Gee. Ya think?

"Decline of the Tenure Track Raises Concerns," reports yesterday’s New York Times. I must confess that my first reaction was somewhere between "Gee, ya think?" and "This is news?", with accompanying eye-rolling. I’d probably be a tad less cynical if the decline of the tenure track hadn’t started, oh, twenty years ago, and if people hadn’t already been trying, for years, to draw attention to the plight of part-timers working 10-hour teaching days at multiple colleges. And the Times only picks up on it now? Harrumph.

I’m glad I got out of it when I did, but I worry about those who are still in it. It seems fairly evident to me that sustained media attention hasn’t, so far, shamed colleges and universities into treating their adjunct professors better; I doubt that the NYT article will do much to fix an already broken system. Though it may help convince a few more prospective grad students to choose a career that’s less prone to abusive labor conditions.

If anyone reading this is contemplating a career as a professor in a humanities field, I can do no better than to refer you to my colleague Timothy Burke’s advice: "Should I go to graduate school? Short answer: No." Not convinced? Read Dorothea Salo’s "Straight Talk About Graduate School." Still not convinced? Contemplate the AAUP’s statistics on the percentage of professors who aren’t on the tenure track (70%. Seventy. Percent.) and bear in mind that, while you may think you’ll be the one to beat the odds, right now is a really bad time to try your luck.

(Hat tip to Laura at 11D, who says "’Raises concerns’ is such a mild phrase." Seriously.)

2 Responses to “Gee. Ya think?”

  1. “Raises concerns” is mild stuff indeed, even given the tradition of Serious Newspaper Understatement.

  2. Chris says:

    Oh, it’s not all that bad. When all is said and done, I make around $50k a year as an adjunct. Not bad.
    I’ve been at this long enough now that preparation is largely a non-issue, so I save time there. I also never assing a paper longer than, say, two or three pages, (for Frosh. Writing) and for Intro to Lit. I have resigned myself to giving tests and quizzes to off-set the fact that it would be impossible to grade the standard three or four essays per semester.
    Fortunately, the Intro. LIt. students don’t seem to mind, and my evals remain positive, and thus I remain … employed.
    I’d love to get out, but every time I have tried I am slapped upside the head with the “over qualified” moniker. So … I’m stuck. But again, at $50k, I could be doing worse.