Always an Adjunct?

Regular readers of this website know that I left my adjunct teaching position at the University of Georgia last May.  Ultimately, I'm glad I did what I did. The job wasn't bad, but it was keeping me from moving on to something better. In this week's post at Vitae, I discuss some of the questions I've been dealing with since deciding to leave my position. For one, it's just kind of strange to not be prepping for classes this year like I would usually be doing. After dedicating about seven years of my life to a career track, I'm having a hard time leaving it behind. I'm also struggling with another important question. How does my role as a writer about adjunct issues change now that I'm no longer an adjunct? My professional identity for the past couple of years has been that of an … Continue Reading ››

Not All English Majors Like Marketing

The second interview from the "How I Got Out" series about adjuncts who escape bad situations was published last week at Vitae. This piece is about Kate Weber, a professor in her last term as an adjunct at Monterey Peninsula College in California. It's her last term as an adjunct because Kate will be starting a full-time, contracted, lecturer position in the fall at California State University's Stanislaus campus. Moving on up! Out of the Frying Pan   Kate's story is a little bit different from Alyson Indrunas's, whom I interviewed for the first "How I Got Out" piece. Alyson had a more definite plan and stuck with it, but Kate's story involves a windier road to success. After being forced into a crushing teaching load by the need to become self-sufficient due to a divorce in … Continue Reading ››

New Series About Adjuncts Who Change Careers

I've just launched a new series at Vitae called "How I Got Out" in which I tell the stories of former adjuncts who have reinvented themselves and escaped their bad situations. Whether they've returned to school, switched careers, or picked up some kind of new certification, all the adjuncts I've interviewed for this series have made changes that allowed them to leave behind adjunct hell. How to get out I've been particularly interested in this topic lately because I'm in the process of doing the very same thing myself. This past semester was my last as an adjunct (I hope). So I've been trying to learn all I can about how other adjuncts have succeeded in escaping. And I'm passing along everything I learn to my readers, many of whom are also adjuncts contemplating a career change. Earlier this week, … Continue Reading ››

Changing Gears in a Difficult Job Market

Editor’s Note: There are so many stories about the difficult academic job market that it’s easy to forget some people do occasionally get jobs. Every once in a while, a tenure-track job is awarded to a lucky candidate, but more often than not, getting a full-time job in academe requires a shift in focus toward what is now commonly referred to as an alternate academic, or alt-ac, career. Sometimes this shift is only a slight pivot, but it can also mean going back to school and earning a new degree. Brian Flota’s “alt-ac narrative” falls into the second category. The English literature tenure-track market just wasn’t working for him, so he reinvented himself by returning to school and becoming an academic librarian. His story is a good example of how to take a bad situation and change it into a better one. Following is … Continue Reading ››

Congressman George Miller Challenges University Presidents on Adjuncts

Last year, Congressman George Miller of California took up the cause of adjunct labor. Miller, who is the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives' Committee on Education in the Workforce, opened a public forum last year where adjuncts and other contingent faculty members could share stories about their working conditions. The open forum generated hundreds of responses from adjuncts across the country. Miller said he was reading each one. According to an interview conducted by Vitae's Sydni Dunn, Miller was hoping to "have the opportunity to have a full-committee hearing in the education and workforce committee" regarding the findings of the forum. 
Congressman George Miller

Congressman George Miller

I admit to being a little skeptical of Congressman Miller's interest in this topic. For all I knew, he saw an opportunity to reach thousands of new … Continue Reading ››

Why Are Adjuncts Joining Unions?

In a new post at Vitae, I argue that adjuncts and other university professors have something in common with pilots at JetBlue airlines who have recently voted to unionize after two previous failed attempts to do so. Join the Union The question I attempt to answer in the piece is why have these pilots just now decided to organize, when just a couple years ago they were adamantly anti-union? I believe the answer to this question will shed light on why adjunct professors have also just recently begun to unionize in large numbers. Both groups traditionally believed that a union was unnecessary. As I point out in the article, both groups have also been regularly fed a diet of propaganda by management that attempts to convince labor they're better off without the help of a union. As the past year has proven, that argument has … Continue Reading ››

MLA Steps Up Higher Ed Change Advocacy With New Report

The Modern Language Association has a new report out today that contains recommendations on the future of graduate study in the humanities. The 40-page report is the result of a study conducted by a specially-convened MLA Task Force on Doctoral Study in Language and Literature. The study was underwritten by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Lots of good recommendations. Some I agree with, some I don't. Either way, I'm glad to see the MLA getting more involved in advocacy for change in higher ed. Having been a part of the presidential address in 2013, I can say with certainty that MLA executives and leaders do want to help; it's just a matter of knowing how to best use their resources and influence. This new task force and its findings are a good step … Continue Reading ››

Stripper With a PhD

“The first time I ever stepped into a strip club, I was 18. I walked into the VIP section where dozens of men were getting lap dances and I thought, ‘This shit is like Caligula.’” It was 1998 when “Claire” had her first taste of stripping--the career that would call her back throughout her life, even as she pursued and eventually obtained her Ph.D. in English Literature. Now Claire is in her early thirties and she still dances at a joint near where she lives in the southeastern U.S--the same region where she earned her Ph.D.* “I’ve been in this field so long that it’s in my veins. I feel at home in a strip club. Totally comfortable,” Claire reports confidently. Stripper With a PhD It’s a performance, of course. Sure, some strip club-goers are relatively innocent. Just looking for some evening entertainment and a little … Continue Reading ››

New Adjunct Discussion Group on Vitae

Over at Vitae, we've been creating discussion groups based on some of the primary categories of people using the site. Our most recent group is called Adjunct Life and it's designed to be a place where adjuncts can share stories and advice with each other. Adjunct Life Group LinkedIn has a couple of pretty active adjunct groups that focus a little more on career advice and discussions, so I'm thinking there's clearly a demand for this kind of online gathering place for adjuncts. The problem I've had with LinkedIn, as Jonathon Rees has also pointed out, is that the site isn't exactly an ideal networking platform for academics. I've been a member for awhile now--more out of social obligation than anything else--and I still haven't really done anything worthwhile on the site. I'm hoping Vitae can pick up where LinkedIn … Continue Reading ››

Fighting For an Adjunct Union in San Francisco

Adjunct professors at the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) are attempting to unionize under the SEIU's metro-organizing strategy, which is now spreading across major cities of the west coast. It's another exciting opportunity for the successful higher ed organizing group Adjunct Action. But SFAI administrators are fighting the union drive. The school has hired attorney Ron Holland to represent it. A bio of Holland explains that his practice "focuses exclusively on representing management in traditional labor law and employment law issues." The union-busting campaign is underway according to Jennifer Smith-Camejo, who works in the communications department of SEIU Local 1021. Adjuncts at the school are fighting back against the anti-union rhetoric being disseminated by SFAI and their attorney. Some have written on their personal blogs about the opposition they've faced, and a tumblr page has also been … Continue Reading ››

News & Opinions for Grad Students and Higher Ed Faculty