Translation of a NYTimes article on adjuncting


I’m an adjunct professor, one of hundreds of thousands in an overeducated, unmoored, disposable work force staffing a majority of the nation’s colleges and universities.
Me too.

At the community college where I work, I have no permanent desk or office, no telephone, no benefits and, to many, no name.
Me too, except I have an office and a desk. I do have a name to my coworkers.

When I calculate the time and money spent traveling, grading, answering e-mail, teaching and planning, my wages come to about $9 an hour.
This is true. Adjuncting is low-wage and actually very low-status. I would describe adjuncting teaching as "impersonating a professor."

Each week I read two to three pages from each of them — about C-sections, lost loves, getting beaten up.
This is what I do as well. It's interesting, challenging, and meaningful.

I recall the young man who grew up on a street with a bicycle shop on the corner and was taunted by customers riding near his house, knowing that his parents could never afford to buy him a bike. And the young woman who was caught in gang crossfire, and still carries the scars on her knees from her dive to the pavement.
I recall stories about abortion, murder, suicide, and rape, but also children, family, and love.

I love my students’ lack of pretension, their raw intellect. Messages arrive in my in-box from “hotpinkylady” and “ferretman389” addressed to “Jamieson” — the professor part lopped off, or forgotten. They’re not afraid to tell me that the books and stories we read are dull, or that I’m confusing them.
Translation: these students are not on a very good career track, whether attending college or not. The number of students that overcome their context is frustratingly few. The ability to follow the unspoken rules of the professional setting is the sine qua non of education and career.

When I started at the college, I took it as a personal failure every time a student dropped out. But time and again in students’ lives, the responsibility of caring for young children and elderly parents, or the effort of balancing 50-hour workweeks, outweighed the importance of distinguishing run-on sentences from fragmented ones.
True. This doesn't mean that students' excuses are any more or less legitimate. "Everybody's got a story," as one veteran told me to say to students not doing the work -- and not learning.

Overall translation of the article: Adjunct teaching is fun and meaningful work. Employers humiliate their own faculty with no-benefits, low-wage, contingent work. If you want to be an adjunct, you must either be supported by someone with a "real job" or pray that Congress will soon pass health care reform. Although one's relationship does not change between student and teacher when one is adjunct or full-time with benefits, it is profoundly unwise and even self-destructive to work as an adjunct.

Forgotten in this article is the sea of flakes who are hired and fired as adjuncts -- turnover not unlike Wal-Mart. Higher education's dependence on nonunion, contingent labor lowers quality, employee morale, and betrays the trust students give to colleges and universities. While I love to teach and I love helping people, I am profoundly disillusioned -- and bitter -- with my experience as an adjunct. I feel like I am impersonating a real professor. Higher education's dependence on adjuncts will not soon change, and the number of highly educated people willing to work as adjuncts means that the economics of teaching will not soon change. I need a new line of work, and fast -- one with a living wage and benefits, one where I can provide for myself and my family. A career where I provide a meaningful, socially beneficial service -- but without getting humiliated in the process.

April 2017

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