I’ve heard this same story several times. Being highly educated and a vital part of an educational institution is no guarantee of job security or a significant salary. it’s driving good people from the field and diminishing the value of higher education.
Increasingly society is viewed through a Neoliberal prism where immediate results and marketization are valued over long term success and more traditional value systems. The church, the school and the press are being increasingly infected with the idea of measurable profit over more difficult to measure values. I would argue that intellectual inquisitiveness, love, honor, culture, and an inclination toward an intelligent development of public policy might have values in a civilized society but my voice in increasingly being shouted down by the fine print in budget statements geared toward the short term and quite often the counterproductive.
I think business ethics are tied in with the higher values of Western Civilization. Once those values are thrown away by crass economic doctrine, there will be a decline of society to a system based on power and wealth until the inevitable turn of the wheel and an new society is born.
“Exploitation should not be a rite of passage” | Sarah Kendzior
I went into academia for the reasons you mentioned – I love to write and do research. I enjoyed having the freedom to study topics that interest me, such as the politics of authoritarian states. I never cared about prestige or making a lot of money. But I care about earning a stable income and providing for my children.
In my final year in graduate school, I realized that my ability to stay on the job market and pursue an academic career was dependent on financial resources that I didn’t have. I was a successful academic – I am well-published, in top journals, with strong teaching evaluations and a solid reputation in my field. But this was irrelevant when it came to finding a job in this economy. I was expected to adjunct, subsisting on poverty wages, until a tenure-track job came along.
Money, not merit, is the critical factor to staying in academia in the United States. Most recent PhDs are either living in poverty, in massive debt, or surviving off family wealth. The former two categories tend to drop out, while the latter pay to play.
In the end, I am glad I left, because what I am doing now is more interesting. I didn’t plan to work as a writer – I was recruited once I started writing for the public. Al Jazeera English contacted me after reading my work on website called Registan.net, where I had been blogging about Central Asia during my last year of graduate school. My Al Jazeera articles often go viral. Over time, other publications asked me to write for them as well.
I love to write so I am happy about how this turned out. But I know my story is not typical. That is one of the reasons I write about barriers to entry in journalism, because talented writers are being locked out because they cannot afford unpaid internships or expensive credentials. Journalism is structured in a similar way to academia, where pre-existing wealth is a de facto requirement for entry.
Everyone benefits from a more diverse and even playing field, so I try to draw attention to unfair labor practices in these professions. Exploitation should not be a rite of passage.
From around the web.
From the web site, This Ain’t Livin.
Increasingly, adjunct faculty are doing the teaching in the US education system, particularly at the community college level. This is because they are cheap. Much, much cheaper than tenured faculty. They are often paid by the unit, instead of receiving a salary, and don’t get benefits. It’s cheaper to higher multiple adjunct faculty members than one tenured professor. Some community colleges don’t even have a full time faculty member supervising some departments. The entire English department, for example, may be part timers.
Some people enjoy working as adjunct faculty. The work is a lot more flexible, and you can choose whether to renew contracts between semesters, or move on to something else. There’s less pressure to publish, to perform, to establish yourself. You have more time to work directly with students because you don’t have to do administrative work. Some institutions are very open to suggestions for classes, so you get an opportunity to teach courses that interest you and engage with students who genuinely want to learn. Adjunct faculty have a lot to add to academic environments and are an important part of the academic community.
But the exploitation of adjunct faculty is another matter altogether. Many undergraduate students are not aware of the byzantine workings of college administration. They may not know, for example, that administrators tend to make the highest salaries, and that even star faculty may not receive very much from teaching. Their income is from grants, which need to be continually renewed, or awards, not the university directly. Star researchers are informed that they need to fund themselves, and their graduate students. The university is happy to share in the glory, but it doesn’t want to incur any of the expenses.