UPDATE: before you let me have it in the comments, please skip to the end where I recognize that this is a preposterous solution. Please understand that I am being deliberately provocative, to demonstrate the level of “we can’t do anything” rhetoric that absolutely pervades the academy. Can you do as much as I want you to? No. Can you do more than you are? Maybe. Will it be a risk? Yes. But adjuncts like me risk our asses every day. Every day. That is all. Without much more ado…
Are you a tenured or tenure-track professor at a Research-1 university? Are you (more likely) a tenured or tenure-track professor at a normal-person university or college? Want to do something to help “the adjunct situation,” and aren’t sure what you can do? IF there’s anything you can do, in the face of defunding, and anti-intellectualism, and corporatization, and harumph? Fear not!
Here is a partial list of things off the top of my head that I just thought of whilst shoving down vegetable sushi on the beach just now. None of them involves buying an adjunct lunch, or acknowledging their existence, or being an “ally” in any other much-discussed way. These are unemotional, concrete solutions–but you might not like them.
1. Stop using adjuncts in your department. Need some courses taught, but don’t have the staff to teach them? Hooray! Now hire someone full fucking time, with a salary–not a stipend!–and benefits. Give them a 4-4 teaching load. If there aren’t four courses for them to teach in a semester, give them service, governance or curriculum planning. Pay them whatever a respectable middle-class starting salary is in your area. One that supports children, and possibly, given the labor opportunities in college towns, an errant spouse.
2. Stop using adjuncts in your department. Need some courses taught, don’t have the staff to teach them, but can’t afford to pay anyone a full-time salary? TOUGH TITTIES. You don’t get to offer the courses. If you can’t afford to pay an employee a living wage, you should not get an employee.
3. Stop using adjuncts in your department. “But Rebecca,” you say, “do you mean that if given a choice between an adjunct and nobody, we should choose nobody?” If it comes down to that, yes, I do. But let’s backtrack: Senior Full Professor, let’s see your schedule next semester. Oh, I see you’re teaching an upper-level seminar in your pet subject. I see five people are signed up for it. “Oh, but it’s a major requirement!” …that you invented, so that everyone would have to take your pet subject. Exigent circumstances, motherfucker: how about instead of hiring someone at a rate you would (I hope!) be ashamed to pay a domestic employee (being, of course, the pinko commie supporter of immigration reform and a minimum wage hike that you are), you cancel your pet seminar, woman up, and teach some motherfucking Composition? Some German 101?
4. Stop using adjuncts in your department. Do not pay anyone in your department a salary you yourself would never consider taking. Make palpable, real sacrifices.
5. Stop using adjuncts in your department. Wait, am I sounding redundant?
Nobody ever suggests this as a solution because, of course, it would cause massive, palpable disruption to everyone and everything in the university. I realize it is completely preposterous to suggest. And yet–you asked: What can I do?