Saturday, March 26, 2016

On Brennan and Magness on Adjuncts, Again

[For Mr. Zero's post on the topic, see here. My (Jaded's) criticisms begin below the numbered list of preliminaries.]

There's something a little odd about engaging seriously Brennan and Magness's recent paper on the question of adjuncts. To take just two examples among the many times Brennan and Magness have dealt with this issue outside of their Journal of Business Ethics article, Magness has given satirical "tax tips" for adjuncts based on their most frequent complaints, and Brennan has argued that universities have a responsibility to fire adjuncts whose aggrieved responses to the article show those adjuncts lack basic reading skills.

So, to me, their claim that "[Their Journal of Business Ethics] paper takes no official stance on whether adjuncts are exploited or mistreated" (p. 2) fails to cancel the obvious implicatures of their contributions to the wider conversational context in which the paper was written.

Now, I certainly understand the undercurrent of indignation of their blog posts; Brennan was once turned into a meme (and is currently being memeified too; *sigh*), and Magness was subject to sustained criticisms on Twitter and elsewhere (I think?). It sucks to get attacked, and I guess I can see how it can feel good to call adjuncts cat ladies and make fun of them for being vegan or whatever. As such, I think the protestations by Brennan and Magness that adjuncts are not reacting rationally, but instead are being emotional in response to their paper to be in bad faith. That seems to be exactly what they wanted!

So, that's why I think it's a little odd to engage the paper in the "serious," "rational" way they want. But here we are (and there, Mr. Zero, and other commenters, are too).

First, some preliminaries. The first two are points about the conversation so far. The next two are about the presentation of Brennan and Magness's paper. The last point clarifies the sort of criticism this post is engaging in.
  1. Just as adjunct activism is not subject to the standards of peer-reviewed research, neither are blogposts or tweets or comments about peer-reviewed research. Different activities have different aims. Sometimes, those aims--in addition to venue of discussion--might justify a certain relaxing of epistemic standards. (There's a rapidly expanding literature on this topic in the philosophy of science.) So, I don't necessarily think the loosey-goosey, intuitive way in which these issues have been heretofore discussed in popular discourse represented a huge epistemic travesty (or attempt to pull the wool over people's eyes) requiring immediate rectification in the Journal of Business Ethics. 
  2. Both Brennan and Magness have complained about the angry and emotional responses they have received. They want rational, not emotional engagement. This assumes it is important to separate these two sorts of engagement when approaching ethical questions and issues of justice. But, from a Care Ethics perspective, it's not obvious to me that "emotional" responses are out of bounds here. Perhaps part of the problem is that Brennan and Magness see the issue purely through an economic lens or abstract, principled social justice lens (nameless adjunct vessels of preference-satisfaction v. nameless student vessels of preference-satisfaction), ignoring the real-life, embodied people--some of whom might be their colleagues!--that these questions concern.
  3. I'll ignore typos and other errors in the Brennan and Magness paper. Charitably, we're all prone to errors; so some are bound to make it past the page proof stage. Typos, while evidence of some degree of sloppiness, should not detract from what might be otherwise well-argued points. Plus, I'm sure we can find many typos in this post! (For the curious, I've gathered some of the typos in the Brennan and Magness paper below my signature; the third of which seems possibly important, though maybe I'm missing something.) [EDIT, 3/28: Please see Brennan's comment about the "typos" here.]
  4. Unlike Reviewer #2, I won't be a hardass about the times they raise important questions or point to issues to which they "give no official answer" or "take no official stand" unless I have good reason otherwise. Often the raising of important questions and the refusal to give the outline of an answer are frowned upon by reviewers. (Note also that commenters on Mr. Zero's post have found literature that might be relevant to the paper, but is not cited. I'm not sure if this is true.) 
  5. Helen Longino (1990) distinguishes types of criticisms. Among other things, evidential criticism "questions the degree to which a given hypothesis is supported by the evidence adduced for it...and questions their analysis and reporting" (72). Conceptual criticism, among other things, "questions the relevance of the evidence presented in support of a hypothesis" (72); this might involve "questioning the background beliefs or assumptions in light of which states of affairs become evidence" (73). In many ways, this post will be a form of conceptual, rather than evidential, criticism.
Okay. On to the criticisms (non-exhaustive; see below and the comment thread on Zero's post*).

One point that has received sustained attention in this discussion concerns the framing of the adjunct issue in terms of social justice. From the perspective of social justice, Brennan and Magness argue that universities might face more pressing issues, e.g., helping impoverished students get into school with scholarships or by lowering tuition, than improving the working conditions of adjuncts. They say: "It is not clear why universities should focus on helping adjuncts rather than reducing their costs or otherwise helping poor students" (p. 12).

However, it seems to me that the generic perspective of social justice isn't a proper way to frame the issue. Earlier, in the context of making another point, they say:
Universities are not under any obligation to employ as many people as possible, to maximize welfare for people who want academic jobs or to provide aspiring academics with good jobs. Instead, their duties are conditional: If they decide to hire someone, they owe that person a minimally good job, a job that meets certain independent standards of employer–employee justice, whatever those standards might be (p. 10, emphasis added).
Here, Brennan and Magness seem to give a reason "why universities should focus on helping adjuncts": The universities have decided to hire adjuncts. Thus, from the point of view of "employer-employee justice" those adjuncts who are in fact employed by universities are owed a minimally good job according to whatever those standards might be. To me, it seems the adjunct justice movement concerns those people who have been hired; it is not about maximizing welfare for those who simply want jobs; it's for those who have jobs.

Moreover, building off the blockquote above, one can run a similar argument for why universities are not under any obligations to help out or maximize opportunities for potential students who might get into their school, but have yet to be admitted. Adopting the university-as-business framing Brennan and Magness endorse (pp. 1 - 2; cf. the first sentence of the blockquote above), those students might be potential customers, and it might be in universities' self-interest to help those potential customers out. But duties to potential customers are also conditional: If they decide to admit students, the owe those students [x]. This might give us one reason to prefer, say, improving the conditions of adjuncts over, e.g., the "[creation of] mentoring programs to ensure first generation college students" (p. 9).**

The case, of course, is different with admitted students--actual customers--and hired adjuncts since the university owes obligations to both. But, staying within the university-as-business framing, businesses clearly owe obligations to make working conditions good for employees/adjuncts (which might also improve student outcomes***), but no clear or straightforward or prima facie moral obligation I'm aware of to lower costs for customers/students who freely choose, aware of the costs, to attend after receiving letters of acceptance (universities might have good prudential reasons to lower costs). It would seem that universities-as-businesses clearly owe obligations to their employees that can trump obligations(?) to, say, lower costs for customers who freely choose to buy their product.

Relatedly, I think this short discussion reveals a tension between the university-as-business framing adopted by Brennan and Magness and their argument that, from the general perspective of social justice, there are more pressing issues than adjunct justice. That might be true from the perspective of social justice. Yet, I thought, "Whether we like it or not, colleges and universities are a business. They sell education to customers" (p. 1). And, further, from this perspective, it seems clear that "If [universities] decide to hire someone, they owe that person a minimally good job, a job that meets certain independent standards of employer–employee justice, whatever those standards might be" (p. 10).

Thus, one might very well think that the perspective of social justice is not the relevant perspective here, especially in the context of the university-as-business framing. The appropriate perspective seems that of "employer-employee justice," which appears to clearly require that employers provide employees some minimally good job.

So, which is it? Are--like it or not--universities businesses? Or, are they institutions of social justice seeking to maximize welfare? Apples or oranges? Brennan and Magness should take a definitive stance on this, since, as I understand it, the adjunct justice argument isn't that adjunct justice is the most just thing that universities can be working towards from the perspective of social justice. Instead, the argument is that it is the most just thing they can do given that they have already taken on certain obligations by hiring adjuncts.

That is, the point of adjunct justice isn't that this is simply a pressing social justice issue, but that it is a pressing workplace justice issue. The argument, then, is that, so long as universities choose to employ adjuncts, they have a responsibility to treat those adjuncts well. But, if this is right, then Brennan and Magness might need to actually take a stance on whether or not adjuncts are exploited or mistreated from the perspective of employer-employee justice. But, of course, they explicitly forgo taking any such stance.

Now, Brennan and Magness can reject the university-as-business framing in favor of a universities-as-social-justice-institution framing. Such institutions wouldn't just sell education to customers, but would seek to maximize welfare. Were universities committed to social justice in addition to selling education to customers, then maybe the Brennan and Magness argument from social justice would hold. But, given that the like-it-or-not-university-as-business framing appears on the first two pages of their article, they appear committed to it.

Thus, in adhering to the university-as-business framing, the appeal to social justice appears disingenuous. It's an argument that is decidedly not unique to the adjunct issue, but can even be marshaled against poor students who choose to buy education from universities (see this comment, here). It's the argumentative version of the nuclear option designed to blow up any argument in favor of doing something that does not maximize overall utility (or to piss off adjuncts who have criticized you in fair and unfair ways).**** [EDIT, 3/28: For more on why I don't think the appeal to social justice settles the case in favor of students, see here.]

This is not to say there are not the trade-offs Brennan and Magness point out; there obviously must be trade-offs when obligations to hired adjuncts and admitted students bump up against one another. But, I'd like to see more of an argument detailing how they bump up against one another other than: "Money is scarce" (see this comment in the Zero post). I'd also like to see a discussion of how to balance the trade-offs between obligations to employees and obligations to customers if they adhere to the university-as-business framing.

A few more minor points:

  • The paper doesn't touch on all the ways in which adjunct life can be improved that don't (apparently) cost money: Invitations to department functions, a voice on the faculty senate, voting rights in the department, etc.
  • Their section on job gentrification also misunderstands the adjunct demands, and seems to me to overestimate the possibility of gentrification. Often (anecdotally), adjuncts have been working in a certain department for years on end (in part because of costs associated with searches). We might think they have earned, then, a prima facie claim--grounded in seniority-- on any converted jobs (or, at the very least, an interview for the improved jobs). If this is right, departments can raise pay, hold job security fixed, and not engage in national or competitive searches. Indeed, why, given the costs associated with searches that Brennan and Magness point out, and perhaps a desire for continuity within teachers in the department, would departments go searching beyond adjuncts they already employ? (There might be institutional factors in place, but changing those doesn't cost money.)
  • Their point about adjunct justice and those professionals who are adjuncts on the side assume we must adopt an across-the-board approach to adjunct employment. But certainly we can distinguish the high-powered attorney from the person teaching four sections of composition. In fact, I bet institutions already do that in a way that's reflected in differing pay scales. But, this is just a hunch; I have no evidence on hand.

--Jaded, PhD

*For criticisms focusing on the false dilemma Brennan and Magness present to the adjuncts about their rational preferences, see this and this and this and this comment in Mr. Zero's thread. Another reason not mentioned for why adjuncts might stay in their jobs (other than that they are stupid or irrational or can't rank their preferences in the right way): Adjuncts care about the education of their students to whom they might have grown close in the classroom. Or, they care about attracting majors to their discipline to which they have devoted many years of their lives. Many people who, e.g., work in the non-profit sector, often forgo extensive benefits, workplace comfort, and higher pay to work for an institution whose mission they believe in despite being able to make more money elsewhere. That doesn't mean they can't complain or work towards improving their working conditions.

**Honestly, such a program sounds great. It'd also be nice to ensure those first generation college students have professors who are treated well, and that they can count on to be in the classroom semester-to-semester.

***It seems the evidence is equivocal on this point. Anecdotally: I can't answer students when they ask me, a full-time contingent faculty member in a small major, what I'll be teaching next year and when the department will be offering a class in my unique speciality. I also can't tell them if the letter they want two years down the line will mean anything if I'm not affiliated with the department. These sorts of things might very well hurt student outcomes in the long-term.

****Bernard Williams discussed related issues throughout his career.

Typos [EDIT, 3/28: Please see Brennan's comment about the "typos" here.]:
  • Missing or misplaced commas in numbers (pp. 6 - 7 and elsewhere, e.g., they seem to have cut and pasted "1578,336" which appears a few times throughout the paper). 
  • "mewhere" instead of "somewhere" (p. 7)
  • They reference a figure that seems to me unrelated to the point they are making. They say, "Imagine, contrary to the US Department of Higher Education numbers, that 76 % of all US faculty really are professional adjuncts teaching eight courses a year for $21,600. If so, that makes it even more expensive to give them all minimally good jobs (Fig. 1)" (p. 6). When one looks at Fig.1, it is about the ratio of students to full-time faculty rather than about the expenses of giving hypothetical full-time adjuncts a minimally good job. Note that later in the paper, Brennan and Magness discuss the unchanging ratio of students to full-time faculty without a reference to the figure (p. 12). 
  • "In contrast, poor students have done nothing imprudent; they just have the misfortune of being born to poor wealthy [?] parents" (p. 9; emphasis added). 
  • Missing closed parentheses (p. 11). 

51 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a nice way to frame the problem. It is so confusing to read two libertarians acting as if Universities have no right to pay employees because there is greater need elsewhere-- it is hard to know what to take seriously (since none of it is serious, and they are just aping their imagined version of Peter Singer for reasons I can't quite understand).

It truly is the best example of sophistry you can find today. They need readers who know nothing about the moving parts of budgets, actual University budgets and their revenue streams, nothing about how businesses calculate earnings, nothing about "Peter Singer", nothing, nothing, nothing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for this great post, Jaded.

Anonymous said...

You know, someone should respond in the journal. It looks like they aren't just pretending to believe Universities should aid the poor through salary cuts- they are playing fast and loose and dumb with their basic arithmetic.

Notice that they decide there is no money in the "budget" by describing a cost increase as a percentage of the current academic payroll. As soon as I showed this to someone who actual decides "budgets," I got a big laugh. Who cares about that percentage? It literally is unintelligible to talk about that increase apart from overall expenditures and earnings. And if you do the adding honestly, for even the 15,000 a course proposal, that is a tiny fraction of an increase in the total expenses of the University/ies. Why would anyone ever just look at the increase in instructional costs, when those are a mere fraction, and low, compared to the other costs for Universities already?

You'd do it if you were dishonest, dishonest enough to hide your real views and think readers are so dumb they won't notice.

Jason Brennan said...

The formatting of the numbers is for whatever reason the way JBE does things. Their copyeditors and type-setters are Indian, if that matters to you.

Here's the response to your view:

The right thing to do is fire adjuncts:
http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2016/03/why-the-adjuncts-rights-movement-is-anti-social-justice/

Anonymous said...

"The argument is that the fact that we focus on this issue must show we're mean-spirited, nasty, angry, and don't really care about social justice. It shows that I'm not a bleeding heart libertarian, but just one of those stereotypical mean-spirited right libertarians who hate poor people."

No one is that invested in disabusing you of your illusory self image. If they accuse you of being mean-spirited and nasty, it's because they believe that you are, not because they want to undermine your identity. But why not poll some actual left libertarians, like Steiner, Otsuka and Vallentyne? See if they agree with you, or are willing to double down on your arguments.

"This isn’t trolling."

It's worse. It's two-bit sophistry.

"You want more money. You want to be paid to do your passion. I do too. But, unlike you, I don't moralize my selfish demands. If you look at this from above, from a moral point of view, the right thing to do is to not re-hire you next semester."

Spoken like a true bureaucrat. Is this Arizona's finest?

Anonymous said...

"You want more money. You want to be paid to do your passion. I do too. But, unlike you, I don't moralize my selfish demands."

Spoken like someone who is paid a living wage for full-time work.

Anonymous said...

At IHE one of you wrote "our analysis of the academic labor market is actually grounded in and cited to the relevant peer reviewed literature from very mainstream economic journals and publications."

But this is false and is the problem. The relevant literature (and methodology) is that used in labor economics. You cite intro-level textbooks (which is unbelievable in a work of scholarship) along with a few general reports and online journalism. I do not see any labor economics cited at all.

Is this paper a statement on the inadequate methods of labor economists?

Why would you forego their methods for your own? Do you know their methods at all, do you think they would be comfortable with your emphasis on the percentage of increase in only instructional costs? Or did you just assume they would be no use to you?


Anonymous said...

Anon 9:58 -

I believe there's a standing request from the old thread for you to cite the relevant "labor economics" article(s) on adjuncts that they missed.

Your responses then were underwhelming & consisted of randomly posting any irrelevant article that came up on google with the word "adjunct" in the title.

Are you prepared now to offer something more? Or are you just going to keep repeating the phrase "labor economics" and hope that makes your charge stick?

Anonymous said...

Here's a list of academic citations found in B&M 2016, labeled by category. It excludes textbooks and news articles. The list includes everything from relevant older articles in top econ journals to the latest working papers from as recent as 2015. Since you can't be bothered to actually cite what's missing, it's probably time to knock of your shit-talking about their lit review.



Arnold, D., & Bowie, N. (2003). Sweatshops and respect for persons. Business Ethics Quarterly, 13, 221–243. [Business Ethics]

Baumol, W., & Bowen, W. (1966). Performing arts, the economic dilemma: A study of problems common to theater, opera, music, and dance. New York: Twentieth Century Fund. [Economics]

Bettinger, E, & Long, BT. (2005). Help or hinder? Adjunct professors and student outcomes. The Research and planning group for California Community Colleges. [Higher Ed]

Christensen, C. (2008). The employment of part-time faculty at community colleges. New Directions for Higher Education. [Higher Ed]

Colander, D., & Zhuo, D. (2015). Where do PhDs in english get jobs? An economist’s view of the english PhD market. Pedagogy, 15, 139–156. [Economics & Higher Ed]

Ehrenberg, R. G. (2005). What’s Happening to public higher education. Boulder: Rowman and Littlefield. [Higher Ed]

Figlio, DN., Schapiro, MO., & Soter, KB. 2013. “Are Tenure Track Professors Better Teachers?” NBER Working Paper Series No.19406. [Economics]

Frank, R. H. (1984). Are Workers paid their marginal products? American Economic Review, 74, 549–571. [Economics]

Fullerton, D., & Metcalf, G. E. (2014). Tax Incidence. In A. J. Auerbach & M. Feldstein (Eds.), The Handbook of Public Economics (pp. 1787–1872). Oxford: Elsevier. [Economics]

Ginsberg, B. (2013). The Fall of the Faculty. Princeton: Princeton University Press. [Economics]

Isen, A. (2015). Dying to Know: Are Workers Paid their Marginal Products?, working paper, Wharton School of Business. [Economics]

Larson, R. C., Ghaffarzadegan, N., & Xue, Y. (2014). Too many PhDs or too few academic job openings: The basic reproductive R0 in academia. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 31, 745–750. [Economics]

Ott, M., & Cisneros, J. (2015). Understanding the changing faculty workforce in higher education: A comparison of non-tenure track and tenure line experiences. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 23–90, 1–28. [Higher Ed]

Peltzman, S. (1973). The effect of government subsidies-in-kind of private expenditures: The case of higher education. Journal of Political Economy, 83, 1–27. [Economics]

Schell, E. (2004). Gypsy Academics and Mother Teachers. New York: Heinemman. [Higher Ed]

Scheutz, P. (2002). Instructional practices of part-time and full-time faculty. New Directions for Community Colleges, 2002, 39–46. [Higher Ed]

Turner, N. (2012). Who benefits from student aid? The economic incidence of tax-based federal student aid. Economics of Education Review, 31, 463–481. [Economics & Higher Ed]

Turner, L. (2014). The road to pell is paved with good intentions: The economic incidence of federal student grant aid, University of Maryland, Department of Economics, College Park, MD, working paper [Economics & Higher Ed]

Wachtel, H. K. (1998). Student evaluation of college teaching effectiveness: A brief review. Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education, 23, 191–212. [Higher Ed]

Winston, G. C. (1999). Subsidies, hierarchy and peers: The awkward economics of higher education. The Journal of Economic Perspectives, 13, 13–36. [Economics]

Zwolinski, M. (2007). Sweatshops, choice, and exploitation. Business Ethics Quarterly, 17, 689–727. [Business Ethics]

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

(1/2) Thanks, Jason. I think I remain unconvinced by the argument of the paper, which is not about who--adjuncts or you and Phil--the most left-wing from a social justice perspective.

The argument, from the perspective of social justice (I don't think it obviously goes through if we consider students as customers to whom universities sell education), seems to be the following (ignoring the complications raised by potential employees and potential students).

The assumed obligation that universities owe to provide hired adjuncts they employ minimally good jobs is in tension with the assumed obligation that universities help already-admitted "poor, disadvantaged, and minority students, or on student debt relief." Assume (1) universities are committed to social justice, (2) that being impartially committed to social justice requires doing the most good possible, and (3) that universities can only fulfill their obligations to one group or another. Then, on these assumptions, it seems that universities should help students rather than increase adjunct pay.

I think we can question each of these assumptions. The OP questioned assumption (1) by appealing to the hard truth that you and Phil point out at the beginning of your article: Universities are business.

I think one might also question assumption (2): Either by questioning the idea that social justice rules out certain forms of partiality (say, based in employer-employee relations) or by questioning that social justice always requires doing the most good possible. These two points might actually be related.

(3) seems to be the biggest assumption that people are taking issue with; especially given the simplistic way in which it's framed in the article. While it's true that "Money spent here, is not money spent there," it seemingly assumes that all new revenue streams must go to adjuncts and nowhere else. It ignores other possible policies we might take for splitting the baby, as it were. I think the point that you and Phil raise about trade-offs suggests that adjuncts should adopt a sort of Solomonic approach to the issue. Other people might call such a Solomonic approach: INTERSECTIONAL.

But, let's grant these assumptions and consider the arguments you and Phil give for preferring students over adjuncts. The main reason you give is rooted in the choice/circumstance distinction. Roughly: Adjuncts are where they are at as a result of choices they made; students are where they are as a result of their unchosen circumstances. Adjuncts also have exit options.

I think such arguments apply equally well to students: Students get into the colleges they get into as the result of their choices, and they can easily become informed about the costs of college. Students also have exit options if they do not like the costs of their school: They can attend a community college, then transfer. They can go to college in-state. Etc.

Further, adjuncts might also be "victims of circumstances." Their situations might not be entirely due to choices they made (consider PhDs beginning before the 2008 crisis and finishing shortly thereafter) and their exit options might be similarly limited in the geographical, familial, health, etc. ways that students' options are.

Now, I actually don't think the choice/circumstance distinction is especially morally relevant when thinking about issues of social justice (cf. all the criticisms of Luck Egalitariansm out there). But, assuming that it is, there are questions about how precisely to draw the distinction in particular cases that require argumentation (possibly even metaphysics!), and why, when drawn in a particular way, it makes a difference to the discharging of our obligations. I don't see that in the article.

Jaded, Ph.D. said...

(2/2) Another reason that you give in your blog post is that the poor students being helped form a more diverse group than do the group of adjuncts that might be helped. But, the argument you are making on the basis of diversity is one that relies on empirical claims about the make-up of the body of students that can be helped, which you don't provide (though it might be so obvious that it's worth granting). You also assume most of those adjuncts are privileged or come from privileged backgrounds, but that's an empirical question we can't settle by simply pointing to the fact that these folks might have PhDs (just as we can't point to the fact that students are in college provides evidence of their privilege).

Also, according to the 2010 CAW Report, 62% of part-time faculty (they surveyed 8458) are women (a 2009 survey of 727,098 puts the number at 51.6%), an historically underrepresented and underprivileged group in academia (more women are also employed as Instructors and Lecturers; as are other historically underrepresented groups according to the NCES). The ethnic make-up of part-time faculty is mainly white; according to the CAW survey, 10.5% (8071 surveyed) are non-white.

Now, there's peer-reviewed literature out there suggesting that having women in the classroom and non-white instructors in the classroom benefits women and non-white students. Helping out those adjuncts might very well be helping out women and non-white students. But, I admit, this is a sort of roundabout argument. And your appeal to diversity is an interesting one.

Lastly--and I admit there are empirical questions here I'm not addressing--from the perspective of doing as much good as possible and from the perspective of an impartial approach to social justice, there are likely many, many, many more poor students that might be helped than there are adjuncts that could be helped. Doing the most good possible involves actually doing good, not just trying to do the most good. I wonder how thin we'd have to spread the money to impartially do as much good as possible for all poor students versus how thin we'd have to spread the money to impartially do as much good as possible for all adjuncts. If it turns out the latter is actually more achievable and makes more of a difference, doing the most good as possible would suggest the latter. I'm not in love with this argument.

Again, this is all granting the three assumptions above and not taking seriously the university-as-business framing. I think there are reasons to reject those assumptions and to take the university-as-business framing seriously. I also think that your Business Ethics paper doesn't actually make the social justice case all that well given how heavily it leans on the choice/circumstance distinction.

Anyway. Thanks to Jason for engaging and prompting me to think through these issues.

Anonymous said...

10. 48, about your lit review, that was me asking why the references do not include work in labor economics. I am not suggesting that work on adjuncts has been done yet (I don't think it has), but this paper is clearly unfamiliar with the very field of labor economists. Sorry to see that even referring to the name of the field has upset you.

The references you use are to single, very outdated papers, books written for the public, or on topics that have nothing to do with how to calculate labor costs. The in-paper references to micro-econ textbooks is, again, a very bad sign if a person is wondering if the authors understand what labor economists do.

There are endless examples available on the web. Take this one below. Look to the references. See how they include recent and related literature from the field?

http://dataspace.princeton.edu/jspui/bitstream/88435/dsp01t435gd01h/3/Comparing%20Real%20Wage%20Rates-combined--2-22-2012--final.pdf

I think you/ the authors don't know what labor economists do. Since I wrote the comment above and not an earlier one, I think your critics are on to something.

I would not approve an undergraduate use such a poor, out-of-date, and unrelated set of references as those you've supplied.

Anonymous said...

Jaded, sincere thanks for the above two-part response to the social justice version of the business-ethics-journal-paper argument. It's so satisfying and helpful (as was your earlier one). Thank you for debating the authors here. The paper was troubling, the authors impossible to pin down, and yet you've made the issues so clear. Gracias.

Anonymous said...

"At IHE one of you wrote "our analysis of the academic labor market is actually grounded in and cited to the relevant peer reviewed literature from very mainstream economic journals and publications." But this is false and is the problem. The relevant literature (and methodology) is that used in labor economics. You cite intro-level textbooks (which is unbelievable in a work of scholarship) along with a few general reports and online journalism. I do not see any labor economics cited at all. "

This also really worries me the more I think about it. They take their major contribution to be their analysis of labor costs (given certain wage scenarios). This is just bread and butter economics; in the private and public sectors, economists do this sort of analysis all the time for a variety of jobs in a variety of contexts, so there are certainly standard practices that provide the most accurate calculations. And yet none of their citations hint at them knowing anything about how to do this. I take it that this is something people who study certain areas of economics learn in grad school (or after), but none of the authors are trained economists (right?). You certainly don't learn how to do such analyses from reading undergrad texts. I'm starting to worry that this paper contributes nothing to the basic question of how much wage increases would cost, because it is totally detached from basic standards of economic analysis.

Anonymous said...

7: 49, yes that is right. It is totally detached from those standards and from their requests for "a paper", it really seems that the authors do not even know those standards. It is Sokal-hoax like.

I know a few labor economists at Princeton and they won't even read it. You cannot determine how much wage increases "cost" like they do. If you could, a 5th grader could do it.

Now, a narcissist who has been called out as a fraud will quickly try to fix that. He will google and discover the many journals and see for himself the wonder that is a proper methodology for talking about "the fixed budget" and wages- but there is no chance they can bone up on it. You are right, it would be post-graduate school by the time you are good enough to do the work. So they'll twist and twirl around and say they had to make it too dumb for economists. They knew they were doing that all along!

It's more of their punching down, they are writing for people with no economic expertise and in a journal they are bragging about that allows work to be published that those in the relevant expertise cannot even read, it is so unsophisticated. (And makes a mockery of their field, but I don't think labor economists are sensitive like that.) People who punch down forget to look up.

Anonymous said...

Lots of cheap talk about "labor economics," but still no citations of all those "labor economics" articles on adjuncting and university budgets they supposedly missed.

That leads me to believe either:

1. You're simply shit-talking, and now in spite of reality since you were shown above that their lit review contains dozens of relevant citations to mainstream econ lit that's current through the latest work on worker pay from 2015.

or

2. You're some heterodox crackpot who rejects mainstream economics, but in reality what you mean by "labor economics" = your preferred crackpot heterodox school alternative that everyone in mainstream economics thinks is a joke.

Anonymous said...

Of course you could also put it all to rest and use your "labor economics" to calculate how much the adjuncts' plan would actually cost using the papers you refuse to cite. Your refusal to do so indicates that you're only interested in shit-talking something you've already been proven wrong about though.

Anonymous said...

"Lots of cheap talk about "labor economics," but still no citations of all those "labor economics" articles on adjuncting and university budgets they supposedly missed."

Someone (March 27, 2016 at 5:49 PM) just gave a link to a work in labor-economics. Maybe you should look at that paper's set of citations and start doing some reading. Of course, a different set of relevant citations probably should be used in an analysis of how a wage increase affects a firm's budget. What are those? I don't know, because I'm not an economist. But I know enough about what economists do to know that the simple addition employed in this paper is almost certainly the wrong way to do it. The complexity of such an analysis is, after all, why economists make so much money...

As someone else said (March 27, 2016 at 7:49 PM), the problem with the citations has nothing to do with the details about adjunct wages. It's the fact that the paper doesn't bother to use basic analytic standards of economics to make the (possibly novel) calculations of effects of adjunct wage increases on university budgets. In fact, the authors seem to have read almost nothing about how one goes about making such calculations. They just made the sort of "back-of-the-envelope" calculations that anyone could have made (with a few hours and google).

Anonymous said...

7:48/7:44 Why are you putting "labor economics" in scare quotes? And you have to be one of the authors. *Why the scare quotes?* Can you just answer that?

"Your labor economics!" lol! And your only hope is that labor economics is not heterodox. Do you honestly not know one mainstream economist to guide you, and yet you write on these topics? Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

Someone (March 27, 2016 at 5:49 PM) just gave a link to a work in labor-economics. Maybe you should look at that paper's set of citations and start doing some reading.

So...you googled a random paper on wage disparity that cites, among other things, such prestigious academic work as "The Lexus and the Olive Tree." Great. Real groundbreaking and relevant stuff you got yerself there...

In the meantime, perhaps you could explain how the following citation to a 2015 labor econ article (which also developed from a dissertation that won a labor econ prize) fails to meet your criteria for relevant labor economics literature:

Isen, A. (2015). Dying to Know: Are Workers Paid their Marginal Products?, working paper, Wharton School of Business.

Anonymous said...

You're deeply mistaken, Anon 9:36. The scare quotes around "labor economics" are in reference to your own tenuous grasp of the subject, as to distinguish it from labor economics.

As evidence of that tenuous grasp, I cite:

1. Your inability to provide even one citation of a relevant article on adjuncting/higher ed that offers what you believe to be "labor eocnomics" insights that were missed in this piece.

2. Your inability to utilize what you refer to as "labor economics" to support an alternative conclusion.

3. The fact you skipped right past citations of relevant labor economics literature that were plainly there in B&M 2016 (such as the one Anon 10:16 just pointed out to you) and didn't even realize you had done so.

In sum, you're just using "labor economics" as a throwaway concept to shit-talk a literature review that you didn't even process. Because if you had done so you'd know that it covers relevant and recent work in labor economics already.

Anonymous said...

10:16 that is a working paper Princeton's working group on labor econ. Will you tell us more about "your labor economics" and how Princeton's Dept. doesn't meet your standards? Ask Isen and get back to us? Is the Princeton econ department going to get it from you twitter?

The point is that you have one reference to one commentary on a paper published decades earlier. The citation of one paper (and a comment on it decades later) does not show your familiarity with labor economics, and since your paper cites undergraduate textbooks, along with your comments above: I don't believe either of you even knew it was a field. I also do not think you bothered to consult with one expert in wage analysis.

As you keep being told: the work you are pretending to do has to be done by an economist. An economist could not even make sense of your addition. If you think this is wrong, please refer us to an economist willing to defend your presentation of data. It does not have to be a labor economist, I think any actual economist trained in a top program would do. That would settle it.

Any paper from any labor economists could be used to contrast your set of references to theirs. That was the point, to show you that you display your unfamiliarity with economic methodology in your paper and even in your references. No one would need to be "shown" that there is a difference between referencing the ongoing work and method in labor econ if they already knew what it was. But I didn't think you did.


Anonymous said...

I can't stop laughing at any of this-- "from a dissertation that won a labor econ prize!" As if I could ask for any more evidence of frantic googling. It's too funny. I hate bullies and phonies and I should probably not find this so funny, but I do. I've loved this thread. Thank you, host!

Anonymous said...

Don't the authors work in a business school? Seriously, just walk down the hall and talk to economists who do any work on the labor market. Ask them how one might do the sort of estimate that you are attempting to make. And what you seek to do (estimate the costs of a wage increase across an entire industry) is no trivial matter. This is stuff that really smart economists at massive corporations (and in the government) have trouble getting right. It is hard, because there are a lot factors to consider (each with its own relevant literature), and not all of the processes are strictly linear. Your analysis is really superficial, and it really wouldn't be taken seriously by people who do such cost estimates for a living.

Miranda Merklein said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

that is a working paper Princeton's working group on labor econ. Will you tell us more about "your labor economics" and how Princeton's Dept

Oh it's a real labor econ paper of exactly the type you could google in 20 seconds. Like most of your comments though in which you snipe from the sidelines but cannot offer even a single actual citation that supports your position, it just isn't all that relevant to the topic at hand.

Tiffany Kraft said...

People, Brennan leaves little room for argument with his excuse for the typos: "The formatting of the numbers is for whatever reason the way JBE does things. Their copyeditors and type-setters are Indian, if that matters to you." And Magness is on the cusp of doing the right thing: quitting his adjunct job or joining the Fight For $15K. I hope he does the latter so I can call him brother.

Let them go on. Like Anon says above, "I've loved this thread. Thank you, host!"

Phil, if you were nice like me you'd unblock me on Twitter to facilitate the recuperation of your reputation and conversion to the union.

In unity,

Tiffany

Derek Bowman said...

I agree with 6:19, Jaded. Though I think the opening line of your OP is the most apt assessment of the situation, I'm glad you and Zero had the patience to engage with the details of how poor the argument is.

Anonymous said...

7: 29 the “citation” that shows you are wrong is here: https://irs.princeton.edu/people/faculty/associated-faculty

My (and others') position is that your paper can’t be supported by any (not one, not even the kid whose job talk you cite) reputable economist because you were (and seem to remain) unaware of the relevant field of expertise and its methodology. Lying about that doesn't fix it.

It looks like you will have to take on those bastard "labor economists."

I think you should start by tweeting the Princeton Dept. Repeat what you said above, first volley! Tweet what you wrote- you looked at a paper and their work is not groundbreaking and not scholarly.

Say they lack reading comprehension because they don't get the superiority of your "add it up and divide" approach to their topic.

You’ve gotten about 5 papers worth of philosophical arguments in response to your paper here. A normal philosopher would be very eager to dig in. But you are stuck, aren’t you? You have no interest in philosophy (which explains the failure to engage any when talking about "justice" in the paper), this was just to show off your grade school math skills, proving you are smarter than a few activists you hate. You've only showed that business ethics journals are not serious, and don't require scholarship (in philosophy) or proper methodology for an empirical task.

And for God's sake befriend an actual economist and ask some questions about what they do.

Anonymous said...

"You’ve gotten about 5 papers worth of philosophical arguments in response to your paper here."

Honestly, someone should write a rebuttal piece for a professional journal (perhaps the same one).

Anonymous said...

This would be a quick way to do that, they publish short responses to articles in business ethics.

http://businessethicsjournalreview.com/instructions-for-contributors/

The original posts each seem more than adequate to comprise such a response. They make so many trenchant points quickly.

But isn't imagining the new excuses the authors would come up with for ignoring all criticism painful? They'll tell philosophers all they were doing was advertising an economic concept called "cost." They'll tell economists that they were doing philosophy, whose practitioners author pointless games of "pick one." I don't see economists deigning to give them any attention, either.

Anonymous said...

Brennan got himself in a Leiter post:

"The philosophy blogosphere has a quite a few people, writing anonymously, who write nasty, angry, and dishonest invective against others, but then faint and cry if anyone says anything back to them in response, even if the responses are moderate."

Does Brennan realize he's describing himself?

Anonymous said...

Well, Brennan is sort of a Leiter jr. in terms of how he handles criticism. Make pappa proud!

Mr. Zero said...

I see what you two are saying, 6:11 and 7:14, but there's an aspect of this that I find confusing. Isn't Leiter a marxist? And, as a marxist, shouldn't Leiter find Brennan's entire approach to the issue of adjunct exploitation completely wrong and deeply immoral and repugnant and stuff? I mean, this isn't really my area, and I realize I may be oversimplifying, but I thought the marxist position on this sort of thing was fairly clear.

Anonymous said...

Who faints and cries?

Brennan has said adjuncts views are "offensive" (weep weep) and that the four activists he is always taking on are "racist" (someone called him white) and even said a picture of an activist in front of Georgetown was threatening to him.

Wondering who he thinks faints and cries. Link it up, Brennan.

Also patiently waiting for them to respond to the challenge of an economist signing on to their paper. I imagine them still googling labor economist.

Anonymous said...

Stepping back from the Brennan and Magness claims and arguments, I don't understand why relative lack of sympathy for the situation of adjuncts couldn't simply come down to this:

Adjuncts, at least those with PhDs, are sufficiently rational actors with other opportunities for gainful employment. Moreover, by now, they knew going in or should have known the risks they were taking in pursuing academia, if their goal was to secure full-time academic employment that would support a stable, middle-class standard of living. Despite this knowledge and many available warnings, these adjuncts decided to play the academic labor market--and they continue to do so in preferring to adjunct rather than seek other employment more likely to support a stable, middle-class standard of living.

How much administrators make, how universities could reallocate their total resources, whether and why resources that would be allocated to better paid adjuncts should instead by viewed as more fairly directed to supporting poor students...none of these issues seem pertinent to the basic scenario described above.

My puzzlement is not an abstraction coming from any particularly ideological place. I see adjuncts in my own department and wonder whether they deem their work rewarding enough for the modest compensation and why they don't move on to do something that would be more financially rewarding. I'm sincerely not sure how they are being "exploited," any more than I was when on the verge of leaving my tenure-stream job (until fortuitously getting a raise) because it did not pay enough to support what I felt was an adequate standard of living in my high cost metro area. Really, I just don't get it.

Mr. Zero said...

Adjuncts, at least those with PhDs, are sufficiently rational actors with other opportunities for gainful employment.

As Brennan acknowledged in comments on my post about this, none of that has anything to do with whether they are being exploited.

why they don't move on to do something that would be more financially rewarding.

They don't move on because they want to be in academia. They believe in teaching and research. They don't want to work at Geico. But that doesn't mean they're not being exploited. That's what their employers are exploiting.

I'm sincerely not sure how they are being "exploited," any more than I was when on the verge of leaving my tenure-stream job (until fortuitously getting a raise) because it did not pay enough to support what I felt was an adequate standard of living in my high cost metro area.

Boy, if you didn't think you were making enough on the tenure-track, you should try making what they make as adjuncts.

Anonymous said...

"My puzzlement is not an abstraction coming from any particularly ideological place. I see adjuncts in my own department and wonder whether they deem their work rewarding enough for the modest compensation and why they don't move on to do something that would be more financially rewarding. I'm sincerely not sure how they are being "exploited," any more than I was when on the verge of leaving my tenure-stream job (until fortuitously getting a raise) because it did not pay enough to support what I felt was an adequate standard of living in my high cost metro area. Really, I just don't get it."

But the very existence of your tenure-track job and its financially rewarding lifestyle is parasitically dependent on the fact that your college/university hires adjuncts. If they all decided to do something else: more than likely you and your department and your university would be fucked. Argument: Why can't they do something else even though the fact they are here is what allows me to do the job I love and get my fortuitous raise.

Anonymous said...

7:40

"I imagine them still googling labor economist.

Based on your commentary above, I believe this is referred to as "projection."

Anonymous said...

11: 21: what commentary above? Can you point to it? Are you saying the commentators saying you don't know what labor economics is, don't know what it is? Why would that happen? Or how?

The question for you was: why do you think the methods of economists can be avoided? It's unclear.

Anonymous said...

I would add that anyone who knows a professional economist or even took a bit of econ as an undergrad would know what labor economics is. I think the authors should stop acting like the rest of us never heard of it. It is a required course at Stanford in econ and it's just generally known that some of the Nobel Laureates were labor economists. I just think the authors should answer any of the questions posed here, instead of accusing generally-educated people of not knowing what "labor economics" is.

Because they are unfamiliar so is everyone else? SO bizarre. So bizarre. Address the problems raised for your paper.

Anonymous said...

What I'm saying, Anon 11:40/53, is that your extended comments above about labor economics have all the gravity of somebody who heard the phrase dropped a couple times...perhaps at a faculty meeting, perhaps in ugrad...and just started randomly googling it and posting shallow crap about it because you convinced yourself it was the "answer" to their argument.

...all of which makes it very amusing since you're now projecting yourself.

Anonymous said...

"Adjuncts, at least those with PhDs, are sufficiently rational actors with other opportunities for gainful employment. Moreover, by now, they knew going in or should have known the risks they were taking in pursuing academia, if their goal was to secure full-time academic employment that would support a stable, middle-class standard of living. Despite this knowledge and many available warnings, these adjuncts decided to play the academic labor market."

These considerations do not fit with one another. It is one thing to claim that adjuncts are irrational because they persist in working in a career with poor rewards. It is another thing to claim that adjuncts get what they deserve because they chose a vocation with poor prospects for success on the tenure market and did not succeed on the tenure market.

With respect to the first claim, whether or not it is rational for them to persist in a career that offers them poor rewards says nothing about what they have a legitimate claim to. And there reasons why, for example, early career academics who have struck out on the tenure market may think, all things considered, it is rational to be an adjunct for a time. Presumably, the missing premise is that you think people that persist in pursuing options that are irrational, when they have rational alternatives, cannot be exploited. But Brennan and Magness' argument is supposed to be neutral on the issue of exploitation, and Brennan was willing to grant, two threads back, at least for the sake of argument, that adjuncts are exploited.

With respect to the second claim, no sane person thinks labor markets are fair lotteries. But choosing a vocation is not like making a bet. Just because a choice is subject to risk does not mean one has assumed the risk: not all risky decisions are wagers. Moreover, it is natural for individuals to have faith in their ability to succeed through their talents and industry. The truth is, no one knows their actual chance of success. All that is foreseeable are the numerical odds. Adam Smith: "The probability that any particular person shall ever be qualified for the employment to which he is educated, is very different in different occupations... [The] professions keep their level, however, with other occupations, and, notwithstanding these discouragements, all the most generous and liberal spirits are eager to crowd into them. Two different causes contribute to recommend them. First, the desire of the reputation which attends upon superior excellence in any of them; and, secondly, the natural confidence which every man has more or less, not only in his own abilities, but in his own good fortune." Smith, again: "The contempt of risk and the presumptuous hope of success, are in no period of life more active than at the age at which young people choose their professions." Finally, "adjuncts, at least those with PhDs," are, by hypothesis, qualified members of the profession. They have, for whatever reason, not had success on the tenure market. But they are not dabblers and dilettantes. They cannot be chastised for overconfidence.

anon 7:07 said...

Mr. Zero: I don't think your response is serious. But perhaps I can't appreciate your approach to argument and engagement. Good luck to you.

8:36: my TT philosophy job does not support a "financially rewarding lifestyle," pre or post raise. The raise got me to a level where (I believe) I could contribute to a stably middle-class family and was no longer underpaid. This is compatible with recognizing that adjuncts made significantly (say, 25%) less and thus were obviously worse off. They continue to be underpaid. But I had not taken myself to be "exploited." I believed I was underpaid and became very frustrated about it--which is why I started seriously exploring exit options, despite believing in teaching and research. I also believed I couldn't afford my job. Others clearly have different priorities.

You assume that my department's use of adjuncts "allows me to do the job I love and get my fortuitous raise." My department doesn't seem to work like that, and I have no reason to think it's so atypical. Without adjuncts, we simply would offer fewer courses overall by reducing specialty courses while doing more "service" teaching; our load would be the same. (It's not as if our midsize philosophy department, or probably any other, would be overrun by student demand.) Teaching one more section of "Intro" per year, instead of a specialty course, wouldn't bother me much (there wouldn't be much increase in grading); we used to do that, anyway, before hiring a few more adjuncts.

How is "the very existence" of my TT philosophy job "dependent on the fact that [my] college/university" hires adjuncts? Isn't the exploitation claim based on the view that universities haven't generally needed to hire adjuncts, as compared to TT faculty, in the first place but do so in order to generate greater excess capital? Is the greater use of adjuncts by universities supposed to be due to some real necessity or not?

If it's argued that at least my philosophy department should hire fewer adjuncts by consolidating a greater number of adjunct positions into a lesser number of (higher quality) additional TT positions, I agree (and my department has been moving in that direction). The TT faculty would hardly be screwed in hiring fewer or even no adjuncts.

So, no, I still don't really understand how adjuncts are exploited, as compared to underpaid, and how I substantively benefit from a supposedly parasitic dependence on them.

Anonymous said...

OK business ethicists, I would say the burden is on you to show you know why we should not leave it to labor economists to calculate wage increases, to look at and project changes in earnings, and to measure the increase of costs for an entire budget for an actual school for which we have budget data. They do a lot more than this, I was hoping you'd study a paper, but that is a start.

Or tell us what else we don't need an economist when it comes to calculating the impact of changes in wages for and be clear about it.

If you are hoping an economist responds to you, I'm sure you'll get your wish in time. But these are simple questions above.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 7:07,

I don't think your response is serious.

Yeah, I didn't take your question very seriously, and maybe that was wrong. But honestly. You said you couldn't understand how someone in an unstable, low-paying, part-time job that offers no benefits, perks, or opportunities for advancement and from which they can be terminated at any time when you didn't feel exploited in your much-better-paying permanent job with full benefits, built-in opportunities for promotion and advancement, and from which it would be very difficult for you to be terminated, even though your job didn't pay well enough for you to be as comfortable as you thought you deserved to be. Why would the fact that your pretty cushy but still not completely financially satisfactory job was/is not exploitative make it hard to understand that some other job that is worse in every conceivable way is exploitative?

Others clearly have different priorities.

Sure. But that doesn't mean they aren't being exploited. That's what makes them exploitable. Again: the fact that they agreed to the allegedly exploitative arrangement is not evidence that the arrangement is not actually exploitative. In general, it will be rational for someone in an exploitative relationship to voluntarily agree to it. If you don't want to take my word for it--which I totally understand--take Brennan's. He says I'm right.

This is compatible with recognizing that adjuncts made significantly (say, 25%) less

Where do you get that number from? The numbers I found were a lot less than that. Maybe your institution differs from the ones I looked at. But at the ones I looked at, on a per-credit-hour basis, and taking into account that tenure-track positions pay for additional responsibilities that part-time positions do not, part-time positions pay at a rate that's less than half that of tenure-track positions. (Then, there's the pay you get for service and research.)

Good luck to you, too.

anon 7:07 said...

Mr. Zero: You are the second recent commenter to invoke the notion of deservingness. I never stated or implied that "adjuncts get what they deserve" (1:46), nor do I believe that. Nor, of course, did I suggest not being "as comfortable as [I] thought [I] deserved to be" when underpaid, by my standards, in my TT job. If you want to invoke your conviction that my TT job was "pretty cushy," though having no particular knowledge of the situation, I don't know why, say, Amazon warehouse workers shouldn't be entitled to scoff at your sense of "exploitation" as an underpaid adjunct philosopher with a PhD who insists on "pretty cushy" academic employment rather than accept a quite good job at Geico (your example).

I don't believe that anyone should be underpaid, and I believe that adjuncts generally are underpaid. Similarly, I believe that elementary school teachers and social workers, for example, generally are underpaid. But I don't think this means that they thereby are "exploited." Nor, in any case, did I make any comparison in terms of "feeling," rather than being, exploited.

Still, you keep invoking "exploitation" while refusing to consider the difference between being underpaid, often with challenging work conditions, and exploited. Then you attack a straw man about what people "voluntarily agree to"--as if what I've written suggests I'd be inclined to think, say, that cotton pickers in the Deep South during Jim Crow weren't being exploited because they (or itinerant produce pickers today) in some sense agreed to do that work. GTFOWTBS. Indeed, it does get personal--and the cotton picking example illustrates the solipsism of those with the clueless privilege of high-end, first-world problems and quite good alternatives. Objectively, so sad and unfair, right? The world must shudder to imagine that a guy with a PhD in philosophy might feel compelled to get out of the adjunct grind by taking a non-academic gig that pays more than the typical TT philosophy job.

I got my 25% number by estimating the difference between my assistant TT salary and the salary an adjunct in my department could make by teaching two additional courses. My university, while private, is not all that well endowed and inclines toward cheapness. Apologies if that number seems a bit too high to support your exploitation view. But please fill me in about the extra pay I'm supposed to be getting "for service and research," unless you're counting the discretionary 0-2% per year. I don't know what numbers you "found." But I would think that exploitation is more absolute than relative--and so isn't established simply by noting a discrepancy in pay and benefits between TT and adjunct positions.

But what is this dispute really about now? I agree that adjuncts generally are underpaid, and more underpaid than TT faculty. I don't agree that the case is strengthened by appealing to exploitation. But, as stated, I generally support consolidating a greater number of adjunct positions into a lesser number of additional TT positions--even though that will mean fewer total positions because of fewer adjunct positions (which many TT job seekers seem to be determined to take while seeking a TT position).

Thanks for the well wishes. I'm doing alright with my philosophy job these days. I hope you can say the same soon enough.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 7:07,

Two-parter. Sorry.

Mr. Zero: You are the second recent commenter to invoke the notion of deservingness. I never stated or implied that "adjuncts get what they deserve" (1:46), nor do I believe that.

I'm confused. I didn't invoke the notion of desert in connection with adjuncts, and I didn't attribute the view that adjuncts get what they deserve to you.

Nor, of course, did I suggest not being "as comfortable as [I] thought [I] deserved to be" when underpaid, by my standards, in my TT job.

My mistake. Sorry about that. But I think my point still stands. Even if you were being paid less than you deserved to be, that still would have nothing to do with whether someone who is paid even less than you, and whose job was also much worse than yours in basically every other way, was being exploited.

If you want to invoke your conviction that my TT job was "pretty cushy," though having no particular knowledge of the situation,

As a general rule, TT jobs are pretty cushy. If yours was an exception--and I have no specific reason to believe it wasn't--I apologize for the presumption.

I don't believe that anyone should be underpaid, and I believe that adjuncts generally are underpaid.

Agreed.

Still, you keep invoking "exploitation" while refusing to consider the difference between being underpaid, often with challenging work conditions, and exploited.

I guess I'd describe the conditions as being a bit more than "challenging." And I guess I do think they deserve much better. I'm not really interested in getting into a semantic argument about whether it's exploitative or only nearly exploitative or something. Why don't you consider the possibility that, given that they're underpaid and face a variety of other "challenging conditions," they're being exploited?

Then you attack a straw man about what people "voluntarily agree to"... GTFOWTBS.

Here's what I was responding to. Where you say, "Adjuncts, at least those with PhDs, are sufficiently rational actors with other opportunities for gainful employment. Moreover, by now, they knew going in or should have known the risks they were taking in pursuing academia, if their goal was to secure full-time academic employment that would support a stable, middle-class standard of living. Despite this knowledge and many available warnings, these adjuncts decided to play the academic labor market--and they continue to do so in preferring to adjunct rather than seek other employment more likely to support a stable, middle-class standard of living." And, "I see adjuncts in my own department and wonder whether they deem their work rewarding enough for the modest compensation and why they don't move on to do something that would be more financially rewarding." And, "I believed I was underpaid and became very frustrated about it--which is why I started seriously exploring exit options, despite believing in teaching and research. I also believed I couldn't afford my job. Others clearly have different priorities." Yes, adjuncts choose to accept adjunct positions, and yes, it was rational for them to do that, and no, they (or, a lot of them) don't try to find another line of work that pays better. But that doesn't mean they aren't being exploited.

Mr. Zero said...

Part two:

The world must shudder to imagine that a guy with a PhD in philosophy might feel compelled to get out of the adjunct grind by taking a non-academic gig that pays more than the typical TT philosophy job.

You don't have to be a sharecropper or a prostitute or something in order to be exploited.

But please fill me in about the extra pay I'm supposed to be getting "for service and research,"

What I meant was, you get some salary in exchange for performing your duties. Those duties include teaching, service, and research. So, some of your salary compensates you for teaching, some for performing service, and some for conducting research. Unless you think you're not being compensated for performing your service- and research-related duties. But that would just mean that adjuncts are even more underpaid than I thought.

But what is this dispute really about now?

I didn't realize we were in a dispute. You asked a question; I gave you a flip answer; you expressed dissatisfaction; I tried to give you a less flip answer.

I agree that adjuncts generally are underpaid, and more underpaid than TT faculty.

It's not just about the pay. There's a lot about it that's extremely shitty, and career adjuncts are leveraged into these shitty conditions by a legitimate desire to do work they find meaningful and the hope of advancing in a tight job market.

Thanks for the well wishes. I'm doing alright with my philosophy job these days. I hope you can say the same soon enough.

Glad to hear it, and thanks--I appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

" The argument, then, is that, so long as universities choose to employ adjuncts, they have a responsibility to treat those adjuncts well. But, if this is right, then Brennan and Magness might need to actually take a stance on whether or not adjuncts are exploited or mistreated from the perspective of employer-employee justice."

They've taken the stance you asked for.

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10551-016-3322-4

Mr. Zero said...

Thanks for posting that, anon 11:59. I thought it was a pretty disappointing article. I thought the most important and interesting section was the one dealing with claim 2. Adjuncts are overworked and underpaid compared to full-time faculty. I thought the most interesting portion of that discussion was the one dealing with the claim that adjuncts are underpaid compared to full-time faculty, since you can be exploited without being overworked. Indeed, it seems to me that being chronically "underworked" might be an important way in which adjuncts are exploited. I thought that this section was very sucky. By focusing on all the additional responsibilities that full-time faculty (sometimes) have, they avoid an apples-to-apples comparison of compensation for the duties adjuncts share in common with full-time faculty. On that scale, I believe I have demonstrated conclusively that adjuncts are badly underpaid.

Also, the contention on p. 9 that " since [a hypothetical adjunct] is teaching a 4–4 load at two different campuses, there is also a chance he may qualify for some health insurance and other benefits with one or more of his employers, in which case the gap could close to near-parity" is amazingly stupid. That's not how it works at all.

All in all, this paper sucks.