Precarity Everywhere

A recent piece by Michael Bérubé highlights one of the invisible problems of higher education in America (and elsewhere) – namely, the rise of the adjunct as the hegemonic form of the modern day academic. This is in both a qualitative way (with flexibility and monetization becoming some of the prime measures for every academic), but also in a quantitative way (Bérubé cites data that shows more than 2 out of every 3 faculty members are now contingent workers).

While American political discourse often portrays academics as highly-paid, impossible-to-fire liberals, the data in fact shows virtually the opposite (though admittedly academics are likely disproportionately “liberals”). Increasingly the expectation of graduate students leaving university is that:

(a) an academic position will be incredibly difficult to find (I have numerous anecdotes of friends applying for hundreds of jobs and only getting 3-5 interviews, let alone job offers)

(b) when a job is found, it will be contract work

(c) when a job is found, it will involve the workload of a full professor

(d) when a job is found, it will pay 20-75% of a full professor’s salary

(e) in a year (perhaps longer depending on the contract), this process will be repeated

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