Friday, April 8, 2016

Replies to Brennan and Magness (Or, Don’t Read This Thing I Shouldn’t Of Wrote) [Updated]

Against my better judgment, I am going to reply to some stuff Brennan & Magness have said in response to discussion of their article here and elsewhere. I probably shouldn’t do this, but whatever. I’m supposed to be grading.

First, at Leiter Reports, Brian Leiter favorably quotes a snippet from a message Brennan sent him:
The philosophy blogosphere has 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.
This is dumb. I, personally, advanced several substantive criticisms to the arguments of their paper. I suppose I was indignant, maybe angry, but I don’t think I was dishonest or nasty. (I guess I did say it was horseshit. Maybe that was nasty. But I wasn’t dishonest; it is horseshit.) (Some of the comments were a little nasty. There’s one, in particular, that I kind of regret publishing. My bad.) Just so the record is clear, the criticisms I raised were:

1. Brennan and Magness argue that adjuncts chose to become adjuncts, even under such unfavorable conditions, which means that they prefer adjuncting under these unfavorable conditions to the alternative, which means that it is better for the adjuncts themselves, on the whole, for them to be employed under these unfavorable conditions, in spite of their unfavorableness.

I pointed out that the fact that an adjunct voluntarily took the job is compatible with the fact that she is being exploited, and I think it’s clear that when a person is being exploited it’s not good for her. I specifically recognized the possibility that, if the situation were remedied, the adjunct might loser her job rather than get a raise, and I accept that. In comments, Brennan acknowledged that I was right about this. But, from what I could tell, he did not retract or revise the argument.

2. I also pointed out that people have been making basically this same argument for like a hundred years whenever workers try to obtain better conditions for themselves, and it’s never that great of an argument. When the better conditions are acquired, it’s better. Maybe not for everyone, but on the whole.

3. I also pointed out, as did various others in comments, that their argument that pits adjuncts against disadvantaged students is based on a false choice. We can, and should, improve conditions for both groups.

Elsewhere, Magness responds to some objections to their paper, including some of the things Jaded and I said (boldface in the original, used to identify the claims he is responding to):
“But the adjuncts are being exploited!”
That’s certainly an interesting normative claim. It does not however challenge or alter what was, at its core, a positive argument to demonstrate the existence of tradeoffs in attempting to deliver higher pay to adjuncts as a class.
It may not challenge what they regard as their “core” argument, but it does challenge one of their arguments. I can’t see where they have responded to this challenge. Magness goes on:
Alternatively, I might challenge elements of your exploitation framework. I might argue, for example, that adjuncts tend to be highly educated people who have an abundance of exit options to comfortable and well-paying jobs outside of academia. While this may not necessarily obviate all exploitative characteristics you ascribe to adjuncting, it probably reduces the resonance of their “plight” and the urgency of prioritizing their claimed exploitation over other problems.
This is to make the same old error they seem to always make about exploitation. The fact that a certain adjunct has exit options that she doesn’t take doesn’t mean she’s not being exploited; indeed, to quote Brennan, “indeed, paradigmatically, that’s the case.” (Even when they acknowledge the error, they still seem to make it.) (And if the typical adjunct has an abundance of satisfactory exit-options, that would go some distance to answering their suggestion that it’s no good to eliminate an exploitative job if that job isn’t replaced by a better one.)
Or I might answer that what you describe as “exploitation” is actually a misdiagnosis of a situation in which some adjuncts are making highly unreasonable salary demands relative to the work they perform and the qualifications of they possess.
The fact that some adjuncts make unreasonable salary demands—and I agree that the $15,000 per class demand is pretty excessive—is not evidence that their actual compensation is fair or that they’re not being exploited.
A 4-4 teaching load covering about 30 weeks of the year with minimal or no research and departmental obligations is a far cry from a full-time job, especially compared to the 50 work week 9am-to-5pm norm. It also entails significantly fewer work obligations than the typical junior level full time faculty position.
This is based on a misunderstanding of the conditions adjuncts are exposed to. For one, all of the 4-year universities I am familiar with would regard a 4-4 load as full-time; part-timers max out at 3 courses per semester. For another, part-time pay is significantly less, per credit-hour, than it is at the full-time, non-tenure-track level. I don’t see adjuncts demanding to be paid for work they don’t do; I see them demanding fair pay and better conditions for the work they do.

The people I know who have adjuncted have had experiences similar to anon 4:06. They taught 3-3 loads at two different institutions, for a combined total 6-6 load that, in total, payed substantially less than a 4-4 full-time non-TT position would have at either school. Teaching six courses per semester and dividing one’s time between two schools was a struggle. The 30-week work-year was also a significant hardship, for what I can’t help but feel should be obvious reasons.

I mean, Brennan and Magness themselves point out that if an employer agrees to hire an employee, then the employer has a responsibility to provide a living wage. I don’t disagree. I just can’t understand how this point fits into the rest of their thinking about the issue.

[Edit (4-13-16): I thank this commenter for convincing me that I was wrong to attribute this view to B&M. They consider that idea without endorsing it, and then propose an argument for why it wouldn't apply to the case of adjuncts with an existing employment relationship with the institution. The reason I couldn't understand how that idea fits in with the rest of their thinking is that it doesn't. In my defense, this argument is extremely flimsy and does not come close to showing that the obligation does not exist, or that it wouldn't apply to new hires with no existing relationship with the institution. For example, their argument would not tell against a solution that fazes out adjunct contracts slowly by retaining people in existing adjunct positions until they voluntarily separate, and then hiring new hires to teaching-only full-time non-tenure track positions. I think that's a good idea. It would allow institutions to increase their payroll budgetary allocation slowly, and it would give current adjuncts an opportunity to apply for the new full-time jobs, and it would give the adjuncts who aren't going to make the jump to full-time for whatever reason plenty of time to figure out the next step. What's wrong with that idea?]
Obviously there’s an oversupply of qualified applicants. But it’s much better to respond to that oversupply by creating and filling whatever number of minimally decent, non-exploitative jobs than it is to create a bunch of crummy unstable low-paying subsistence-level dead-end exploitative jobs, even if the the exploitation plan would put a lot more people into some level of academic employment. I suppose it’s possible that I’m wrong, but I honestly find it bizarre that this would be controversial.
“It would take something much higher than the basic living wage that adjuncts desire to induce the job gentrification effects you describe.”
I don’t know who made this argument, and I don’t have an informed, worked-out view about what it would take to induce the job gentrification effects they describe. I think you would need to know something about economics in order to evaluate that claim, and I’m certain I don’t know enough. I would appreciate hearing from someone with actual training in economics who is up on the current thinking about job gentrification.

But anyways, suppose that institutions treated their adjuncts roughly on a par with how they treat their full-time non-tenure-track faculty with regard to various things, including pay per credit-hour, employment stability and contract length, access to facilities (such as an office, a computer, etc), and benefits including options for a retirement plan and health insurance. My untutored opinion is that this would be basically fair and I can’t see why that would have any gentrification-related effects that we don’t see with regard to those same full-time non-tenure-track jobs.

But maybe I’m wrong, and if so I hope someone with the relevant background in economics will set me straight.
“You’re just anti-union, and you don’t want adjuncts to be able to organize.”
I don’t know if he’s talking about me or not. I did make a crack about Steinbeck-era union-busters in my post. But if he’s talking about me, he misunderstood my point. My point was not about unions in particular, but was the more general criticism spelled out in point (2) above. I realize I didn’t express the thought especially clearly.
“Everything you state about the tradeoffs of university budgeting is already obvious.”
Yeah. Everything they said about trade-offs is obvious. What’s not obvious is that the existence of trade-offs represents a reason not to do it. I mean, if the argument is just that the money it would take to treat adjuncts fairly would have to come from somewhere, then that’s obvious and is nothing more than an argument in favor of getting the money from somewhere. If, on the other hand, the argument is that in order to treat adjuncts fairly you’d have to fuck over poor kids, then that’s nothing more than sophistry of the lowest order. Pure horseshit.

I mean, I'm sure Brennan and Magness make money. Is Georgetown fucking over poor students by paying Brennan as well as it does? That money has to come from somewhere. Paying money to Jason Brennan inherently involves tradeoffs. Why not reduce tuition instead?
When I note that there seem to be no immediate pots of gold in the university budget to meet the level of “adjunct justice” you desire, you insist otherwise but do not bother to explain where it may be found.
Yeah, I mean, it’s obviously a lot of money, and that money would obviously need to come from somewhere. It would obviously require the reversal of a bunch of relatively recent trends in higher education dealing with funding and allocation. It would obviously require a substantial increase in funding for, and reinvestment in, higher ed at the state and federal levels. It will obviously be hard to accomplish this.

But so what? Just saying, “oh yeah, where will you get the money?” is not an argument that the employment conditions of adjuncts are fair, or that their working conditions shouldn’t be improved. It just means that, as a practical matter, it is going to be hard for adjuncts and their allies to achieve their goals. As I have said, my view is that the best way for public institutions to source the funds would be funding increases from the government. Of course, you'll need to convince those governments to do it, and a lot of state governments in particular are total dicks when it comes to funding higher ed. But none of this comes close to representing a cogent argument against doing it. (It might represent a cogent argument for the conclusion that it will never happen. But that’s something else.)
“You’re wrong about the tradeoffs favoring stakeholder group X. Here’s a reason why adjuncts have a stronger social justice claim than they do.”
I’m not sure who made this type of argument, if anyone. I haven’t exhaustively kept track of all the responses to B&M, but the responses I’m aware of to the “X vs Y” argument that pits adjuncts against e.g. disadvantaged students claim that it’s a false choice, not that adjuncts have a stronger claim to social justice than disadvantaged students. I’m not aware of anyone who thinks tuition should remain high, or that poor kids should be priced out of their educational opportunities in order to fund raises for adjuncts. It seems that both groups have strong claims, and that justice would be best served by addressing both.

And if disadvantaged students have a stronger justice-based claim to financial relief than adjuncts do, I don’t agree that this supports providing relief to disadvantaged students instead of adjuncts. It still supports providing relief to both groups. By itself, it doesn’t even support helping the disadvantaged students first--maybe we should do both at the same time, even though one is more important. Or, maybe we should still do adjunct justice first. Perhaps adjunct justice would be less costly and simpler to institute than to do whatever you’d need to do make higher education generally affordable for disadvantaged students nationwide (I don’t know what all you’d have to do, but it sounds complicated and expensive), and maybe adjuncts shouldn’t have to wait until that project is complete.

(I also think it would be generally pretty scummy to favor one group at the expense of the other. That is, it would be scummy to make college affordable for low-income students by making college teacher into an unstable, low-paying, shitty job; and it would be scummy to improve conditions for teachers by raising tuition for low-income students. There are a lot of problems in higher education, and addressing them all properly is going to require a lot of work, a lot of changes, and a lot of money. None of which represents a cogent argument in favor of not fixing the problems.)
“Your motives for writing this article are hateful/concealed/ulterior/evil, and you’re inexplicably angry at adjuncts.”
A) I don’t know if their ulterior motive is hateful or evil, but I sure don’t think it’s concealed. When they’re not writing for a journal, they’re pretty openly contemptuous and disdainful of adjuncts. Especially Magness.

B) The discussion of motivation is relevant. It goes to the question of whether the article is a good-faith attempt to grapple with the costs and benefits of adjunct justice, or if it’s a bad-faith, barely-disguised attempt to cause trouble for people who are less successful than them, and for whom they have undisguised disdain. I thought this person put it well.

Just as an example, Magness expresses this contempt for adjuncts in this exact section where he’s responding to this claim disputing the purity of his motives:
But the one thing they don’t do is glaringly obvious: the madjuncts don’t actually do research. They don’t produce meaningful scholarly work and they don’t publish anything of substance in academic venues. Melissa Click has a more robust CV than the activist madjunct archetype, and she writes utterly silly articles about Foucauldian power dialectics in the Twilight series. Or something. The madjunct activists don’t even reach that low level of pseudo-scholarship, be it in their own respective fields or in their claimed knowledge of the adjunct problem. And though they profess to be full time “activists” for a largely counterproductive strain of the adjunct cause, that complete absence of scholarship effectively makes them non-players in the intellectual dialogue about U.S. higher education.
I mean, really. Some adjuncts don’t have any interest in scholarship. Some are interested in it, but don’t have the time or institutional support to produce quality work. Some just don’t have what it takes to be a good researcher. Probably some manage to produce high-quality scholarship, but not of the quality or quantity that they would be capable of in better conditions and with greater levels of support.

But none of that is relevant to the question of whether adjuncts’ compensation and working conditions, in what is fundamentally a teaching job with no research-related duties or expectations, are fair, reasonable, and non-exploitative. So I’m not sure what the point of shitting on adjuncts for being lousy researchers is, when their jobs don’t require it and their institutions don’t expect it and won’t provide the resources necessary to do it well.

(Also, to the best of my knowledge, Melissa Click is not an adjunct; she is the former assistant professor at U. Missouri who was fired earlier this year after she did this. I could be wrong, but I couldn’t find anything that said she had anything to do with adjunct activism. I’m not sure what the point of mentioning her was.)

To conclude: I still think that the arguments advanced by B&M are pure BM*, and it is really too bad that they have gotten any attention at all, including this attention I am giving them right now. Shiiiiiiiiiiit.



--Mr. Zero

*Actually, that’s not true. There’s the part where they say that the employer has a responsibility to provide a living wage for the employees it agrees to employ. They’re right about that. [Edit (4-13-16): Sadly, I was wrong. It is true: they are all pure BM. See previous edit.]

135 comments:

Anonymous said...

"When the better conditions are acquired, it’s better. Maybe not for everyone, but on the whole."

Huh. I guess you slept through that class where your prof taught the Repugnant Conclusion paradox.

Ted Levy, MD said...

It seems you're not reading carefully in several instances. As one example, at the end, Magness is claiming that the subclass of adjuncts that he refers to as "madjuncts" (he does not use the terms interchangeably, a fact you probably haven't appreciated) have an even worse record of academic publication than Melissa Click. He goes on to point out how bad HER publication record is. He never says nor does he think that Click herself is an adjunct. If I said high school dropouts' reading comprehension was even worse than yours and then pointed out your problems in reading comprehension, it wouldn't follow that I thought you yourself were a high school dropout. It would merely be a way of showing how bad high school dropout reading comprehension is. Magness's point is very clear.

This is merely one of several misreadings in your response, the most obvious but not the most substantive.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi 8:28,

Huh. I guess you slept through that class where your prof taught the Repugnant Conclusion paradox.

No, I was awake. But my professor didn't cover the repugnant conclusion-based argument against the minimum wage. It's pretty obvious that there's a lot of stuff I don't know, but I'm always interested in learning new things. Would you mind spelling it out for me? Thanks.

Hi Ted,

It seems you're not reading carefully in several instances. As one example, at the end, Magness is claiming that the subclass of adjuncts that he refers to as "madjuncts" (he does not use the terms interchangeably, a fact you probably haven't appreciated) have an even worse record of academic publication than Melissa Click. He goes on to point out how bad HER publication record is.

I honestly thought the Click example came entirely out of left field. Her name wasn't on the tip of my brain (I remembered the incident, but hot her name. Should I have?), and I initially thought she must be some adjunct or adjunct activist. And when I looked her up I didn't see what the point of mentioning her in this context was. But I see what you're saying, and your interpretation makes sense, whereas mine doesn't. So, I think you're right. That's what he was doing. Thanks for setting me straight.

But my point still stands. Whether "madjuncts" are good researchers or not is irrelevant, because their jobs don't require them to do research. What matters is whether they're provided with adequate working conditions and fair compensation for the jobs they were hired to do. Which are teaching jobs. And they're not.

This is merely one of several misreadings in your response, the most obvious but not the most substantive.

What do you think are the more substantive ones?

Tenured Prof, Not into Cats said...

Phil I would also like to know the more substantive misreadings.

The paper used as an example of adjuncts as to what they should be doing, a deeply flawed paper philosophically and in terms of its basic math), it would be great if you would clarify what so many careful readers have missed.

Please respond to the prior post, too. Your math really seems off.

Since this type of "research" is what you can't stop writing is what the adjuncts can't do, as if this research brings value to low income students and adjuncts do not, it seems like defenders of it really have a lot of explaining to do or your case falls right apart.

Please don't fail to get to the math when you respond to the many other concerns here (including why we need adjuncts to write business ethics articles).

I also saw your tweet. The authors here are such charming writers that I keep hearing compliments to him when I share his posts. I don't think you two will get compliments on the writing in this paper- have you yet? I don't think you should mock their writing, they are pretty skilled, obviously.

CP said...

Thank you for your sustained posts on their recent article. Non tenure track here, closing in on 30 years. Am excellent comp teacher (between 60/75 students semester and make about 30K, with partial benefits).

I works with some TT and T'ed who last week mentioned JB/PM's recent piece in sort of a hand-washing 'splain moment.

I flashed on a meme for this: Tom Hanks with one of their heads photo-shopped in: There is No Crying in Adjunct Land.

Yes there is. Is.

Anonymous said...

"What’s not obvious is that the existence of trade-offs represents a reason not to do it."

Isn't that exactly what a tradeoff is?

Anonymous said...

"Magness's point is very clear."

I thought Phil's point was obscure, too, Ross. Click is mostly noteworthy for threatening a photographer, not being a lousy scholar. And I'm also very interested to see what else you think Zero got wrong.

Anonymous said...

We'll forgive you, Robert. Reading comprehension isn't exactly a requirement to get a fake degree from an unaccredited university.

Mr. Zero said...

Isn't that exactly what a tradeoff is?

Depends on what you have to trade, and what you get.

Anonymous said...

It is not shocking that Brennan and Magness have (and will have) no response but will tweet insults about any critics. It is also not shocking that they turn everything into something personal, that's what certain types of people have to do.

I also think they just simply do not understand the criticisms (one is not even a philosopher, neither are economists).

I am surprised to see anyone in a position of some authority (over students) and in positions where they represent large organizations act out this way so publicly.

Has any philosopher ever acted so childishly in public before?

Anonymous said...

5: 35 above, I left out the context: Brennan tweeted that Zero is "mad again" and can't understand his article. He also threw down a new gauntlet: if you write about a article that makes no sense, that makes you some kind of loser. I am sure he self-describes as writing about articles he thinks make no sense, but some people have to be their own standards.

Previous gauntlet: people who cannot understand his magnificent business ethics ought to be fired for reading comprehension problems.

Previous-previous gauntlet: he is the academic 1%. (I'd like to see the math on that, too.)

Someone with a certain type of personality would say something back like "I tweeted he was angry again. Not mad again. You idiot. You should pay attention." That's how it stays personal and how they like it.

Anonymous said...

Your comments are very strange Anon 5:35/4:34. You complain that B&M have "no response" even though this thread is supposedly about their published responses. You also complain that they described one of their critics as a "loser" and you seem to think that this is an unforgiveable breach of philosophical decorum. But you're unfazed that the person they are answering has unleashed several profanity-laced tirades as a part of his argument.

Somebody is definitely acting childish in public here. But like Brian Leiter's comment said, it's the people hiding behind pseudonyms.

Anonymous said...

8:58 Did I misunderstand the point of your tweet? I thought it was to ridicule the posters here. Is "loser" too harsh? Are they just idiots or catladies? Neckbeards? Not making the "big bucks" like the academic 1%? I have quite honestly never seen so many insults come from one named person. I think it'd be a lot better if you paid your insults anonymously, better for your students- don't you think they watch you?

And do you seriously think witnesses to your twitter wars believe you are offended by profanity? Should we imagine the philosophy you haven't read if a curse word offends you? How do you handle twitter? The thing is, nothing you two write is sincere.

Can you respond to the point in the posts on this blog? Magness did not respond to any of them in his "published" post. He just said the above. Neither of you have defended the basic problem of how you added up costs. I'm not sure I've seen any writer refuse to defend their math. That's really beyond the pale. And you are trying to distract those of us who see the problem. Respond to Jaded and Zero like a normal philosopher would.

Mr. Zero said...

You complain that B&M have "no response" even though this thread is supposedly about their published responses.

There are responses and then there are responses. The "responses" of B&M are less actual responses than unresponsive things they are calling responses, as I think I have amply demonstrated.

But you're unfazed that the person they are answering has unleashed several profanity-laced tirades as a part of his argument. Somebody is definitely acting childish in public here. But like Brian Leiter's comment said, it's the people hiding behind pseudonyms.

Obviously my tolerance for profanity is higher than average. And obviously I could of said "horsepucky" or something instead of what I said. But when I thought about what these guys are doing, and the low-quality evidence and sophistical arguments they have amassed in order to do it, I cannot but come to the conclusion that the stronger language is called for. It's not "pucky". It's shit.

Anonymous said...

"Mr. Zero" - You're deeply mistaken if you believe that offense was taken to your use of profanity. It is only noted because a certain "anonymous" poster's indifference to it is in tension with his wildly extravagant claim to find a grievous breach of decorum in a few tweets that refer to you as a "loser."

Mr. Zero said...

I avoid Twitter whenever possible, which is basically always, so I'm not familiar with the tweets in question. But if I said *his argument* is horseshit, and he responded that *I* am a loser, the I suppose I think those are two different things.

Anonymous said...

This is based on a misunderstanding of the conditions adjuncts are exposed to. For one, all of the 4-year universities I am familiar with would regard a 4-4 load as full-time; part-timers max out at 3 courses per semester. For another, part-time pay is significantly less, per credit-hour, than it is at the full-time, non-tenure-track level. I don’t see adjuncts demanding to be paid for work they don’t do; I see them demanding fair pay and better conditions for the work they do.

The misunderstanding is all yours, Mr. Zero. 3 courses/semester is unusual for adjuncts. 6 courses/semester is *extremely* rare. (Source - Table 16 http://www.academicworkforce.org/CAW_portrait_2012.pdf).

Anonymous said...

You give us no evidence that part time pay is "significantly less, per credit hour" than full time pay either. Since adjuncts are only hired to teach the proper comparison would NOT be to total fulltime faculty salaries but only the % of time they spend teaching, correct?

Let's "pretend" you're a philosophy VAP at some backwater state university in a teaching position that has a 4-4. You're probably making, what, about $50K a year? If teaching takes up half of your time, then you're really getting paid $25K for the teaching part of your job.

An adjunct with a 4-4 at $3,000 a course is making $24K for the same amount of time spent teaching.

Anonymous said...

A VAP with a 4/4 load spend way more than half of their working time teaching.

Anonymous said...

"If teaching takes up half of your time, then you're really getting paid $25K for the teaching part of your job. "

This is nonsense. A one-year lecturer/instructor position with a 3-3 load and no compensation for research can easily get 30-40k. These types of positions are usually, at a minimum, $5000/course. According to 2012 CUPAHR, average salary for instructor positions in philosophy and religion is $43,522. And philosophy is one of the lower paid disciplines.

Mr. Zero said...

Let's "pretend" you're a philosophy VAP at some backwater state university in a teaching position that has a 4-4. You're probably making, what, about $50K a year? If teaching takes up half of your time, then you're really getting paid $25K for the teaching part of your job.

A "teaching" position is one in which the duties principally or entirely involve teaching. A position in which one is expected to spend only half of one's time teaching wouldn't be a "teaching" position. It would be a "teaching, research, and service" position.

Anyways, that's why I did the comparison in terms of compensation per credit-hour, rather than total full-time faculty salary. I want to compare what adjuncts are paid for their teaching-related duties with what full-time faculty are paid for theirs.

An adjunct with a 4-4 at $3,000 a course is making $24K for the same amount of time spent teaching.

I make almost $5,000 per course. Adjuncts here make $2,000 per. Someone on an adjunct contract who taught a 3-3 at this institution would have a job that is 3/4 as much work as my job, but which pays 1/3 as much.

I mean, just look at your made-up numbers. You imagine a full-time teaching position with a 4-4 load that pays $50K, and compare that to a "part time" position with the same workload that pays less than half that. You think that sounds fair?

Anonymous said...

I think there is something getting lost in this discussion.

I'm sure we can all agree that not all adjuncts are being exploited. We can all look to particular examples and claim one thing or another. But surely we can all agree that the system is designed to permit exploitation, can we not? Adjuncts are in a position to be exploited. Even if we could somehow determine that they are paid for teaching as much as TT faculty are paid for the teaching portion of their salaries (a point I'm not willing to concede, but will for the sake of moving discussion forward), adjunct pay is often fixed, and adjuncts are often not given union or cost of living raises (not to mention merit raises that often come with TT promotion levels). So while an adjunct may be paid "equally" for the same teaching load as a TT colleague, over time that becomes less true. (The adjunct continues to make the same as newly hired TT colleagues for their teaching, but those colleagues then continue to out-earn adjuncts for the same teaching load). Further, working conditions are not always the same. It's not uncommon for adjuncts to teach the most labor-intensive courses (Intro), at undesirable times (early morning and later in the evening), and can find their sections eliminated (or given to TT faculty) at the last minute. Not to mention that adjuncts often must fund their own professional development.

It's not just about base salary salary at the time of hire.

Derek Bowman said...

For what it's worth I'm currently a VAP teaching a 4-4 load. My job has no explicit research or service requirements, though I engage in the same (moderate-to-minimal) service work I did when I was part-time at the same institution. I'm doing more research now, in part because I have to spend less time pinching pennies and putting together odd jobs, and in part because I now have access to conference travel funds. When I was a part-timer I had to turn down a conference invitation because I couldn't afford to go, so I stopped making submissions.

I'm teaching twice as much for four times the pay. And that's not counting the monetary value of the additional health and other benefits I now get. My qualifications haven't changed, nor has the assessment of my colleagues; only arbitrary bureaucratic circumstances.

By the way, you can find out what most people make at most public universities because of state reporting laws. Having looked at some 4/4 VAPs at directional state universities barely clear $30k - but I bet the part-timers at those schools aren't getting $3k per course.

Anonymous said...

This is nonsense. A one-year lecturer/instructor position with a 3-3 load and no compensation for research can easily get 30-40k. These types of positions are usually, at a minimum, $5000/course. According to 2012 CUPAHR, average salary for instructor positions in philosophy and religion is $43,522. And philosophy is one of the lower paid disciplines.

You do realize, don't you, that LOWER full time pay actually makes that salary CLOSER to what an adjunct makes.

If you make $40K and 1/2 of that time is spent on teaching (very plausible for only a 3-3 load, which is considered less than a full time teaching load at most colleges), then your teaching compensation is $20K. That's actually LESS per teaching hour than a 4-4 adjunct who makes $3,000 a class ($24K). It's also only slightly more than a 3-3 adjunct ($18K)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero -

Anyways, that's why I did the comparison in terms of compensation per credit-hour, rather than total full-time faculty salary. I want to compare what adjuncts are paid for their teaching-related duties with what full-time faculty are paid for theirs.

Then surely you can offer some actual numbers for this. You made that claim:

For another, part-time pay is significantly less, per credit-hour, than it is at the full-time, non-tenure-track level.

But you didn't give any evidence that it is true.

This isn't simply some speculative matter in which you "feel" that adjuncts are paid less per hour for the teaching part of their job. Even a teaching-heavy full timer does not spend 100% of her time teaching. She's expected to participate in department meetings & probably sit on a few committees. She also likely has at least a few minimal research expectations. So if not 50%, what happens if teaching is 60%? Or 70%? If you're gonna make claims like that, let's see some evidence that it's true. Show us that adjuncts are actually underpaid when you do a direct hour-to-hour comparison of their teaching work against the full timers' teaching work.

Anonymous said...

I have a few simple questions for Mr. Zero. Or anyone else for that matter. You're a philosophy VAP with a (presumably) heavy teaching load, so I won't ask you about salary but I'll assume it's probably somewhere in the range of $40K on the low end to $60K on the high. So...

1. How many total combined hours do you work each year? Include teaching, research, department meetings, and everything else.

2. How many classes do you teach per semester?

3. How many hours on average do you spend per week on teaching-related activities during the school semester?

Mr. Zero said...

If you make $40K and 1/2 of that time is spent on teaching (very plausible for only a 3-3 load, which is considered less than a full time teaching load at most colleges), then your teaching compensation is $20K.

That's not it at all. I don't have any non-teaching responsibilities. They pay me to teach, and they don't pay me to do anything else. The things I do other than teaching are things for which I am not compensated.

Then surely you can offer some actual numbers for this.

I did. I gave you ballpark figures for my institution. Don't take my word for it, though. Look up what they are at your institution.

Even a teaching-heavy full timer does not spend 100% of her time teaching. She's expected to participate in department meetings & probably sit on a few committees.

Not necessarily. I don't attend faculty meetings, and I don't have any service responsibilities. This is typical of the non-tenure-track full-time position. I feel like I've been very clear on this. (This seems to be changing at some institutions. I have a friend at an institution where new contracts for non-TT full-time positions include service-related duties, where they're expected to spend 20% of their time on service. I don't know if they're getting a corresponding raise to go along with the new duties.)

Anonymous said...

I am a VAP at a small liberal arts college. I teach a 3-4 load. I make a mid-forties salary a year plus benefits. My department claims that I have no service or advising requirements but most college students do not understand the distinctions between different sorts of faculty. So I actually spend a fair amount of time advising students, doing all sorts of service stuff, etc. I think it is worth making a distinction between what people claim are your teaching/research/service requirements and how those things actually play out in many places where you are expected to be a "good citizen" and do all sorts of stuff for which you are not compensated but that you do in the hope of having your contract renewed the next year.....and, of course, because you actually care about your students.

Anonymous said...

"You do realize, don't you, that LOWER full time pay actually makes that salary CLOSER to what an adjunct makes."

How do you not understand that a teaching position with no compensation for research is one in which all compensation is for teaching. A 3-3 with 30k is 5k/course. A 4-4 at 40k is 5k/course. If you are doing research, that's on your own time.

By the way, 3 courses at 3 Carnegie credit hours each is full time as far as the ACA is concerned.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any non-teaching responsibilities. They pay me to teach, and they don't pay me to do anything else. The things I do other than teaching are things for which I am not compensated.

So if you simply showed up at the start of class, left at the end of class, and did nothing other than turn in your grades on time at the end of the semester, you'd be fulfilling every expectation your contract and your department would be just fine with you?

Derek Bowman said...

I'll make the same suggestion here that I made in the previous thread for those who think their service and research are worth so much more than the teaching part of the job:

1. Subtract the part-time per-class rate for teaching from your salary to get the value of your service and research.
2. Give that salary breakdown to your dean, provost, board of regents, state legislature, governor, and/or other funding bodies the next time you're arguing for a raise, for a new tenure line, or against program cuts.

Let me know how well that works out for you and your department.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:26 - You raise some interesting points. I'm not sold on several of them though.


1. I'm sure we can all agree that not all adjuncts are being exploited.

I'm not so sure. That would require a reasonable definition of exploitation, followed by seeing if adjuncts meet the conditions of that definition. We haven't gotten a definition so far - just an assertion that it simply is so for adjuncts.

2. But surely we can all agree that the system is designed to permit exploitation, can we not? Adjuncts are in a position to be exploited.

Again this is not at all clear. If exploitation exists (and that would need to be shown) then it is possible that the exploitation is (a) intentional or (b) unintentional. If it is unintentional, then the claim that it is designed to be exploitative is substantially weaker.

Even if we could somehow determine that they are paid for teaching as much as TT faculty are paid for the teaching portion of their salaries (a point I'm not willing to concede, but will for the sake of moving discussion forward), adjunct pay is often fixed, and adjuncts are often not given union or cost of living raises (not to mention merit raises that often come with TT promotion levels).

That may be so in some places. TT promotion is probably the wrong comparison though because promotion decisions on the TT are almost exclusively tied to research. Almost nobody gets promoted on the TT due to teaching alone. I also don't see any injustice in paying somebody more due to a research-based promotion when it's very clear that the promotion is a result of that research - not teaching.

It's not uncommon for adjuncts to teach the most labor-intensive courses (Intro)

This is another assumption that is suspect. Some aspects of intro courses may be more labor-intensive (larger # of students to grade). But others are also clearly less labor-intensive (easier material & less reading assignments to teach, less time needed to prep lectures since the material is introductory, more likely to be a class that follows a textbook instead of your own original content, less new course design since it's probably a rubric syllabus that already exists). It's just as likely that an upper level course will be significantly more labor-intensive to teach especially if it has to be designed from scratch.

at undesirable times (early morning and later in the evening), and can find their sections eliminated (or given to TT faculty) at the last minute.

Probably true. But these are very different complaints than the salary issue. And it's not clear that addressing salaries would fix them.

Anonymous said...

I'm teaching twice as much for four times the pay. And that's not counting the monetary value of the additional health and other benefits I now get. My qualifications haven't changed, nor has the assessment of my colleagues; only arbitrary bureaucratic circumstances.

Except that you are, by your own admission, doing more research now and more service work now.

You say these things are uncompensated and that you're strictly on a teaching contract. But as Anon 9:07 notes, some of these things are also implicit in the job. I bet if you cut back on your research and stopped doing those service things you'd soon find that your department is less likely to renew your contract in the future. That contract may only be for teaching on paper. But the expectations include other things if you want to get renewed. That means those other things are actually part of your job as well.

Anonymous said...

Derek - I'll make a different suggestion to you, since you think service and research are not a part of your expectations as a full time faculty member.

1. Start showing up to work only at the start of class and leaving immediately after it ends.
2. Cease all other activities including advising students & doing research on the side.
3. Point out to your department chair that your contract is only for teaching and tell him that's the reason you refuse to do anything else.

Let me know how well that works out for you when it's time to renew your contract.

Anonymous said...

"TT promotion is probably the wrong comparison though because promotion decisions on the TT are almost exclusively tied to research. Almost nobody gets promoted on the TT due to teaching alone."

At research institutions, sure. But that's a very small number of institutions. I teach at a SLAC, and before that taught at a Directional State College. In both of those positions, teaching was very clearly the primary basis for promotion on the tenure track. At the State College, we (and other departments) promoted from assistant to associate professor colleagues who had very little (in some cases no) research. One colleague in my department was promoted from associate to full without any research after being promoted to associate; the promotion was base entirely on teaching and service. At my current SLAC, teaching is the most important part of the file for promotion. We are expected to be teachers first, scholars second.

-7:26

Anonymous said...

10:52 - Please do tell us if your SLAC is ever hiring! I know many philosophy PhDs with weak CVs on the research front who would eagerly take a job that promotes them all the way up to full professor because of teaching alone! Oddly, they can't seem to find these jobs anywhere else though so I must simply assume that you work at an extraordinary place.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 9:32,

So if you simply showed up at the start of class, left at the end of class, and did nothing other than turn in your grades on time at the end of the semester, you'd be fulfilling every expectation your contract and your department would be just fine with you?

No, but I didn't say they would, and also so what? They wouldn't be happy with an adjunct who did that, either. That's why I made the comparison in terms of credit-hours taught, rather than in terms of an hourly wage or whatever. Because compensation for college teaching does not take the form of an hourly wage. It takes the form of an annual salary plus benefits, or a rate per credit hour or class or whatever. In both cases, you're paid for the time you spend in the classroom, as well as as well as whatever else you have to do outside the classroom in order to execute your responsibilities related to teaching that class. That's also why I keep talking about "teaching-related duties" and stuff instead of just "teaching" or "being in the classroom" or whatever think I'm talking about. Everything you say about full-time positions applies equally well to part-time positions.

What was your point?

Hi anon 10:15,

That contract may only be for teaching on paper. But the expectations include other things if you want to get renewed.

That's not true at my institution. I don't have any explicit expectation of research or service. Regarding research, I've seen lots of people get renewed more than once even though they don't publish anything. We had a guy who got renewed every year for ten years even though he never wrote a single paper during that entire time. So, at least as far as my job is concerned, research is not expected on any level.

Regarding service. My contract stipulates that I am to perform my teaching duties and additional duties as assigned by the chair. Every so often--not every year--I get an assignment. And when I get an assignment, I do it happily and well and without complaint, and would not go around saying that I didn't get paid for it. My contract says I get my compensation package in exchange for doing whatever duties the chair assigns.

But it happens pretty rarely and the duties aren't too time-consuming, so my compensation for these duties is not going to throw off the numbers by very much. My ballpark figures are still in the ballpark.

That means those other things are actually part of your job as well.

The fact that something is "part of your job" does not entail that you are being compensated for it. Especially if the thing is "part of your job" in an informal, implicit, under the table, "we won't renew your contract if you don't do this" kind of way, rather than a formal, explicit, above board, "this is part of your assigned duties and this is how much time/importance you should attach to it, and don't forget to keep track of and report your activities and we'll discuss how things are going in your annual performance review" kind of way. If it's not explicit and above-board, I think there's a decent chance you're not getting compensated for it.

And, as I have mentioned repeatedly, the differences in compensation are only one aspect of what makes the conditions under which adjuncts must work unfair.

Jennifer Baker said...

This libertarian take on adjuncts (for lack of a better term? I read it and saw it appreciated on BHL and figure the blog title describes the content and the audience) is comprised of both merit-based and “economic” arguments.

The “economic” arguments might include references to: limited budgets; supply; the need of the institution for flexibility; the idea that adjuncts do not add value to a University; some suggestion that the hourly wage for adjuncts is high. The merit-based or “moral” arguments against higher pay for adjuncts might include criticism of adjuncts’ life choices; adjuncts’ research; teaching; the role adjuncts play in the University as a whole; concern for poor students mattering more than pay/pay for adjuncts compared to charity (and so on).

I’ve said this elsewhere, and to the authors a long while back, but I think either of these approaches, however they get combined, is inadequate to the question of why adjuncts are paid what they are. I think even debating on these grounds is a real distraction from what we can know about pay.

What can we know? How for profit-businesses act. We know the average profit per employee at corporations like Comcast, Disney, and Facebook. What is the average profit per adjunct? How much more is this than their wage? How does this compare to corporate standards? How does it compare to the rate of return on research for Universities?

If adjuncts are paid less than they would be if working for Comcast (given what they deliver in profit), then Universities would be put on the defensive and we’d have identified something real: their unique, non-profit based, standards for pay. I'll post a link to a discussion of a realistic University budget (I've got it, will find).

To not deal with the numbers in an actual Univ. budget is a real shame if someone is trying to figure out the actual basis for adjunct pay. That basis could actually be explained, but not just verbally, not by talking through “economic” points and not by declaiming about merit or morality.

It’d be great to know what Universities are doing with earnings and pay, esp. given “budget limitations.” I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to know that first and try to understand adjunct pay only after.

Has anyone here argued this? Am I missing something? Thanks.

PS I don't want to be called a catlady or worse on twitter. I can imagine the insults just fine.

Jennifer Baker said...

Here is the link to a discussion of a University's budget (middle portion).
Link: https://profession.commons.mla.org/2015/12/16/the-humanities-as-service-departments-facing-the-budget-logic/

And in case I wasn't clear, adjuncts are going to come out as underpaid given business standards. Way underpaid, according to a big-league productivity analyst who looked at these numbers for me.



Derek Bowman said...

10:20:

I already tried that, as a part-timer, and I got promoted to VAP. Not because I did that of course. My department hires VAPs for the same reason it hires part-timers: because they have substantial teaching needs beyond what can be provided by current tenured/tenure-track employees teaching 4/4, and the administration is reluctant to approve new tenure lines. I know other VAPs at my school who get regularly renewed without doing any research and others who are not renewed despite their active research. The reason is a combination of teaching need plus provost approval for full-time vs part-time staffing, not service or research productivity.

10:15:

I said I'm providing the same level of (nonrequired) service work as before. Actually it's less, but only because the meetings (for an interdisciplinary program I also teach in) I usually attend have been less frequent. I've still never been to a philosophy department meeting.

And, unless they're reading this thread, no one in my department knows whether I'm doing more or less research now; most of them don't know whether I did any research before or whether I'm doing any now.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero - A large number of your arguments seem to amount to "I knew this guy once at my institution who was only required to teach and nothing else..." or "I know an adjunct who teaches at X number of campuses..." or "Teaching faculty at my school get paid..." or "I taught this class once and had to work X hours..." or "This lady I know got renewed despite never publishing anything..."

These purely anecdotal claims may all be completely accurate depictions of people you know or your own experience. But surely you also recognize the danger of extrapolating from them to broad general claims of "truth" about life for the typical adjunct. This is especially the case since we actually do have a lot of data on what the average faculty member makes, how many classes the average adjunct teaches, how many hours the average faculty spends on research and many other things that would help us resolve these questions. Repeating random anonymous unverifiable anecdotes about "this guy I know" adds very little to the conversation though.

To help us get back on track, let's start with something else that still represents your experiences but is a bit more grounded in actual numbers. I'm interested to know:

1. How many total combined hours do you work each year? Include teaching, research, department meetings, and everything else whether it's "officially" part of your contract or not.

2. How many classes do you teach per semester?

3. How many hours on average do you spend per week on teaching-related activities during the school semester?

We can compare all of your answers against surveys to see if, in fact, your experience is representative of what most faculty experience in their jobs.

Derek Bowman said...

10:09: "It's just as likely that an upper level course will be significantly more labor-intensive to teach especially if it has to be designed from scratch."

Lots of people seem to assume this, but I don't know why it's true. Sure, it's probably easier to do a mediocre job teaching intro than a mediocre job teaching an upper level course that's outside of your research specialization. But teaching introductory level classes well is much more difficult; it's not about how easy the material is to you, it's about how hard it is for the students.

Anonymous said...

Jennifer Baker -

What can we know? How for profit-businesses act. We know the average profit per employee at corporations like Comcast, Disney, and Facebook. What is the average profit per adjunct? How much more is this than their wage? How does this compare to corporate standards?

...except we can't actually make a 1-to-1 comparison to for profit corporations. Universities may be businesses, but they are non-profit businesses and non-profits experience a host of very different economic conditions than a publicly traded corporation like Comcast. There's a huge academic literature on these differences too and what it means for how they do hiring and budgeting.

There may be some similarities, but there's enough that's different between the for-profit and non-profit worlds that it doesn't work to treat the two as comparable. We can't just see how universities stack up to Comcast any more than we can compare them to employment practices at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Apples to Oranges to Bananas.

Anonymous said...

Derek Bowman -

Lots of people seem to assume this, but I don't know why it's true. Sure, it's probably easier to do a mediocre job teaching intro than a mediocre job teaching an upper level course that's outside of your research specialization. But teaching introductory level classes well is much more difficult; it's not about how easy the material is to you, it's about how hard it is for the students.

I don't know if it's always true, but nobody said it was. I do know that it's not false, and I suspect it's sometimes true that upper division courses are harder to teach than lower division courses. I also know that it's *possible* to teach lower division courses well without them being very difficult to teach. Some people are just naturally gifted teaches. They can walk in to any classroom and effortlessly hold the students attention because they speak in very clear and engaging ways. Surely you don't think that those people have a harder time teaching a lower division course than an average teacher who has to design an upper division course from scratch.

Note that my point is not to prove that either upper or lower division courses are harder to teach. It's to show you that your assumption that one will automatically tend to be harder than the other is unfounded. There are plenty of reasons why upper division courses might be harder than lower, or why lower division courses might be harder than upper. It all depends on who's teaching, their strength of talents at teaching, it and what they have to do to get the course ready. So I'm not sure it accomplishes anything to appeal to the difficulty that might happen in lower level courses while ignoring the difficulty that might happen in upper level courses. Or vice versa.

Anonymous said...

11:18,

We last hired a few years ago, and are very happy with our choice. She's an outstanding teacher.

One thing I should note is that it would appear that more than a few applicants opted not to even apply. We received just under 100 applications, which is pretty low given the high numbers other institutions received for positions in the same area.

In our ad, we noted that the teaching load was 3/3. And we have a historic religious affiliation, which turns some people away (even though we do not expect any kind of affirmation of faith.) And we were one of those programs that asked for a teaching philosophy and evidence of teaching excellence. (And were not surprised that some people included letters from their advisors as such evidence, even when those letters did not once mention teaching.) Also, we are in a rural area, several hours from the nearest major city. I have no doubt that some people saw us as an undesirable job, and didn't bother to apply.

And honestly, that's fine by us. We had a fantastic pool of finalists, all of whom had outstanding teaching experience. And while research isn't the most important factor, some of us still do write and present on occasion.

Also, you seem to have missed where I wrote "teaching and service," and instead think I wrote "teaching alone." Service is highly regarded here, and those who direct departments and programs, those who serve in leadership/governance roles, those who engage in college-based community service, are well-respected. You seem to think that promotion here comes only due to teaching, when what I wrote was that promotion has little to do with research. There is much, much more to the functioning of a college than teaching and research.

Anonymous said...

"These purely anecdotal claims may all be completely accurate depictions of people you know or your own experience. But surely you also recognize the danger of extrapolating from them to broad general claims of 'truth' about life for the typical adjunct."

This is just hand-waving. Data has already been presented about non-TT faculty salaries, and it does not support your position.

"How many total combined hours do you work each year?"

Do you not see the irony of accusing someone of relying on anecdotal data and then demanding anecdotal data? You're just trying to antagonize Zero. By your own admission it must have no bearing on the argument.

Anonymous said...

There is much, much more to the functioning of a college than teaching and research.

I don't disagree at all. But notice we're also talking about adjuncts vs. teaching faculty and some here are contending that both spend very close to 100% of their time on the classroom. Your observation about service indicates that this contention is wrong.

Anonymous said...

12:55 -

Do you not see the irony of accusing someone of relying on anecdotal data and then demanding anecdotal data?

There's no irony at all. The point of asking him about his own anecdotal data was to see how it compares against survey data. This would allow us to determine if in fact the anecdotes he keeps using are reasonably representative of a normal faculty experience. Of course you'd know that already if you hadn't stopped reading before the very next line:

"We can compare all of your answers against surveys to see if, in fact, your experience is representative of what most faculty experience in their jobs."

Anonymous said...

"There's no irony at all. The point of asking him about his own anecdotal data was to see how it compares against survey data."

That's completely unnecessary. If you think his position is anecdotal, and contrary to data, then present data. Don't demand further anecdote. The notion that you need additional anecdotes in order to make your comparison is absurd.

"Of course you'd know that already if you hadn't stopped reading before the very next line:"

I can read right through this kind of grandstanding, I assure you.

Anonymous said...

"I don't disagree at all. But notice we're also talking about adjuncts vs. teaching faculty and some here are contending that both spend very close to 100% of their time on the classroom. Your observation about service indicates that this contention is wrong."

Not at all. And that's because far too many people in this conversation seem to think that all TT jobs are the same.

When I was a grad student, my advisor taught 3 courses per year and didn't "bother" with service. He was an important enough researcher in a highly ranked department, and was paid primarily for his research efforts. When I taught at a state school, I taught a 4/4 load, and most of my job was spent teaching (and advising). Research wasn't expected, and the school employed a large administrative/professional class of employees to do much of the administrative/governance work engaged by faculty at my current institution. Right now, I'd say my time is spent roughly 60% teaching, 30% service, and 10% research. (Roughly. I have not figured out exact number of hours.) While teaching is the most important part of my current job, I am also expected to be engaged in service and governance activities.

It's impossible to figure out a TT-to-adjunct conversion scale, because the requirements of TT faculty differ between kinds of institutions, not to mention the various expectations within institutions. And then there are those various exceptions which reflect individual circumstances. (For instance, one of my colleagues took a medical leave due to cancer, and has recently returned to teaching. To ease him back into the job, he's not expected to do anything other than teach. So 100% of his paycheck is for his teaching. However, next year, he will have to start picking up service again, so while his paycheck will remain the same, what he is paid to do for that paycheck will change.)

And though it should go without saying, I'll point out that such considerations as those afforded to my colleague are not afforded to adjuncts. If an adjunct in my department needed a year off, whatever the reason, that adjunct would not be paid. When that adjunct returned (being rehired), that adjunct would be paid only for the courses he would teach. The pay would only reflect teaching, and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero is making an argument based on equating his own observed experience (or those of anonymous people he knows) with "the conditions adjuncts are exposed to." He has also asserted that those described conditions are "true" and representative of what real faculty must face. And he has asserted that claiming anything other than his examples is a "misunderstanding" of those conditions, or outright wrong.

Determining whether his anecdotal experience in fact matches statistically documented national norms for the salary conditions of different categories of faculty is therefore completely necessary if Mr. Zero is going to pursue that line of argument.

Example:

If national statistical samples show the average full time 4-4 course load prof makes $46K and spends 58% of her work week in the classroom, then $26.6K of her equivalent hourly salary comes from teaching. And if national surveys show the average adjunct makes $3K a class, then teaching a 4-4 load at that level will yield him $24K. The comparable teaching-equivalent components of their salaries is only $2.6K apart...which doesn't support the contention that adjuncts are drastically underpaid compared to full timers.

Now suppose Mr. Zero comes in and says "No, no no! I know this guy in my department and he makes only $37K, and all his time is spent teaching a 4-4 and doing absolutely nothing but teaching. He has no obligations other than teaching, never comes to department meetings, and hasn't published anything in 16 years. Also my friend's cousin is an adjunct, and he only makes $1,800 a class even though he also does a 4-4. The guy in my department gets $37K for his teaching but the adjunct gets only $14.4K. Therefore you're wrong and the adjunct is being underpaid and exploited for the same amount of work."

Who's right? Well, one way to test it is to see if Mr. Zero's anecdotal claims are in fact representative. There's lots of good survey data out there on how faculty spend their time - including teaching faculty at SLACs who would be in positions comparable to Mr. Zero's friend, or perhaps Mr. Zero himself. Maybe those faculty work comparable hours to Mr. Zero and his friend. Maybe Mr. Zero or his friend are atypical though. But we'd need to know his estimated hours worked before we begin to figure out if, in fact, Mr. Zero's claim holds any water for the average faculty. Or the average adjunct.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 12:09

Two-parter, sorry.

A large number of your arguments seem to amount to "I knew this guy once at my institution who was only required to teach and nothing else..."...

The person I was responding to was trying to suggest that I have research-related responsibilities. So I explained how things work at my institution in order to demonstrate that I don't. The "guy I know" is me. I didn't draw any inferences about any other institutions in the comment you appear to be referencing, but I suspect that my position is typical of non-TT full-time jobs. But don't take my word for it; go look at the job descriptions in the ads on PhilJobs. There are a couple of exceptions, but the full-time non-TT positions advertised there generally don't require service or research.

or "I know an adjunct who teaches at X number of campuses..."

I take your point about this. I haven't had time to fully digest the numbers anon 11:15PM mentions, but I do think they show that my language about "typicalness" was stronger than what is supported by the available evidence. But I don't think it shows that it is unusual for adjuncts to have workloads that fall in the range between "almost as high as" and "much higher than" mine.

or "Teaching faculty at my school get paid..."

My institution isn't unusual. Other people have cited statistics that support this. If you think my institution is unusual, I'd be interested to see why.

or "I taught this class once and had to work X hours..."

I don't recall having said that. I'm not very interested in what people make per hour, because that's not how our compensation is structured. I'm interested in differences in pay per unit, given how our compensation is structured.

Mr. Zero said...

Part Two:

or "This lady I know got renewed despite never publishing anything..."

This is the same as the first one. 10:15 says I won't get renewed if I don't publish anything. Not because he/she has any evidence that this is true--it's pure free-floating speculation. And hard evidence about the general frequency of this sort of thing is unlikely to be readily available, because 10:15 is specifically thinking about non-explicit expectations that won't show up in any job description or contract. So I don't know what else I can do other than point out that my job doesn't have these expectations and I don't know anyone with a job like mine where it does.

Honestly. This person thinks, on the basis of nothing whatsoever, that non-TT full-time people won't get renewed unless we do research, in order to try to show that research expectations really are included in our jobs, I guess in order to try to show that we're actually compensated for the research when we do it, in order to make it seem like adjuncts aren't as underpaid as I think they are. (Actually, I'm not really sure what the point was. I took it to be that research is part of my job, and that if it's part of my job I'm being compensated for it. Right?) In less than two hours, two different people who have that kind of job leave comments saying, "my job isn't like that." And then you're all like, "these anecdotes aren't getting us any closer to the truth."

If you've got some evidence that anyone's job is like this, let alone that it happens very often, I'd be interested to see it.

Of course, that wouldn't have any impact on the other point, that even if those informal expectations are in place, which I don't concede, it wouldn't do anything to show that those people are actually compensated for those activities.

But surely you also recognize the danger of extrapolating from them to broad general claims of "truth" about life for the typical adjunct.

Sure, but neither does ungrounded speculation about what may or may not be expected either formally or informally of various people in various types of job. That doesn't move us any closer to any kind of "truth," or truth, about anything.

The point of asking him about his own anecdotal data was to see how it compares against survey data.

A survey conducted in the comment threads of a blog would not yield any data.

Anonymous said...

It's impossible to figure out a TT-to-adjunct conversion scale, because the requirements of TT faculty differ between kinds of institutions

It's not impossible at all. You simply need to find the closest type of TT faculty to what an adjunct currently does.

After all, a claim is being made here that says adjuncts perform "equal" work to TT faculty but are paid only half as much. If they aren't comparable for the reasons you state, then it also follows that you can't make that claim. Then your whole "adjuncts are exploited" argument falls apart.

Anonymous said...

A survey conducted in the comment threads of a blog would not yield any data.

This is why some here have complained, Mr. Zero, that you are not the most careful reader of your critics' arguments. Several large national surveys have been done on how faculty spend their time by groups like the AAUP. The purpose in asking you for your/your friend's estimate of hours worked is to see if you mirror the results of those surveys. It's not to conduct the survey itself.

If you do, then there may be some value to all your anecdotes. If you don't, you're an outlier.

Anonymous said...

"If national statistical samples show the average full time 4-4 course load prof makes $46K and spends 58% of her work week in the classroom, then $26.6K of her equivalent hourly salary comes from teaching."

This is an irresponsible way of calculating how much of one's compensation is for teaching.

Anonymous said...

"It's not impossible at all. You simply need to find the closest type of TT faculty to what an adjunct currently does."

Far too often on this blog - and in this discussion in particular - it seems like people will only think in terms of generalizations. Someone posits a generalization, someone notes a counter-example that demonstrates the generalization fails to account for all cases, and nobody is convinced of anything. You can't point to "the closest type of TT faculty" because that's irrelevant, given the differences between institutions.

Even if we all agreed that faculty at Institution Class X come closest to "what an adjunct currently does," that would not at all matter when dealing with adjuncts who don't work at Class X institutions. Additionally, while it's somewhat useful to deal with national averages (courses taught, salary, etc.), we are again dealing with generalizations when we rely on averages to speak to specifics. Finally, from what I can tell, nobody is talking about cost of living differences. The adjunct who earns $30,000 a year in my small rural town can live somewhat comfortably, while the adjunct who earns $30,000/year in L.A. cannot. Both could be doing the same work (number of courses, time spent in that work, etc.), but do not at all have the same standard of living. (This is often reflected in TT salary. When I taught at a state institution, faculty at my institution earned less in base salary than those who taught at the flagship institution, located in the state capitol, where the cost of living was much higher. I actually had a higher standard of living than my colleagues making more money at Flagship State, although on paper they appeared to be better compensated. That consideration did not come into play for adjunct pay; adjuncts in the state system earned $3,000 per class regardless of what campus they worked for.)

Most people here are oversimplifying the problem, and as a result are not coming to any clear conclusions. It's pretty much what we see on job market threads, where many posters want to believe that all SCs work in the same way, looking for the same things, and get frustrated when they learn that the world is not as simple as they wish it to be.

Derek Bowman said...

A survey of "how you spend your time" is a doubly bad measure of "what you're paid to do." Not only are many aspects of our jobs unpaid, but also because whether or not you're likely/able to do more service and research is partly a RESULT of how much (and under what terms) you're paid and so not eligible as a justification for the difference in terms and payments.

Anonymous said...

3:04 - You should propose an alternative...though I suspect your objection to that one comes from disliking its results.

Anonymous said...

"You should propose an alternative"

The simplest thing to do would be to look at the terms of the contract.

"though I suspect your objection to that one comes from disliking its results."

Thanks for your baseless and offensive suggestion. Have you seriously looked at the kind of data you're talking about? For one thing, there's no such thing as a generic full-time position. Take a look at these government statistics. First, these show that the lecturer/instructor positions devote much more of their time to teaching. Second, more importantly, time allocation includes activities that are obviously not covered by their salary, such as consulting and freelance work. And in the case of many non-TT full-time positions, that will also cover the research and professional growth time, and so forth. It is completely dishonest to claim, on the basis of this kind of data, that because they spend 60-70% of their time teaching that 60-70% of their salary is compensation for teaching.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 2:42 and other times,

Another two-parter. Sorry.

Several large national surveys have been done on how faculty spend their time by groups like the AAUP. The purpose in asking you for your/your friend's estimate of hours worked is to see if you mirror the results of those surveys. It's not to conduct the survey itself.

But it doesn't matter how typical faculty spend their time. You can't find out what people are paid to do by looking at what they actually do. You have to look at what their employer says they should be doing. What matters is what the job description in your contract says your duties are, how your contract says your compensation is structured, and how much money you receive in exchange for performing those duties.

Obviously being compensated for "teaching" includes a lot more than the time I would spend standing in front of a classroom, but it would include that for an adjunct, too. Although I spend a ton of time on my research, I don't get compensated for any of that time. As far as my employer is concerned, my research is a hobby I pursue in my spare time. Which, again, is why the comparison you want to make between how I actually spend my time and how typical faculty members spend theirs isn't relevant. I'm not talking about how I allocate my time; I'm talking about what people who have this kind of job get paid for doing.

Now, it's true that I know about jobs like this because I have one, which allows me to tell you with some certainty what the job is like. I know what my job is like because that's what my contract says and that's what my performance evaluations are based on. But that doesn't mean I'm misusing anecdotal data. It just means I know what kind of job I have.

Maybe a lot of jobs that sound like mine have "informal" requirements for research and service, of the kind anon 10:15 alludes to. If so, it doesn't follow that those people are paid in exchange for conducting research. The fact that your employer won't rehire you if you don't do something does not entail that your employer is paying you to do it. That's obviously not how it works on any level.

Mr. Zero said...

Part two:

This type of job is the most useful comparison class for my purposes because it has duties related to teaching but not related to service- or research, just like adjunct contracts. (I know this not because I am misusing anecdotal data, but because I know what kinds of academic jobs there are, and I know which kind mine is. I also know that my job is typical. I know this because I understand the academic job market. But, again, don't take my word for it. See what's available on PhilJobs.) This allows us to compare compensation per unit on the part-time level with that of the full-time level, in jobs with otherwise identical responsibilities.

(Again, you can tell what the responsibilities are by looking at what the contract says they are. You can tell what the compensation structure is by looking at what the contract says it is. You cannot tell anything by looking at how the employee actually spends her time.)

I'm not using this comparison case because I happen to have this kind of job, or because I know a guy who has this kind of job, or because I think this job is representative of how university faculty spend their time. If you think that's what I'm saying, you have misunderstood.

I'm using this comparison case because the duties of the two jobs are similar in quality but not in quantity, and the compensation structure is transparent, so it's easy to compare compensation levels per unit. (This is why I don't think TT jobs are a good comparison case--the additional responsibilities and highly variable compensation structures muddy things up.) The strength of my argument is based on the fact that that this kind of job exists, and that the amount of money it pays per unit is much higher than that of the otherwise exactly similar part-time job.

My argument is not based on how much time I spend doing stuff I don't get paid to do, and it's not based on a few anecdotes about how my friends and I spend our time. It's not based on how many hours a week I spend doing different things, because I don't get paid by the hour, and also because you can't find out what people are paid to do by looking at what they actually do. You have to look at what their employer says they should be doing.

So, I guess I missed your point about the surveys, and that's my mistake. But I've already explained several times why data you're trying to get from me and the comparison you're trying to make with it are irrelevant in several different ways, and I haven't seen you respond to or even acknowledge it.

Mr. Zero said...

Hi anon 2:31 and other times,

You posted this when I was working on something else, so I didn't get a chance to respond to it right away.

Example: If national statistical samples show the average full time 4-4 course load prof makes $46K and spends 58% of her work week in the classroom, then $26.6K of her equivalent hourly salary comes from teaching.

No, it wouldn't show anything about what portion of her equivalent hourly salary comes from teaching. There are many mistakes involved int his inference. For one, if she spends the other 42% on other teaching-related activities, such as preparing lectures, grading quizzes and exams, maintaining her gradebook; answering student emails; etc, then 100% of her equivalent hourly salary comes from teaching.

For another, you can't figure what percentage of her salary comes from an activity based on however she actually allocates her time. If she spends three hours a day watching baseball, it doesn't follow that some portion of of her equivalent hourly salary comes from watching baseball. It follows that she spends 15 hours a week on something other than her assigned duties.

For another, you figure her salary breakdown based on what the contract says they are. If her contract says that her duties include teaching, research, and service, and that these duties are weighted at 60% teaching, 20% research, and 20% service, then her salary equivalents are $27.6K teaching and $9.2K each for research and service. The fact that she spends only 58% of her time on teaching is meaningless when it comes to how much her employer is paying her for her teaching-related duties.

And if national surveys show the average adjunct makes $3K a class, then teaching a 4-4 load at that level will yield him $24K.

I don't disagree with this in principle. Brennan and Magness cite a NYT report that says that the typical adjunct makes $2.7K per class, but $3K is pretty close. (This means that the number I cite above is low.)

The comparable teaching-equivalent components of their salaries is only $2.6K apart...which doesn't support the contention that adjuncts are drastically underpaid compared to full timers.

Yeah. Based on those numbers and that way of calculating the salary breakdown, that's right. It just depends on whether you've got the numbers right. Unfortunately for you, you don't. For a full-time, non-TT position with no research- or service-related duties, the whole $46K is based on fulfillment of her teaching-related duties. You can tell because those are her only duties on that kind of contract. Which means that she earns $5.75K per class. Which is almost double the pay rate of your adjunct. Which makes it seem like the adjunct is paid very poorly in comparison, even though he has literally the exact same set of responsibilities and workload. They're identical jobs, but the one who is on a part-time contract makes half the money.

Anonymous said...

But it doesn't matter how typical faculty spend their time. You can't find out what people are paid to do by looking at what they actually do.

If that's the case, then you can't actually make the comparison you proposed between adjuncts and full time faculty. If you can't find out what adjuncts and full time faculty actually do with their time, then you also can't claim that adjuncts do the "same workload" as full timers and cite the difference of pay as "proof" they are being "exploited." That also means your entire argument just collapsed, Mr. Zero. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

"If that's the case, then you can't actually make the comparison you proposed between adjuncts and full time faculty."

Talk about arguing in bad faith. No reasonable person would draw that conclusion. You're giving Callicles a run for his money.

Mr. Zero said...

If that's the case, then you can't actually make the comparison you proposed between adjuncts and full time faculty. If you can't find out what adjuncts and full time faculty actually do with their time, then you also can't claim that adjuncts do the "same workload" as full timers and cite the difference of pay as "proof" they are being "exploited.

Yes you can. Because, as I have said many times, you can look at what their respective assigned responsibilities are, which is how you would determine their respective workloads, and then you can compare their respective compensation per unit. Do you have an argument that you can't do this? Do you not know the difference between a salary and an hourly wage? I don't know what it is that you don't understand, but it's something.

Anonymous said...

That's a very odd way of looking at the issue, Mr. Zero. Or at least it has some very odd implications.

You say look at their contracts on paper and compare. Okay, let's do that.

First I'd note that the adjunct's contract ONLY says they are paid for teaching - as in the 3 hours/week they show up and deliver a lecture. If we're going strictly by contracts, why is it you're asking for them to be compensated for work that isn't in their contract?

Second I expect teaching full time faculty contracts vary quite a bit. Just going on the sample of this thread there seem to be some that require teaching + some level of service & student advising. So it's doubtful that very many full-time contracts are line-to-line comparable with the bare-bones adjunct contract that ONLY requires showing up to lecture.

Third, since you are now insisting contract specifications are the way to go, can I take it that you're dropping the claim that adjuncts are "exploited" when they perform uncompensated work that isn't specified by their contract? After all, they aren't required to do any of that. Just like you aren't required to attend faculty meetings or do any research...

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would you assume that adjuncts are only paid for the time that they are actually in front of a classroom? I'm not in the US, so maybe it is different there, but many of the temporary contracts I have seen include class prep, grading and office hours in the contract. So for example, a person teaching two sections of the same course gets less money than a person teaching two sections of different courses, because the person teaching the same course has less prep time. In this case, an adjunct is paid an hourly rate, and the contract specifies the number of hours it is reasonable to assume someone would need to spend working to perform those duties. In other cases, adjuncts are paid the equivalent full time salary based on what percentage of a TT position they are working. For example, if a full timer usually has a 2/2 load with .6 teaching, .3 research and .1 service, then an adjunct teaching one course is paid .3 of a full time salary. Neither of these assume that an adjunct is only paid for the time they are actually in the classroom. Has anyone actually seen a contract that specifically states that you are only paid to show up to class (as opposed to, say, being paid to deliver lectures, which is clearly not the same thing as delivering lectures required preparation).

Derek Bowman said...

"First I'd note that the adjunct's contract ONLY says they are paid for teaching - as in the 3 hours/week they show up and deliver a lecture."

This is literally and clearly false. I challenge you to find evidence that ANY adjunct contract is like this. My part-time contracts all indicated that I was bound by the requirements laid out in the faculty handbook, and it was made explicitly clear during my interview that I was responsible for holding regular office hours. But according to you, adjuncts would not be in breach of their contract for failing to grade papers, make assignments, order books, construct a syllabus, or make specific preparation for lectures.

If you want to talk about the implicit, assumed additional responsibilities that go along with that, there is no evidence that those are different for adjuncts vs full-time staff. In my experience - and that of Zero - and that of people we know, they are not substantially different. The survey data you cited is irrelevant, since how one spends one's time is poor evidence for which part of how one spends one's time is either a contractual or a de facto requirement of one's job. As I've said, many aspects of how one spends one's time is a RESULT of having better employment conditions, not a precondition or requirement for such employment.

I try not to get so involved with this kind of unproductive back and forth, but it seems to be that you're genuinely confused. Why are you so invested in proving that the work adjuncts do is easy, and that the teaching work done by full-time faculty is not particularly time consuming or (financially) valuable? As I've said, I think this is a losing argument for the future of our profession, and it perplexes me when professional academics are so ready to make it.

Anonymous said...

12: 17 "except we can't actually make a 1-to-1 comparison to for profit corporations. Universities may be businesses, but they are non-profit businesses and non-profits experience a host of very different economic conditions than a publicly traded corporation like Comcast. There's a huge academic literature on these differences too and what it means for how they do hiring and budgeting.

There may be some similarities, but there's enough that's different between the for-profit and non-profit worlds that it doesn't work to treat the two as comparable. We can't just see how universities stack up to Comcast any more than we can compare them to employment practices at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Apples to Oranges to Bananas."

No, you are wrong. We can and people actively do look at per employee pay and productivity- across for-profit and non-profit organizations.

Productivity analysts work for non-profits, too. They do things (and I have one here with me) like calculate where growth in the US economy happened, this includes every sector and yes they compare them. You can compare the per employee pay and earnings at for-profit and non-profit organizations, and it is done all the time.

In order to adjuncts are paid just enough you need a comparison class. For-profit *or* non-profit companies and their pay would provide one. For-profit companies would more likely provide a example of an efficient method of pay. It's one way the low pay for adjuncts would be shown to be unjustified, and it's a way that isn't just verbal announcements about what they deserve because of what you think of their research.



Jennifer Baker said...

Sorry, I didn't mean to be anonymous when saying the authors are certainly wrong to say productivity analysts cannot compare non-profit and profit earning to salary ratios. (If the company is large enough, they do it in house. It's done all the time. It's undeniably done all the time.)

I'm curious about where the idea comes from that it isn't done?

Anonymous said...


Seconding Bowman: "Why are you so invested in proving that the work adjuncts do is easy, and that the teaching work done by full-time faculty is not particularly time consuming or (financially) valuable? As I've said, I think this is a losing argument for the future of our profession, and it perplexes me when professional academics are so ready to make it."

It is a losing argument for the future of the profession, and it displays the grossest misunderstanding of economics and productivity (as Zero is also pointing out). Adjuncts are cash cows for schools. Adjuncts should be calculating what each class they teach earns (yes, deduct costs) for their school. Adjuncts are crucial contributors to the earnings of a school. Tenured philosophy professors, in contrast, are not. Our research imposes a cost.

I guess the authors have not advertised this yet (they aren't working with people who know how to do these calculations and seem to deny it is even possible, which is funny position to respond to!)- but it seems the natural response to their reading. If better paid adjuncts are too expensive, why aren't you?

How could they respond if they can't even calculate productivity (for adjuncts or for any other employee)?

Anonymous said...

Wholeheartedly agreed, 7:37.

Given the well documented research that now shows how few articles in philosophy are ever cited (or even read by anyone) I find it odd how often "research" is used to justify all sorts of claims. This is especially disheartening at teaching schools where the main mission of the school is teaching and where the research generally often has less impact (because people only will cite Big Wigs.)

Anonymous said...

For *decades*, academics have been downplaying how difficult teaching is, and encouraging universities to fin ways to cut costs. It was tenure track faculty, not administrators, who originally pushed to have grad students and adjuncts teach lower-division courses. This allowed tenure track faculty to teach fewer courses, focuses on upper division courses, and focus on research. "Anyone can teach Intro courses" was the unspoken mantra.

Couple that with the profession's general acceptance of "teaching colleges" as far less desirable jobs than "research universities" - because publishing is the ultimate goal, not teaching - and we are forced to recognize, as a field, that teaching has not been a valued part of the profession for some time.

Before we can expect the field to accept the value of adjuncts, we have to first get the field to accept the value of teaching.

Anonymous said...

There are some very bizarre and contradictory propositions on this thread.

1. Adjunct compensation can only be compared to other faculty base on what's written in their contracts...but adjuncts are owed money for a litany of things that aren't specified in their contracts.

2. We can't evaluate what adjuncts are paid to do by looking at what they actually do...but we know adjuncts are exploited because they aren't paid enough for the things they actually do.

3. VAPs are 100% teaching positions and are only paid to teach...except for all those other non-teaching things they must do in order to get their contracts renewed.

4. We can't compare adjunct contracts that say one thing to full time contracts that say another thing...except when we compare adjuncts to full time faculty and conclude that adjuncts are underpaid.

5. We can't compare hourly wages to salaries because they are two different things...except when we compare adjunct wages to full time salaries and conclude that adjuncts are underpaid.

Anonymous said...

Adjuncts are cash cows for schools. Adjuncts should be calculating what each class they teach earns (yes, deduct costs) for their school. Adjuncts are crucial contributors to the earnings of a school. Tenured philosophy professors, in contrast, are not.

Adjuncts are much cheaper, but that’s only one aspect. In the big picture, universities and colleges stocked with research-strong professors charge much higher tuitions and get vast sums in donations down the line.
Which is to say that increasing reliance on low-paid adjuncts may prove to be counterproductive to budget-conscious institutions.

Anonymous said...

"There are some very bizarre and contradictory propositions on this thread."

Except that no one has made any of those claims. You can only pretend there's anything contradictory by misrepresenting every argument that has been presented.

Anonymous said...

"Which is to say that increasing reliance on low-paid adjuncts may prove to be counterproductive to budget-conscious institutions."

Not even a little bit. Adjuncts will never replace all of the faculty. And so long as those few research-strong professors remain on the faculty, donors won't give a damn who is teaching the rest of the courses.

Anonymous said...

We could work it out- Brennan writes he is the 1% of academics, so I assume that means his salary is 200,000 or so. Let's add on the benefits and overhead. Is 300,000 then realistic for his total annual cost to Georgetown?

Let's assume Brennan teaches 2 big classes a semester, 100 students each. (I am sure he has explained all over the internet what he does, but I don't feel like looking it up. This can be Brennan2.)

What they pay Brennan2 could pay for 100 classes from adjuncts.

Would the parents *really* prefer Brennan to an army of adjuncts?

The market is awful for new grads. With luck, these could be bright bushy-tailed fully energized grads right out of Princeton, rotated in year after year (let's hope for them). They could run small tutorials with students, dazzling the parents with how Oxford-like Georgetown is.

Brennan2's a libertarian and a really obnoxious braggadocio online. Libertarians are not popular, does his work sell to the parents at Georgetown? Are they big fans of his blog? Parent-friendly instructors strike me as having very different qualities.

If Georgetown earns chunks of its operating budget from donors, I'd have the same doubts about the hires today being optimal. Donors want lots of things, but a professor blogging all day, lobbing insults on twitter about his rad BMW? Doesn't seem donor-friendly.

I also think most donors are from the business world. Why wouldn't it seem smart to only fund research that can attract major grants or result in some Georgetown-owned patent? What sense does it make to fund general interest philosophy books that could certainly be published by a trade press by a scholar working independently. Why subsidize that kind of book through University funds? The work isn't popular (to non-libertarians) and doesn't have the more donor-friendly appeal of classic scholarship.

We're back to the question the business ethics article naturally leads to: If better paid adjuncts are too expensive, why aren't you?

Anonymous said...

Zero,

You say "Brennan and Magnus themselves point out that if an employer agrees to hire an employee, then the employer has a responsibility to provide a living wage. I don’t disagree."

I think you're misreading them. They consider that idea, they don't endorse it. They reject it. In the next paragraph they say "This line of reasoning seems most plausible when starting from scratch, when a university has just opened and has no history or pre-existing relations with adjuncts. But, as it stands, many of the adjuncts in question are now dependent upon their current part-time positions, insecure as these positions may be. If universities stop re-hiring them for future semesters, they do not simply fail to hire them but rather break off an existing relationship and change existing expectations. Failing to renew adjunct contracts is more like firing the adjuncts than simply failing to hire them in the first place. Perhaps in the long run this is for the better, but it will cause significant harm up front."

Mr. Zero said...

I think you're misreading them. They consider that idea, they don't endorse it. They reject it. In the next paragraph they say...

Yeah, I saw that, but I didn't take it very seriously. I mean, at best it's a mitigating factor that doesn't have any bearing on the existence of the obligation itself. And it wouldn't have any bearing on what should happen with new hires, with whom the institution has no pre-existing relationship. And, it seems perverse to say that it's ok for the institution to underpay someone this semester because they underpaid her last semester. I guess they do say things that commit themselves to that last bit, but it seemed really flimsy and I guess I didn't take it very seriously. I suppose maybe I should have. But actually I don't think so.

Mr. Zero said...

I thought about it some more, 5:02, and I think you're right. I have updated the OP to reflect this. Thanks for pointing out the error.

Anonymous said...

anecdotal evidence is no substitute for statistical evidence when the latter is called for. but it's not always called for. in this case, the anecdotal evidence zero and others are offering is sufficient. zero says that there are full-time teaching jobs that are the most natural jobs to compare adjunct pay with, to see if adjuncts are underpaid. the bleeding-heart libertarians say that the jobs hes talking about also require research and service, which would make them less suitable for comparison and drive down the level of compensation specifically for teaching. The point of zero and bowman saying that their jobs don't require research or service is not to establish the statistical frequency of that kind of job. its to establish the existence of that kind of job. for the purposes of the intended comparison, that is enough.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:46 -

Have you considered the possibility that the existence of jobs like Bowman's or Zero's are NOT proof of adjunct exploitation, but rather that Bowman and Zero are currently being overpaid relative to the value they provide their universities?

Maybe adjuncts are being paid just right, and maybe it's the case that some full time faculty have cushy jobs with minimal work involved. Of course to investigate that further, we'd need to know how many hours those faculty work on average in a given week...

Derek Bowman said...

2:40

That's certainly a possibility. Perhaps the value of philosophy journal articles and faculty meetings is huge, but the relatively unskilled, unimportant job of teaching undergraduates, holding office hours, and designing and grading assignments isn't actually worth all that much. Good luck selling that to administrators and state funding bodies deciding how much to spend on faculty departments.

Honestly, not only do I not know how much time I spend on work of any kind in an average week, I wouldn't even know how to begin dividing 'teaching' from 'research.' If you want to see my my recent paper, you can find the link on my website. Some of the examples I use in that paper (Seneca, Abelard, the Hastings Center, the Kennedy Institute, the Pellegrino article on Bioethics) came directly from material I read and prepared for my undergraduate teaching this semester. So was the time preparing those lectures/seminars teaching? Research? Mostly teaching but partly research? Half and half?

The examples from the Apology come from a text I've read repeatedly, sometimes with a specific research interest, sometimes with a specific teaching interest, and sometimes simply out of enjoyment or personal interest with no specific research or teaching intentions. How do I divide that time?

Other examples from that paper came from time I spent reading professional blogs, thinking about the value of philosophy inside and outside the academy, and thinking about what I've done with my life and what I plan to do. Are those research hours? Personal hobbies?

Other examples (e.g. the Cleveland Clinic and the NIH) come from a combination of conversations with friends and my own process of applying to jobs. Does that time count as research or something else? What about the time I recently spendt modifying my website? Or the time I spent e-mailing that article to friends, colleagues, and acquaintances? Research? Service? Neither?

What about when I was preparing a section on the 'ethics of belief' for an Intro class and I ended up spending two hours learning about more recent work on the ontological argument - something I had no intention of including in that class *or* writing about? Is that teaching? Research? Neither?

To take your survey data seriously I have to believe that other philosophers know things about their time usage that I can't even imagine how I would know about my own. Now I'm thinking about the epistemology of testimony, Hume's arguments about miracles, W.K. Clifford's appropriation of those arguments in his article "Ethics of Belief" article. Am I doing research? Preparing for the next time I teach those topics? Neither? In any case, consider me unimpressed.

Jennifer Baker said...

I think this point is really important. Please do not make the mistakes the libertarians do by suggesting pay is based on hours. I am not sure how to get this across, as I tried with the authors and never did. Pay is not and cannot be based on hours in. If you want to compare the productivity of two workers, we can do that, at a nonprofit, university, or Comcast. You do not do that based on counting hours. I have been amazed to see libertarians, who pretend to be economically savvy, stuck on this point.

Does everyone else get it? We can casually complain about hourly pay comparisons, it is a great way to realize you are earning less than others or than they would expect for a job---but the libertarians in this debate talk about hours spent working as if that is how to know to pay adjuncts 3000 a class.

Derek Bowman said...

2:40, I made a longer reply that seems to have been lost to the ether, so here's version two:

Yes, perhaps I'm overpaid. Perhaps the job of teaching undergraduates isn't socially valuable or financially valuable to overall mission of universities. Good luck convincing parents, students, and others who fund universities about the great value of philosophy journal articles and faculty meetings compared to the unimportant and unspecialized work of teaching.

As to surveys of faculty time, I don't give them much credence because I wouldn't even know how to measure my own time. Take the example of my most recent article "Philosophy Hitherto." Some of my examples there (Seneca, Abelard, many of the bioethics examples and sources) came directly out of materials I prepared for teaching this semester. So was the time I spent reading those works 'teaching' or 'research'? Or did some percentage of that time shift from 'teaching' to 'research' when I decided to incorporate those examples into the article?

In that same paper I spend more time on the example of Socrates from the Apology. I have read that text numerous times, often because I was teaching it, occasionally in relation to my research interests, and sometimes out of personal interest in reflecting on the aims and meaning of my own life choices and philosophical activity. So what percentage of that time counts as 'teaching,' 'research,' and neither?

What about the time I spend making research proposals for postdoc applications? Is that 'research'? Is that part of the 'research' you think my current employer is paying me to do?

What about the time I was preparing a section of a course on the "ethics of belief," and I ended up spending 2-3 hours reading up on some recent work on the ontological argument, even though I planned neither to use that material for my class nor to write anything on the topic. Was that teaching? Research? Pleasure reading?


This conversation we're having now makes me thinking about the epistemology of testimony, Hume's arguments on miracles, and W.K. Clifford's appropriation of those arguments in his "Ethics of Belief." (e.g. how can I trust a survey based on self-reporting from others on questions I wouldn't know how to answer about myself). Am I doing research? Preparing for the next time I teach these topics? Neither?

Mr. Zero said...

Hi Derek,

Sorry--it got snagged by the spam filter.

Anonymous said...

(Not 2:40.)

"Perhaps the job of teaching undergraduates isn't socially valuable or financially valuable to overall mission of universities."

I've always been confused by the way (in the States, anyway) teaching is not a more financially-rewarding profession, given the emphasis placed on education in this country. I see quite a bit of lip service paid to teaching as a profession, but the money does not seem to follow. (Additionally, I've seen the general population complain when teachers don't "do their job," which always means teaching, and not any other part of the profession.) That many of the best-paid faculty members in universities are paid because of their research skills and not their teaching suggests that the university system is not on that employs teachers who sometimes research, but one that employs researchers who sometimes teach. (Think of how sabbaticals work. They are paid leaves from teaching and service, in order to engage in research. Could you imagine anyone being given a sabbatical to ignore teaching and research in favor of a semester spent in service? Or giving up research and service for a semester spent in pedagogical improvement?)

"Take the example of my most recent article "Philosophy Hitherto." Some of my examples there (Seneca, Abelard, many of the bioethics examples and sources) came directly out of materials I prepared for teaching this semester. So was the time I spent reading those works 'teaching' or 'research'? Or did some percentage of that time shift from 'teaching' to 'research' when I decided to incorporate those examples into the article?"

Exactly. That we can even suggest such a split exists only further suggests that research and teaching are separate realms. The longer we continue to make a distinction between "teaching prep" and "research prep," the longer we continue to miss the value of the faculty member, who ideally uses each to inform the other.

"What about the time I was preparing a section of a course on the "ethics of belief," and I ended up spending 2-3 hours reading up on some recent work on the ontological argument, even though I planned neither to use that material for my class nor to write anything on the topic. Was that teaching? Research? Pleasure reading?"

And this goes to another point, that "research" always needs to have a clear goal. This is something I find frustrating about most of the universities I have taught at, that "research" is entirely goal-oriented. Am I not engaging in research when I read up on a topic and follow a line of thought, even though I have no publication immediately in mind? Am I not, through my reading, re-reading, note-taking, and conversion with others, engaged in processes that will make me a better, more thoughtful teacher and researcher, even if no article (or class) is the immediate goal of such work? (I suspect this goal-oriented approach to work is part of the larger push toward assessment; one must be able to check off items on a list in order for them to have any merit in the system.)

But to the original point about how we can value - as in financially reward - faculty properly, perhaps we are missing the point when we make comparisons between tenure track and adjunct faculty. Compare them as a class to the executive administrators. Executive administrator salaries have increased dramatically while faculty salaries (at all levels) have largely remained flat. Arguing about whether or not some faculty are screwed compared to others ignores the fact that, for the most part, faculty as a class are being screwed compared to administrators (and let's lump in athletic directors/coaches into this group as well).

Anonymous said...

Derek (and others) -

If I'm reading your position correctly, you believe:

1. Adjuncts receive unequal pay for an equal amount of work as full time faculty.

and also

2. It's basically impossible to measure how much work adjuncts (and full time faculty) actually do.

If faculty work loads are impossible to measure, then how do you know that adjuncts are doing an equal amount of work as full time faculty? And if you don't know that they are actually doing equal work, on what basis are you demanding equal pay?

Mr. Zero said...

I don't think faculty workloads are impossible to measure. I think they can be measured the way they actually are measured.

Derek Bowman said...

1:32

That would be a reasonable interpretation if Zero hadn't already suggested a way of measuring the work of adjuncts and that of full-time teaching faculty: the explicitly remunerated contractual obligations, AND if Jennifer Baker hadn't repeatedly offered alternative ways of measuring pay and productivity across sectors. You've fetishized a particular dubious measure and pretend that those who reject it reject all forms of measure. Yet your refuse to engage in any serious discussion about the merits of that form of measure and instead construct a series of strawmen. I previously thought you were genuinely confused, but by this point it's clear that you're either willfully ignorant or simply a troll. (Are you Phil Magnus? This does seem about par for the course for his particular level of intellectual engagement. But surely he'd post under his own name.)

In any case, up to this point I thought the details of my experience were informative for those who were interested in thinking seriously about this issue; but I'm not longer interested in further engagement with you.

Anonymous said...

Derek -

That would be a reasonable interpretation if Zero hadn't already suggested a way of measuring the work of adjuncts and that of full-time teaching faculty: the explicitly remunerated contractual obligations

That's fine as a starting point, but if we accept it we must also be prepared to address two problematic implications that have also been noted:

(1) If we stick to contractual obligations, this limits the frequent adjunct exploitation claims about having to do all sorts of uncompensated work outside of the classroom. Are you prepared to respond to that claim by noting that it is not a part of the adjunct's contractual obligation?

(2) If we compare them using Mr. Zero's proposal of contractual obligations, it does not necessarily follow that the adjunct is an undercompensated party. We must also ask whether persons such as Mr. Zero or yourself are being overcompensated for a level of work that is contractually no different than an adjunct. Are you prepared to admit that possibility and consider what it might mean about your own job?

if Jennifer Baker hadn't repeatedly offered alternative ways of measuring pay and productivity across sectors

Jennifer Baker has offered "alternative" measurements. It does not follow that those measurements are economically sound. And some of them come awfully close to the labor theory of value, which most economists reject. We might still consider them in turn. But doing so is not a reason to not-consider a comparison based on hours worked...which seems to be your position.

Mr. Zero said...

(1) If we stick to contractual obligations, this limits the frequent adjunct exploitation claims about having to do all sorts of uncompensated work outside of the classroom. Are you prepared to respond to that claim by noting that it is not a part of the adjunct's contractual obligation?

I don't get how the idea that adjuncts are made to do work that isn't part of their contractually agreed-upon responsibilities without being compensated under threat of non-renewal--which, B&M note, is a lot like being fired--is supposed to tell against the view that adjuncts are exploited. To me, that sounds a lot like exploitation.

(2) If we compare them using Mr. Zero's proposal of contractual obligations, it does not necessarily follow that the adjunct is an undercompensated party. We must also ask whether persons such as Mr. Zero or yourself are being overcompensated for a level of work that is contractually no different than an adjunct. Are you prepared to admit that possibility and consider what it might mean about your own job?

Ok. It's a possibility, just like anything else. I don't think it's very likely, though. It seems more likely that you're straining desperately to avoid having to acknowledge that adjuncts are underpaid, for some reason. Not sure why.

Anonymous said...

I don't get how the idea that adjuncts are made to do work that isn't part of their contractually agreed-upon responsibilities without being compensated under threat of non-renewal--which, B&M note, is a lot like being fired--is supposed to tell against the view that adjuncts are exploited. To me, that sounds a lot like exploitation.

You're confusing your terms, Mr. Zero. I'm not asking whether contractual responsibilities are exploitative or not. I'm asking whether contractual responsibilities are an accurate and sufficient basis for comparing the level of work that adjuncts perform to the level that full time faculty perform, which is the proposition you made.

If they are, then it follows that we should discount the non-contractual responsibilities that adjuncts often complain about because they are outside of the terms of measurement. If they are not, then it follows that contracts are not an accurate measurement of work performed and we probably need to be looking for something else.

Ok. It's a possibility, just like anything else. I don't think it's very likely, though.

Simply "thinking" it's unlikely is not a very sound basis to make that judgment. I'd be much more interested in how you'd go about showing that it's unlikely.

Anonymous said...

"I'm asking whether contractual responsibilities are an accurate and sufficient basis for comparing the level of work that adjuncts perform to the level that full time faculty perform, which is the proposition you made... If they are not, contracts are not an accurate measurement of work performed and we probably need to be looking for something else"

Contracts are obviously the relevant sources for determining what work is in fact compensated and to what extent it is compensated. That information alone is sufficient to demonstrate that adjuncts are paid substantially less for equivalent amounts of work. Moreover, most full-time academic employment is FLSA exempt. Most part-time academic employment will specify payment in terms of compensation per credit hour or per course. Either you are being facetious or you just don't know what you're talking about.

Mr. Zero said...

I'm asking whether contractual responsibilities are an accurate and sufficient basis for comparing the level of work that adjuncts perform to the level that full time faculty perform, which is the proposition you made.

I have been arguing that adjunct positions, as their contracts are written, are exploitative. If you want to point out that adjuncts often complain that their jobs are even worse than what's written into their contracts, then that would strengthen my position. So, okay.

Simply "thinking" it's unlikely is not a very sound basis to make that judgment. I'd be much more interested in how you'd go about showing that it's unlikely.

No. If you want to raise some possibility, I'm happy to acknowledge that it's a possibility. But I am not obliged to argue against every possibility anyone might want to raise. If you want me to take the possibility seriously, it's up to you to do the work.

Anonymous said...

"having to do all sorts of uncompensated work outside of the classroom"

I think you're missing the point. Adjuncts aren't paid an hourly salary. If you are paid an hourly salary, and you work longer hours, then you are being uncompensated. But adjuncts are compensated for producing a product - prepared lectures, graded papers, etc. So we don't need to ask the question 'what work are they doing that they are uncompensated for.' Instead we should ask this "is the amount of compensation they get for the product a reasonable amount"? Think of it this way: if you pay an actor for performing in a play, it's not that they are being paid for the performance only and the work they do outside of that (learning lines etc) is uncompensated. The compensation covers both the performance and the work necessary to prepare for it.

The argument is not that an adjunct who makes $3k for teaching a 12-week course with 3 contact hours is being paid $83 dollars an hour for their time in class but works many hours a week outside of the classroom for which they are uncompensated and should be paid $83 an hour for those hours too. It's that $3k for teaching such a course is not fair compensation for all the work that preparing and teaching a course requires.

Anonymous said...

Contracts are obviously the relevant sources for determining what work is in fact compensated and to what extent it is compensated. That information alone is sufficient to demonstrate that adjuncts are paid substantially less for equivalent amounts of work.

That's not as clear as you think. You seem to base this claim on cases where an adjunct is paid per-course at a lower rate than the per-course salary of a teaching faculty with no other obligations.

But let's take another example to see how that holds up.

Professor A is a Tenure Track instructor at Western State U. He makes $50,000 teaching a 4-4. He is required by his contract to devote 20% of his time to service in his department. He is also required to do research in order to gain tenure, and the expectations are specified in his tenure review schedule.

Professor B is a contract instructor at Eastern State U. She makes $49,000 teaching a 4-4. She has no contractual obligations to do anything other than teach. She doesn't show up to department meetings. Her contract is renewable whether she does research or not.

Is A underpaid since he has to do significantly more work than B, even though he makes almost the same salary as B? Or is B overpaid because she gets essentially the same salary as A despite doing significantly less work than A? And how would you go about determining which is "fair"?

Anonymous said...

I have been arguing that adjunct positions, as their contracts are written, are exploitative. If you want to point out that adjuncts often complain that their jobs are even worse than what's written into their contracts, then that would strengthen my position.

Not necessarily, because the same would also apply to full time contracts. If full time contracted faculty must do more uncompensated work relative to the uncompensated work done by adjuncts, it is entirely possible that the full time faculty is also working substantially more than the adjunct.

Also, if you want to argue that adjunct contracts are exploitative, you still need to define the term "exploitation" in a more robust way than simply saying "this seems wrong to me" or "everything I don't like is exploitative."

Anonymous said...

I don't understand what you're trying to do here. You're arguing that 'it's not as clear as people think' that adjuncts are paid substantially less for equivalent amounts of work. In order to argue for this claim, you're saying that we shouldn't look at actual examples comparing adjunct pay to the pay of those who have permanent teaching positions, and instead look at a case you made up comparing an adjunct with a person in a research and teaching position? How on earth would a made up case comparing people doing substantially different kinds of work undermine a claim that adjuncts are paid less for equivalent amounts of work substantiated by comparing adjuncts with actual earnings of people doing very similar jobs?

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:24 -

Actually the opposite. I'm arguing that in order to make the claim that adjuncts are paid less for equal amounts of work, you need to show that adjuncts are in fact doing equal amounts of work.

Unverifiable anecdotes about some guy you claim to know notwithstanding, you haven't done that. And in fact you can't even seem to come up with a consistent way to measure any of it.

That said, the example of Profs. A & B is illustrative of the difficulty your arguments face. A is a very common scenario and several people here (Zero, Derek Bowman) have described themselves on terms similar to B. So are Derek and Zero underpaid or overpaid compared to the TT prof who makes the same but must do at least 20% more work by contract?

Anonymous said...

I haven't made any claims about 'some guy I claim to know.'

What is clear is that adjuncts are paid a certain amount for doing a certain thing: teaching a class (and all the related duties). There are other groups of people that are paid for teaching classes (and all the related duties): full time instructors. It's also clear that adjuncts earn comparatively way less than these people. The Brennan and Magness article assumes that full-time instructors teach a 3-3 load and cite the AAUP on salary - "According to the American Association of University Professors, non-tenure-track but long-term teaching faculty, such as instructors and lecturers receive $51,000 and $57,000 in salary, respectively". " In contrast, the New York Times reports that adjuncts on average receive $2700 per course (Flaherty 2015b). At that rate, an adjunct teaching a 4–4 load would receive only $21,600 per year (without benefits)."

So, even if we assume that full time instructors teach a 4-4 rather than a 3-3, and go with the lowest estimate (51,000), adjuncts earn less than half for doing the same job. Sure, full-time instructors may have some other duties - but unless you think that those other duties are so substantial that a full-time instructor earns more than half their salary for non-teaching related duties, then it is clear that adjuncts and full-time instructors earn very different amounts for doing the same job.

Anonymous said...

"A is a very common scenario and several people here (Zero, Derek Bowman) have described themselves on terms similar to B."

A is not "very common" at all.

First, courseloads of full-time faculty tend to be much lower than what you have in mind. At R1-R2 institutions, 2-2 is the norm. At SLAC's and regional state universities, a full-time load is often 3-3 or 3-2. Full-time TT positions that are 4-4 and 5-5 are typical of positions that only emphasize teaching and service.

Second, starting TT salaries are not particularly representative of TT compensation, since TT positions are those with possibility for advancement. If, as you imagine, someone might be taking a pay cut by moving from a full-time non-TT position to a full-time TT position (not actually likely), there are additional factors that sweeten the deal. For one thing, they have a reasonable expectation of salary increases within a few short years that will more than offset whatever initial difference there may have been, not to mention the security of tenure, and sabbaticals. But it doesn't even matter, because the lowest paid assistant professor is typically making more than the highest paid full-time VAP/instructor/lecturer at any given institution. If you imagine that early career TT faculty are so poorly compensated, why aren't these people jumping at the bit for the full-time non-TT positions? The answer is that they're not stupid, and neither are we. But it looks like you'll just keep spinning your wheels.

Anonymous said...

Anon 4:28

A is not "very common" at all.

The Secretary of Education says otherwise. According to their figures 32.5% of liberal arts college full time faculty teach between 10 and 14.9 credit hours a semester, which would equal a 4-4. The faculty at those same colleges report an average of 34% of their time devoted to "research/scholarship" and "other," which presumably means university admin and service work.

So yeah, Professor A is actually very common. It's probably about a third of the full time faculty at SLACs and small regional public Us. Thanks for showing that you don't have a clue what you're talking about though.

Source: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d08/tables/dt08_250.asp

Anonymous said...

I don't think that shows what you think it shows. If 32.5% of SLAC faculty teach a 4/4, and faculty at those same colleges report an average of 34% of their time devoted to 'research/other' it doesn't follow that the faculty who teach a 4/4 spend a lot of time focussing on research/other. The 34% is an average - and so also reflects the time that those SLAC faculty who don't teach a 4/4 (the majority) spend on research/other. The 'average' way that SLAC faculty spend their time is not a useful guide to the way a specific subset of SLAC faculty spend their time if that subset of faculty is defined by a feature that has an impact on how people spend their time. In fact the people who teach 4/4's at SLACs are likely to be in exactly the kinds of jobs 4:28 describes - the kinds of jobs that only emphasize teaching and service.

Anonymous said...

First, the spread of 10-14.9 is between 3-4 and 4-5, assuming institutions with 3 credit hour courses. How many of those positions are actually above 3-4? If you look at "Faculty/staff with undergraduate classes only,
by total for-credit courses," nearly the same amount had 3 courses in a semester as had 4. If you look at "Faculty/staff with both undergraduate and graduate classes, by total for-credit courses," you'll see that for research institutions, 2 is the norm, and 3 for all the rest. Second, this data includes non-TT full-time positions. Lots of those 4-4 positions are non-TT (especially at the comprehensive colleges). Of course, there are 4-4 TT positions, but those rarely have any research component. This is part of why A is atypical: atypical salary and atypical duties commensurate with that salary.

Anonymous said...

9:15 -

Some classes (esp. in the hard sciences) have labs that make their classes 4 credit hours instead of the normal 3. Labs meet weekly, and usually for longer than the single hour reflected on "credit" so it's akin to teaching another class. That's why you have a range that extends from 10 to 14.9 instead of an even 12. But those classes are an exception from the norm, so for most faculty a 12 credit hour assignment will be teaching 4 classes of 3 hours each = a 4-4.

As the example given was not at a research institution and did not involve teaching graduate classes, the 2-2 norm at research institutions is not relevant to the question that was asked. Further, you have offered us no way on how you divine the absence of a service component from a teaching-heavy 4-4 TT beyond simply asserting that it is atypical. The best evidence we have suggests that service is, at minimum, a sizable time commitment for all SLAC faculty. And since about a third of SLAC faculty are on the equivalent of a 4-4, it is not unreasonable to conclude that most of them must also devote a non-zero amount of time to university service. Of course you could offer evidence otherwise. But it will have to be stronger than "No, I know it's not normal"...which is even weaker than "No, I know this guy in my department"

Anonymous said...

8:40 - I don't need to show that 34% of the 4-4 SLAC faculty spend a huge chunk of their time on research/other. I simply need to show that it's common enough for SLAC faculty to spend a huge chunk of time on research/other that a 4-4 prof at a SLAC could conceivably have such expectations. You or some other anon denied that they could based on...well...it wasn't really based on anything, other than you saying so. The stats show that research/other are common enough at SLACs and 4-4 teaching is very common at SLACs that there will be some overlap between the two.

Anonymous said...

According to the link above 33.3% of full timers at public regional comprehensive universities teach a 4-4 (which is also the most common teaching load at those institutions). So yeah - they're actually pretty standard at those places. So let's revisit our question then, with the stipulation that Western State U. is in fact a regional comprehensive university:


- Professor One is a Tenure Track instructor at Western State U., a regional comprehensive university. He makes $50,000 a year and, like 33.3% of his full time colleagues, he teaches a 4-4. He is required by his contract to devote 20% of his time to service in his department. He is also required to do research in order to gain tenure, and the expectations are specified in his tenure review schedule.

- Professor Zero is a contract instructor at Random Backwater U. He makes $49,000 teaching a 4-4. He has no contractual obligations to do anything other than teach. He doesn't show up to department meetings. His contract is renewable whether he does research or not. Mostly, he just phones it in every day at lecture time and does literally nothing else for his department. Also, it doesn't really matter what type of college it is or how common (or uncommon) his situation is, because he insists it's a true descriptor of his work routine.

My question then: Professor One is clearly doing more work than Professor Zero, and yet they are both getting paid about the same. Is this injustice the result of Professor One being underpaid? Or Professor Zero being overpaid?

Anonymous said...

Oh by the way, here's one of those 4-4 tenure track jobs with explicit research and service requirements attached that supposedly doesn't exist.

http://philjobs.org/job/show/4254

The Department of Philosophy & Religion at the University of Indianapolis invites applications for a tenure-track position in philosophy at the Assistant Professor rank. This is a full-time, 9-month faculty position carrying a 4-4 teaching load, with a start date of August 2016.

Responsibilities include teaching courses primarily for the undergraduate general education philosophy curriculum, with some opportunity for teaching upper divisional philosophy courses. Ability to develop and teach freshman writing-focused seminars in philosophy, philosophy honors courses and/or interdisciplinary courses desirable, especially those with an ethics focus. Abilities to teach introductory courses in religion (e.g. Introduction to Christianity, World Religions) desirable but not required. The successful candidate is expected to be committed to high quality classroom teaching, carry out ongoing research agenda and provide service to the department and University.


Here's another. http://philjobs.org/job/show/4906

And another. http://philjobs.org/job/show/4071

And those are just the first 3 hits that came up with all of about 2 minutes of searching.

Anonymous said...

"Some classes (esp. in the hard sciences) have labs that make their classes 4 credit hours instead of the normal 3. Labs meet weekly, and usually for longer than the single hour reflected on "credit" so it's akin to teaching another class."

Lots of humanities faculty get credit for non-teaching work, or other kinds of advisory work. How does this support your position?

"As the example given was not at a research institution and did not involve teaching graduate classes, the 2-2 norm at research institutions is not relevant to the question that was asked."

Many small and regional colleges have graduate level programs whether or not they are research universities, so it is relevant. The data you used shows that 3-3 would be normal at those places.

"And since about a third of SLAC faculty [sic: private liberal arts =! SLAC] are on the equivalent of a 4-4, it is not unreasonable to conclude that most of them must also devote a non-zero amount of time to university service."

No one denied that 4-4 TT positions may have service requirements.

"So yeah - they're actually pretty standard at those places."

No one denied that 4-4 TT positions exist. Nor did anyone deny that they are uncommon as such. But the kind of 4-4 TT position you imagined is uncommon. The burden is on you to show (1) how many of the 4-4 positions are TT, (2) how many of 4-4 TT positions have research duties, and (3) how many of the salaries of 4-4 TT faculty are within striking distance of a non-TT 4-4 position.

You're trying to get blood from a stone and keep dragging us further into the weeds.

Mr. Zero said...

Not necessarily, because the same would also apply to full time contracts.

It would? How do you know?

If full time contracted faculty must do more uncompensated work relative to the uncompensated work done by adjuncts, it is entirely possible that the full time faculty is also working substantially more than the adjunct.

And if so then that would be bullshit, too. I don't see why it would justify such disproportionately low pay for adjuncts, though.

Professor A is a Tenure Track instructor at Western State U. He makes $50,000 teaching a 4-4.

According to Higher Ed Jobs, that's in the range between a little below average and way below average for that kind of job. Depending on what exact kind of institution Western State U. is and what discipline Professor A is in.

Professor B is a contract instructor at Eastern State U. She makes $49,000 teaching a 4-4.

That's above average for that kind of job. And more than double what the adjunct would make for that courseload. So, yes, if you compare a below-average TT salary to an above-average non-TT salary, the non-TT salary doesn't look that bad. My untutored opinion is that Professor A is underpaid, but I wouldn't go so far as to say exploited.

I'm arguing that in order to make the claim that adjuncts are paid less for equal amounts of work, you need to show that adjuncts are in fact doing equal amounts of work.

I don't agree, for reasons I feel I have already made as clear as I can.

several people here (Zero, Derek Bowman) have described themselves on terms similar to B.

I don't mean to go all "anecdotal" on you again, but if Professor B is supposed to be modeled on me, you gave me a raise of approximately $10,000. If you want to compare *me* to professor A, it ends up that we make about the same per class, and then she gets extra in exchange for her extra responsibilities. I still think she's underpaid but not exploited.

My question then: Professor One is clearly doing more work than Professor Zero, and yet they are both getting paid about the same. Is this injustice the result of Professor One being underpaid? Or Professor Zero being overpaid?

The differences between the descriptions at 3:11 and 8:06 don't do much to change my basic views about the comparison. Professor One seems at least a little underpaid; Professor Zero's salary is above-average. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to react to the fact that Zero is described as being a slacker in this example, but I don't see why that would affect the fairness of the contract as such.

Anonymous said...

No one denied that 4-4 TT positions may have service requirements.

Many people denied that a 4-4 TT with service and research was a realistic comparison based on claims that they are sufficiently rare that we may effectively disregard them. Examples from above, which may or may not be you personally:

"A is not "very common" at all."

"Of course, there are 4-4 TT positions, but those rarely have any research component."

Yet the stats tell us 4-4 positions with service & research are in fact common at SLACs and regionals. There are also multiple TT job listings on APA right this moment that are for a 4-4 with research AND service expectations. Both of those indicators would suggest they are a valid comparison.

So I'll ask again: Is Professor One underpaid, or is Professor Zero overpaid? They both make the same but do very different levels of work.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero -

I don't agree, for reasons I feel I have already made as clear as I can.

That's fine if you don't agree. It's also fine if you reject our empirical exercise. But if you can't show that adjuncts are in fact doing equal work, you cannot legitimately claim that they are getting unequal pay for equal work. Your main argument remains unproven.

Professor One seems at least a little underpaid; Professor Zero's salary is above-average. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to react to the fact that Zero is described as being a slacker in this example, but I don't see why that would affect the fairness of the contract as such.

If that's the case, then why is One underpaid? Why is Zero overpaid? Simply saying it "seems" to be the case is not an argument. It's just baseless emotional projecting...kinda like your exploitation argument in the first place, which still employs a term that has not been robustly defined or mapped out.

Mr. Zero said...

But if you can't show that adjuncts are in fact doing equal work, you cannot legitimately claim that they are getting unequal pay for equal work.

I have shown that. Teaching a class is a certain amount of work; adjuncts and others are paid to do it; adjuncts get paid unequally to do it. Do you think teaching a class is substantially less work, as such, when an adjunct does it? You certainly haven't shown that this is the case. If you can't show that teaching a class is in fact substantially less work as such when an adjunct does it, you can't legitimately claim that adjuncts are not getting unequal pay for unequal work.

If that's the case, then why is One underpaid? Why is Zero overpaid?

Here's what I said: "Professor A is a Tenure Track instructor at Western State U. He makes $50,000 teaching a 4-4. According to Higher Ed Jobs, that's in the range between a little below average and way below average for that kind of job. Depending on what exact kind of institution Western State U. is and what discipline Professor A is in." And: "Professor B is a contract instructor at Eastern State U. She makes $49,000 teaching a 4-4. That's above average for that kind of job. And more than double what the adjunct would make for that courseload." Obviously I realize that this evidence is inconclusive. I deliberately used less-than-certain language because I am less than certain. Obviously there's very little I could even say about these jobs, given that they are made up and highly under-described. Obviously I realize that the average salaries could themselves be unfair--my central argument is that the average adjunct "salary" is unfairly low, and I have explicitly recognized the possibility that non-TT full-time faculty are overpaid.

Of course, that it's possible doesn't make it true. And when I asked for evidence that schools are overpaying their non-TT full-time faculty, none has been forthcoming. In any case, I am happy to rest on a kind of conditional argument: on the assumption that non-TT full-time faculty are being paid approximately what they're worth, part-time faculty are being dramatically underpaid. This underpayment, in conjunction with a bunch of other unpleasant features of these jobs, constitutes exploitation. I don't see any serious challenges to this conditional, or to the antecedent assumption. Do you have one? Let's hear it.

Anonymous said...

"But if you can't show that adjuncts are in fact doing equal work, you cannot legitimately claim that they are getting unequal pay for equal work. Your main argument remains unproven."

I have the same kind of job that Zero and Bowman have. non-permanent, full-time 4-4. average pay. it is abundantly obvious that a typical adjunct, who makes $2700 per class, is paid less than I am for equal work. Consider the things I would do in the fulfillment of my responsibilities over the semester. Doesn't matter what all it is. I would be paid a certain amount of money to do it. Doesn't matter what amount. If any adjunct were to do those same things he would be paid half what I am. That's unequal pay for equal work. Of course the adjunct could do a lot less, or I could do a lot more, and that would increase his effective hourly salary compared to mine. But that only works because neither one of us is paid by the hour. If adjuncts were paid by the hour, that increase in effective hourly compensation wouldn't happen. That means that whatever plausibility this way of comparing these levels of compensation has, rests on the fact that it's the wrong way of comparing these compensation levels.

Anonymous said...

"Many people denied that a 4-4 TT with service and research was a realistic comparison based on claims that they are sufficiently rare that we may effectively disregard them."

A had four characteristics: it is (1) a 4-4 course load, (2) a TT position, (3) with a research component, and (4) with a salary of $50,000. Any evidence that A is common requires showing jobs that have all these four features. You cannot demonstrate that A is common by pulling up examples with only some, but not all, of these features.

"Yet the stats tell us 4-4 positions with service & research are in fact common at SLACs and regionals."

The statistics do not show that. At best they are inconclusive. But even if they did show that, evidence would need to be given to show that they have anything like the kind of salary stipulated in A.

"So I'll ask again: Is Professor One underpaid, or is Professor Zero overpaid? They both make the same but do very different levels of work."

A thought experiment is supposed to capture salient characteristics of a problem so that we can effectively isolate the kinds of intuitions that we have. This thought experiment (1) contains lots of extraneous information that is obviously distorting to intuitions about fairness (such as information that would be relevant for judgments of moral desert), (2) poorly captures the kind of comparison that needs to be made, and (3) fails to be realistic. ((3) would not be terribly problematic if your example were meant to demonstrate some general intuition. But that is not what you have done. So it matters that (3) is unrealistic.) The biggest problem is (2), since the entire point of discussing non-TT full-time faculty was simply to compare their position to adjuncts.

"There are also multiple TT job listings on APA right this moment that are for a 4-4 with research AND service expectations. Both of those indicators would suggest they are a valid comparison."

Do you mean the JFP? The APA hosts the JFP. But no one calls the JFP the APA. And now that the JFP is online, most people just call it philjobs. As before, the fact that there are 4-4 TT positions with research does not show that they are (1) common and (2) come with a salary of $50,000 or (3) commonly come with a salary of $50,000. Of course you can compare such positions, but they are not the most relevant candidates for comparison. And making that comparison is very far afield from the comparison that this discussion was about prior to your derailment.

Anonymous said...

"Yet the stats tell us 4-4 positions with service & research are in fact common at SLACs and regionals."

The states you gave don't tell us anything at all about how common 4-4 positions with service and research are at SLACs and regionals. What your stats tell us is that 32.5% of 32.5% of liberal arts college full time faculty teach a 4-4. And that The faculty at those same colleges report an average of 34% of their time devoted to "research/scholarship" and "other," which presumably means university admin and service work.

The reason why it doesn't show what you think it shows is because you are using an figure that averages the amount of time faculty overall at those institutions spend on research/other, taking a subset of that group using a feature that is likely to affect the amount of time people in the subset spend on research/other, and applying the average to them.

To see why, consider this: imagine that the faculty with a 4/4 load spend (call them 'teaching faculty' 10% of time on 'other' (service work, for example). Now imagine that the other faculty (call them 'research faculty') spend 35% of their time on research, and 10% on 'other' (service). If we average this out (assuming, as according to your stats, a 32.5/67.5 split) we get 33.6% (close to your 44) of time as the average amount faculty spend on research/other. This is entirely consistent with your stats.

"The stats show that research/other are common enough at SLACs and 4-4 teaching is very common at SLACs that there will be some overlap between the two."

The stats don't show at all that there will be some overlap between the two. It seems I can't emphasize this enough - you've picked your subgroup using a feature which is exactly the kind of feature that means they are likely to deviate from the average in terms of research expectations. It would be like arguing that the average woman has 2 children, nuns are women, and so there must be some overlap between the groups 'nuns' and 'women with 2 children.'

Coming up with single cases in which have the four features listed at 11:58 (even though you haven't even done that) wouldn't help your case. Hypothetical examples comparing A with B don't help your case. The claim is not that adjunct salaries are fair because there is at least one person who does the same job as an adjunct and gets paid more. The claim is that there are lots of people who do the same job as an adjunct, and on average these people get paid vastly more than adjuncts.

Here are the states which back this up: "According to the American Association of University Professors, non-tenure-track but long-term teaching faculty, such as instructors and lecturers receive $51,000 and $57,000 in salary, respectively". " In contrast, the New York Times reports that adjuncts on average receive $2700 per course (Flaherty 2015b). At that rate, an adjunct teaching a 4–4 load would receive only $21,600 per year (without benefits)."

So, even if we assume that full time instructors teach a 4-4 rather than a 3-3, and go with the lowest estimate (51,000), adjuncts earn less than half for doing the same job. Sure, full-time instructors may have some other duties - but unless you think that those other duties are so substantial that a full-time instructor earns more than half their salary for non-teaching related duties, then it is clear that adjuncts and full-time instructors earn very different amounts for doing the same job.

Anonymous said...

"but unless you think that those other duties are so substantial that a full-time instructor earns more than half their salary for non-teaching related duties, then it is clear that adjuncts and full-time instructors earn very different amounts for doing the same job."

I have a 4/4 load (TT) at a "teaching college. And while I can attest that a fair amount of my work time is spent teaching (class prep, lecturing, grading), none of that matters when it comes to the various perks. Sure, I am paid to teach. But if I want to be promoted? If I want merit bonuses (awarded by the dean at the end of the year)? If I want to hold any administrative positions on campus that come with research stipends, course releases, or other perks? I need to do service. Teaching is what my base salary is ostensibly for. Service is what advances me in any meaningful way on my campus.

I have won awards for teaching and for research, both on campus awards and awards from off campus. However, I did not get my first merit bonus until I was nominated for an award for advising. When I was promoted, the dean and provost quickly (and generally) praised my teaching and research, but made detailed remarks regarding my service.

Once I realized this, I changed my work life accordingly. Instead of writing a second book, I'm now directing a program on campus. Because of that, I have a research stipend, a course release, and will be getting a substantial bonus. Once I took over administrative duties for someone who retired, I got a raise. On my campus, administration values anyone who does work to lighten their load. They don't teach, they don't engage in research, and so doing those things doesn't help them out in the least.

However, while I can work in this system and be rewarded for it, it has created a campus culture that rewards service. None of our adjuncts (semester contracts or 3-year renewable lecturers) are required by contract to do service. But because that's the work most highly valued, they feel pressured to do so, in order to be reappointed. (Yes, in the past, the university has not reappointed adjuncts who only taught. The reason given was that those who did not do work outside of teaching did not show a commitment to the life of the department or college.) So now we have adjuncts who are looking for ways to take on unpaid work - serving on committees, advising students, etc. - just to keep the jobs that, by contract, only pay them for teaching.

This is exploitation. Even if one were to argue that the adjuncts are paid fairly for the work they do compared to their TT colleagues, they work in an environment that expects unpaid work from them in order to keep the privilege of a job that, by contract, notes they are only paid for teaching.

Anonymous said...

Do Brennan and Magnus have an article about how colleges shouldn't be building new fitness centers and climbing walls and workout facilities for the rowing team because that money would be put to better use reducing tuition for disadvantaged students instead?

P2 said...

"The philosophy blogosphere has 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."

Ha! This is a perfect description of the attitude exhibited by Leiter himself. Not sure the characterization fully fits anyone else in blogosphere, including Brennan.

Derek Bowman said...

But at least his recent post put to rest any worries that he might be using legal threats to harass and intimidate people. Ask any mental health professional - they'll tell you if you drive an electric scooter to work, you're fine.

Anonymous said...

Also love the part where Leiter discusses the talks she gave including one 'in New Zealand no less!' She didn't actually go to NZ. NZ is very far away and people often give talks remotely.

Jennifer Baker said...

Phil or whoever it is arguing with the blog authors above, no, the methods of measuring employee productivity used by productivity analysts (those are economists) do not reflect a labor theory of value- lol. Seriously, dream on.





Jennifer Baker said...

I don't have time to read the thread above right now, but what I wish the paper authors had known is that an expert in measuring productivity would go about assessing the pay of an adjunct by deciding on the output of a University and coming up with and testing various physical and virtual metrics. That is done, as I said way up above, *all of the time.* And we know, in advance, that the amount of money made from teaching a course, minus the pay for the instructor (and the other costs) will be part of the productivity of an individual adjunct. For example, when I told some such experts that I was only going to make 4000 for teaching a summer course, they were able to tell me I was earning way too much for the school, given what I would get paid. (Of course the link I shared way above shows that humanities professors generally earn more for Universities than we may have thought, and from teaching.)

I'm slowly trying to talk a person who does this kind of work (for the US govt., for one of the largest companies in the world) into looking at a University budget and doing an actual analysis of adjunct productivity and pay. I'll certainly share that if I can make it happen. I don't only need to convince one of them that it's a nice thing to do with their time, I'd need to get a full accounting of a school's budget (it would include earnings). But that result, whatever adjuncts could be paid given their productivity or what they would be paid for earning so much in another industry, is not the same as how little adjuncts can be paid, of course.

I have no idea why the anti-adjunct-pay libertarians don't just say this: given too large a supply of adjuncts, devoted to students and an academic field, gosh, we could get them to work for even less. That's the kind of topic you have to hope a labor economist takes up: why we have such a large supply of devoted, capable, educated adjuncts willing to work for so little.

Sorry if I said this all before, but I think what we should be interested in is the very positive contribution individual adjuncts make to the bottom line of a University. I think that really gets lost if we look at the issue in other or less technical ways.

I'm also interested in how we moralize about pay, and the previous "take downs" and CV-fisking of adjuncts has been the saddest example I've ever seen of it. Anyway, if any of this is of interest to any one who reads it (or if you can do the work I'm hoping to talk a friend into doing) please get in touch. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Off-topic and late, but I've been wondering two things about the job market.

1) How many job apps (of any kind) have people gotten up to these days? Is it common to get past 100 over all years on the market? 200? More?

2) How do you cope with seeing others get a TT job, say, first year on the market, while you or other philosophers spend years? Does it encourage you that there's hope, or discourage you by the sheer randomness (or the possibility that maybe you really aren't very qualified)?

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

"1) How many job apps (of any kind) have people gotten up to these days? Is it common to get past 100 over all years on the market? 200? More?"

6 years on the market. Well over 100 positions, between tenure track jobs, post-docs, lecturer positions, and I'm also counting adjunct gigs that I had to apply for.

"2) How do you cope with seeing others get a TT job, say, first year on the market, while you or other philosophers spend years? Does it encourage you that there's hope, or discourage you by the sheer randomness (or the possibility that maybe you really aren't very qualified)?"

I assume that I will never get a job. I am very qualified, but at this point I am considered stale. I'm stuck right where I am. Employed, but not to the level of my ability, qualifications, or passion for the field.

Thoughts?

Derek Bowman said...

1) Dude, I passed the 100 mark my second year on the market. I probably could have done more than that the first year if I hadn't decided early on not to apply for visiting positions or positions outside of North America.

2) I find it to be good news of limited scope; why would I want other talented young philosophers to suffer needlessly?

Anonymous said...

1) Um ... I stopped keeping track, but after 5 market tries, 25-50 per try, it must be more than 200? And that was being somewhat selective - only top foreign universities, nothing worse than a 2-2 type job unless it was in a place I wanted to live.

(2) Appointment-posting season always triggered bad feelings, for me. I was a little happy for those who did well, but moreso frustrated I wasn't getting there myself, and worried I wouldn't ever do so. On the other hand, I didn't really 'resent' the winners, if that's an attitude that has some kind of negative moral content. I didn't and don't think that there's anything wrong with hiring for potential rather than actual accomplishment; indeed, my hopes have relied on that every year, including this year, when they (improbably!) came to fruition.

Anonymous said...

1) Four years on the market. I figure I applied to 70-80 jobs a year, so that puts me around 300. Never came close to a tt position, and I'm giving up hope after this year.

2) Its discouraging and it certainly doesn't engender hope on my own behalf. I know that someone is getting jobs, and it would look more promising for me if jobs went to people who were out a few years. I don't have as high an opinion of my ability in the field as I used to. But I don't exactly have a low opinion either.

Derek Bowman said...

Off topic :

Zombie and/or Jaded. I have a couple of projects that I'm working on, and I would love the opportunity to correspond privately about them. I suppose I could get over my social media ludditism and private message Jaded on twitter, but, well, I did this instead.

Derek Bowman said...

Should have said "and/or Zero" as well.

Anonymous said...

any chance we could get a new post about the market? or just one not about Brennan et al?

Anonymous said...

9:12,

Which market post would you like? The on about how shitty the market is, the one about how unfair the market is, or the one about how the field isn't doing anything to improve the market?