I’ve previously mentioned the adjunct session we’re doing at the Felician Institute conference in a few weeks, with Michelle Ciurria and Derek Bowman presenting. Derek Bowman alerts me to the fact that he’s posted a two paragraph precis of his presentation on his website, which I’ve cut and pasted below the fold. I have a complex set of agreements and disagreements with Derek’s way of putting things, but I’ll reserve comment for later, and for now, simply invite comment from others. I’m hoping to invite presenters to the conference to post their papers on the Institute’s website. More on that when I hear back from them.
PS. You might also be interested in this paper of Derek’s on philosophy and practical engagement [PDF] (which happens to mention PoT’s own Michael Young in the acknowledgements). Derek’s paper provides an interesting contrast to this one by Bas Van Der Vossen, forthcoming in Philosophical Psychology.
Why Working for Free is Bad for Your Students (To be Presented at the Felician Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs, April 2016)
In addition to the problems of job insecurity and substandard wages common to part-time and contract employees in other industries, adjunct faculty often face the distinctive challenge of balancing their professional obligations as educators against their own economic and personal needs. It is all too tempting for adjuncts to respond to this tension by investing themselves even more in their teaching. Some adjuncts and activists have responded to this problem by encouraging adjunct faculty to give up on the idea that teaching is a “vocation” and instead to think of it as just a job. While this represents sound practical advice, it makes no room for the genuine passion for inquiry and for teaching that lead so many intelligent and accomplished people into such precarious positions to begin with. For this reason many adjuncts will refuse to heed this advice, and those who follow it may find they can only do so by giving up on an important element of their own sense of self.
I argue that a far better response is to recognize that adjuncts are actually doing a disservice to their students and their disciplines by engaging in “adjunct heroics.” By going above and beyond in spite of the low pay and lack of commitment from their academic employers, adjuncts reward the cost-cutting administrators, department heads, board members, or politicians who drive the reliance on adjuncts, while simultaneously devaluing their own expertise. Every time someone provides students with a high quality education at a fraction of the cost of regular faculty at the same institution, they thereby validate the claim that hiring adjuncts is a more cost-effective way of providing the same level of service. And every time someone stands in front of the class for substandard wages, they are a living demonstration of how little their expertise, and thus their subject matter, is valued. For example, how can a philosopher expect her students to believe in the value of what they’re learning when the very expert teaching them isn’t considered important enough to be paid an adequate wage?