teaching load. Welcome to the world in which employers can ask for the moon.

Anonymous said...

On "the discipline is continually moving the goal posts":

No it isn't. The "discipline" isn't an agent of any sort.

Cf. the Illuminati.

Anonymous said...

"On "the discipline is continually moving the goal posts":

No it isn't. The "discipline" isn't an agent of any sort."

The team played the game.

No it didn't--the team isn't an agent of any sort.

Huh?

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hijack, but wiki activity has slowed to a halt. Does anyone know if Washburn University has moved to first round interviews? Thanks in advance.

Anonymous said...

Piggybacking on 9:25--any news on Avila University?

Anonymous said...

Avila has suspended their search and will continue it in the fall.

Anonymous said...

There are many serious problems with the job market. This isn't one. The market exists so places like this can obtain teachers, not so you can get a job. You went into this knowing how bad your odds were and freely chose to proceed anyway. If this is the worst thing that happens to you on the market, you are fortunate.