September 29, 2016

The plight of the adjunct

A letter to the editor from Rachel Craft, adjunct instructor in Webster’s Anthropology & Sociology Department

“Why no phd adjunct,” I needlessly Googled following my advisor’s warning that I risk foregoing my Ph.D. if I instruct as an adjunct full-time.

The plight of the adjunct is admitted in academia as a rite of passage. According to the American Association of University Professors, the 76.4 percent of faculty instructing at colleges nationwide average an income within federal poverty guidelines. This is the brutal last stretch in my nearly 10-year sprint on the grueling treadmill of graduate studies.

I live frugally, yet teach roughly 12 classes a year between three universities just to get by: four classes for housing, one for health and dental insurance, three for utilities and car—and I like to eat, clothe myself, and maybe pay back the medical school average of student debt incurred during my specialized training for this work.

Students making more money than I do ask, “Why do you do it?”  The answer: Because I love my job. I’ve trained 10 years to present my best work to the students, endlessly, at the expense of free time, my friends and family and my dissertation. Friends receiving more for working less enjoy joshing on my career poverty. The plight of adjuncts is a running joke of outrageous—even comical—proportions, but it’s really not funny.

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