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« Odd omission | Main | Lettering »

September 30, 2008



Hi Miriam—first-time caller, long-time listener. Though the fact doesn't affect your speculation at all, RIT offers several Ph.D. programs nowadays. Or do you mean in English?


Oops, good point--obviously, my thinking is always biased towards the humanities. Someone living near or teaching at RIT would have an even less enjoyable commute to my neck of the woods, methinks...

John Thomas McGuire

This is a major concern. Most of the adjuncts I know either have already quit or are barely hanging on. Nonetheless, I do not foresee anything changing soon in academia. Administrators will continue to hire part-time professors to teach either general education courses or to replace permanent, tenure-track faculty. Tenure will increasingly become a rarity, particularly in universities below a R1.


I think the only likely cause even on the list of possibilities for an adjustment of hiring practices, salaries, benefits, etc., would be a sharp upsurge in demand: either many more students or many fewer college-level options to compete against. The modern university is really not set up to respond favorably to anything else. A genuine rally of students probably could push something or other through; but I cannot even imagine what would be required to stir up that much student concern in the problem. My outlook on the whole thing is pessimistic (at least, as pessimistic as the outlook of a person of my temperament can be): massive deterioration of our higher education system is a much more plausible future at this point than any solution on the table.

I'm not really clear what Burke has in mind in talking about "remaining safety nets". Safety nets? We still have those? :)

Timothy Burke

How about "remaining thin roots from plants at the edge of the cliff which are being clutched in desperate, sweaty hands"?

Mostly what I'm thinking of is adjuncts who stay in the system hoping for a longer-term contract while some other family member's income keeps them barely afloat, or adjuncts who subsidize their adjunct work with a second non-academic job of some kind. If we dive into a serious recession, both of those sources of tenuous, unsustainable short-term support may well disappear entirely.

John Thomas McGuire

I would tend to agree with Timothy on this point. A lot of adjuncts may simply disappear from teaching altogether. I know of one person, a fine teacher in the sciences, who just left last semester and secured a full-time job in a state office.


Thanks, that clarifies things considerably.

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