Anthro News takes on the adjunct crisis, and while commenting will cost you, the irony is free

This just in.  It appears that the AAA is starting to address some of the serious issues that adjunct scholars are facing day in and day out.  In a new post on the Anthropology News site, AAA president Leith Mullings takes on the adjunct issue.  This is good news, because this issue seriously needs some critical attention, especially since more and more new PhDs keep hitting the labor force each year.  This problem isn’t going away any time soon.  Mullings starts off her post about “Inequality Within” by citing Sarah Kendzior’s 2012 piece “The closing of American academia,” which highlights just how bad things are getting in academia these days.

Mullings covers many of the key aspects of the adjunct problem: 1) lack of access to adequate health care; 2) the fact that about 3/4 of the teaching workforce is NOT on the tenure track; 3) the abysmally low pay for many adjuncts (median compensation per class is about 2700 bucks); 4) adjuncts have to deal with high travel costs in order to teach enough classes; 5) retirement benefits are lacking; 6) they have very limited access to educational resources (many don’t have offices, libraries, etc); 7) serious job insecurity, which often “translates into lack of academic freedom.”

Clearly, there’s no shortage of problems.  We all know this.  The question now is what we’re all going to do about it.  Sit back and watch, or find a way to band together to start making some changes?  Mullings concludes her post with this:

It is time to again turn our attention to better informing ourselves and to doing all we can to improve the conditions our colleagues and students confront. By the 2013 annual meeting, the CLR intends to: administer a short survey to department chairs about adjuncts in anthropology; organize sessions about the contingent workforce for the annual meeting; report on their survey findings in AN, analyze the results of the CAW 2010 Survey of Contingent Faculty Members and Instructors; and present a resolution to the membership for their consideration. These are only the first steps in returning to a more activist stance in addressing this most critical issue.

Let me say this: I think it’s a good thing to that AAA is finally weighing in on this issue.  This is what needs to happen.  It’s time to pay attention and stop sweeping these unpleasant issues aside.  Mullings does a good job of highlighting what’s going on, and just how grave things are looking.  Clearly, more people need to hear about what’s going on with all those adjuncts out there, and some serious changes need to take place.  So, good on the AAA for jumping on the band wagon and speaking up about this.  If we are going to really address the “inequality within,” then we need to get some real dialog going.  This AN piece is meant to contribute to that dialog, but unfortunately it falls a bit short.  Why?  Well, in order to actually join the conversation on Anthropology News you have to be a paid member of the AAA (the site clearly states: “Posting comments is a benefit for AAA members”).  This is unfortunate, since it severely limits the conversation and feedback that such a post can generate.  It’s also pretty ridiculous.

The AAA opens the door for discussion, and then immediately closes it off for a large swath of people (and you gotta wonder: how many of them are adjuncts who, ironically, can’t afford to pay yearly membership dues?).  So, if you’re a non-member and you want to share your opinions and add your voice to the ideas that Mullings has put fort here, you are out of luck.  No dice.  You gotta pay to play.  While I think that Anthropology News does a great job of getting the face of anthropology online, it’s little things like this that really take away from their project.  I don’t get it–this kind of thing just shoots the whole thing in the foot.  What’s the point of putting something online and only allowing a very limited (and insular) audience to take part in the conversation?  It makes no sense.  Especially considering the issues that this particular post seeks to address.

Irony overload.  Well, at least that’s free.

Fortunately for all of you out there in Savage Minds reader-land–and the blogosphere in general–I have an easy solution.  Want to voice your opinions, concerns, fears, ideas, or reservations about the adjunct crisis?  Well, you can do that right here, FOR FREE.  So, go ahead, make your voice be heard.  Have something to say about the proposals that Mullings puts forth here?  Do you have any comments about the role the AAA can or should play in all this?  Want to share some of your own experiences in the world of adjuncting?  Have some suggestions?  Go ahead, comment away.  The sooner we confront these issues, the better.


Ryan Anderson is a cultural and environmental anthropologist. His current research focuses on coastal conservation, sustainability, and development in the Californias. He also writes about politics, economics, and media. You can reach him at ryan AT savageminds dot org or @anthropologia on twitter.

6 thoughts on “Anthro News takes on the adjunct crisis, and while commenting will cost you, the irony is free

  1. All these open letters might do more if every one was sent to, and created various floods at, the Regional Accrediting Agencies (in Texas, that would be SACS), and copied to the Chronicles of Higher Education and other media outlets for University administrations and regents. If this issue threatens the accreditation of an institution, administrators might consider instructor equity as another needed expense for maintaining that accreditation.

    We are not the only discipline with this problem, so I am not sure that much will happen at the department, or discipline level, On the other hand, every discipline that addresses it raises this issues public profile.

  2. Unionization is also an effective way to protect the most vulnerable among us (i.e. the adjuncts) from some of the arbitrariness of administrative fads and budget cuts.It is not solution to the overall problem, but it is certainly better than not having a union.

  3. i agree tony–and i think that the grad students (aka future adjuncts) and the adjuncts need to get to talking. imagine what 3/4 of the faculty workforce could do if they were all on the same page? hmmm. im not sure what’s holding everyone up. maybe it’s not quite bad enough yet.

  4. Many will have given up and accepted their fate. Some may still be dreaming of tenure or promotion to management and not want to rock the boat. Only a minority may be conscious of the situation and wiling to act collectively. Thus the role of small but determined leadership cadres in union and other social movements. (You can find out lots about this by reading labor history.)

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