Thursday, October 30, 2014

The adjunct investment - you get out what you put in

  I'm adjuncting again this semester. It's at the same institution where I adjuncted in 2012, for the same course, with no big changes in the labs. I'm only teaching one day a week and I know I'm not putting nearly as much time and effort into teaching as I did last time around. Part of that is a change in my attitude.
I've decided that I'm going to avoid professorships and teaching as much as possible. Thanks to new grants I can afford to do this for at least two more years. And I'm also rushing to finish two projects before that new grant kicks in, both to make the transition smoother and so I can give the new project (something I'm VERY excited about) my full attention. Part of it is the structure of the course - it's the same labs I previously taught, and there are two lab sections earlier in the week to iron out kinks before I teach. 
  But I think part of it is also the adjuncting mindset, and the fact that colleges/universities will get out of their adjuncts/faculty what they put in in terms of time, support, and money. If I see something broken or missing, I know that I won't have to deal with it for very long, and besides, I don't know who to call. If a student's struggling, I know that I will only have to help them for one semester before leaving. I know that's not a generous thought, but it's true. I imagine that if I was a full-time faculty member, my motivation to fix things and nurture students would be much higher. And that's part of the adjunct problem - institutions don't have to invest as much, but in turn adjuncts are disconnected from the community and don't have as much 'skin in the game'. I'm only on campus one day a week, so I don't support colleagues or organizations by attending symposiums or meetings. I don't buy things from the campus cafeteria. I don't spend time in the community/town, so I don't spend money at local businesses. These indirect effects of full-time faculty on the university are harder to quantify and likely don't make it into the conversations about decisions to hire faculty. I think this institution is genuinely concerned about its student's education, and I enjoy working here, but as a temporary hire, I don't feel the need to become part of the community. Maybe institutions will realize that permanent lecturers and faculty are worth the investment.

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