“In 2012, I got my Ph.D. and left academia with no regrets. Like all decisions based on financial stability, it was not so much a decision as a reaction. Academia, I had discovered, was not an industry in which one works for pay but one in which you must pay to work. New Ph.D.’s are expected to move around the country in temporary postdocs or visiting professor jobs until finding tenure-track positions — financially impossible for me as a mother of two – or stay where they are and work as adjuncts with no job security and an average wage of $2,700 per course. While making an income below the poverty line, a new Ph.D. is expected to spend thousands of dollars on job interviews at conferences in expensive cities and write paywalled papers for free.
I left. But there is no escaping the consequences of academia’s reliance on contingent labor. If you do not experience the adjunct crisis directly as an academic, you may well experience it as a citizen: as a student, a parent, or a professional facing a similar contingency crisis in your own field. The adjunct crisis in academe both reflects and advances a broader crisis in labor. Our exploited professors are teaching our future exploited workers.
On February 25, 2015, adjunct professors across the United States are planning to walk out of the classroom to protest their low pay, lack of benefits, and unfair treatment. Their struggle is one we all should support. Here are the reasons why you should care.
Labor exploitation is not the new normal. Adjunct professors are distinct from other low-wage contract workers only by virtue of degree – that is, the Ph.D. Like other exploited workers, adjuncts are told that their low pay and mistreatment are the deserved consequence of poor choices. While low-wage workers without college degrees are told to get an education, adjuncts are asked what they thought all that education would get them. The plight of the adjunct shows one can have all the education in the world and still have no place in it” (read more).