Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Everyone knows it sucks to be an adjunct - but this really puts it all in a nutshell.

I'm going nuts waiting for summer/fall assignments. Better departments made assignments a month ago, worse departments will keep stringing us along until after graduation. Seriously. I have tried to feel around and been totally ignored so I fished around that I might quit and take a pharmaceutical job, which got an IMMEDIATE, but useless response of "But as of now, you're available, right?" I guess the urgency depends on whether it is the adjunct or the chair who will be inconvenienced.

But as bad as I thought I had it, nothing beats this conversation overheard in the lunch room between... let's anonymize this shit... A Transylvanian professor of Hamster Weaving, and her department chair.

TpoHW: But I told HR I needed to know by April 1st 2014 when I started here 3 semesters back and they said this wouldn't be a problem.

Chair of HW: Well these things take time.

TpoHW: Why?

Chair: We have procedure we have to follow.

TpoHW: What are they?

Chair: It could take a couple more weeks.

TpoHW: I know your deadline is in a couple of weeks, but the faculty contract stipulates that these cases be expedited. I reconfirmed this with HR at the beginning of the term and they said they notified you and it wouldn't be a problem.

Chair: I know, it will be soon. It just takes time because of the procedures.

TpoHW: What are the procedures?

Chair: My class is starting, e-mail me and I will get back to you. [attempts to run away]

TpoHW: Tuesday morning I'm getting kicked out of the country because you won't verify I can work here over the summer. What procedure gets you to make the damned assignments and how long does it take compared to the procedure for finding my replacement 10 weeks into the semester?
Chair: I don't think your tone is necessary.

TpoHW: [Something in Transylvanian that ostensibly means "fuck yourself"]

-- Wombat of the Copier


  1. That sounds like my Ph. D. supervisor.

    During a critical phase of my work, I requested a meeting with him and the other departmental members of my committee. It took nearly 3 months before that meeting was held. His excuse? "These things take time to set up."

    Then came time to set up my defence. I was under the gun, so to speak, as the time limit to finish my degree was rapidly approaching. What did my supervisor do? Zippo. Zilch. Absolutely nothing. Why? Because he was on--ahem--vacation at the time and was too busy enjoying himself to give a rat's patootie.

    I grabbed the bull by the horns, and either called or e-mailed all the members of my committee, including the on-campus external examiner. In less than a week, I had a time and date that everybody could agree on, including my absent supervisor.

    Mind you, I'm sure he would have bent over backwards to help his favourite grad student.... which wasn't me.

  2. What gets me is the casual play with people's lives. At one adjunct job, I did not get paid for several months for reasons that I won't go into here (since it will out me completely) that had nothing to do with my work. When I complained to the supposed faculty representative, I got a very condescending lecture about being an adult, needing to budget and save, etc. Nice coming from someone who had a well-paying, full-time job at the school. Imagine my delight in hearing several months later that he had been fired because he did not work and play well with others.

  3. Even if departments are going to use adjuncts, especially year in and year out, there's got to be a better way to do the scheduling, e.g. continuing two-course (or half-time) contracts with the option of a third, with cancellation clauses in case of curricular reform, declining enrollments, etc., etc. But it seems to go against the grain of many administrators (departmental and/or above) to commit to even that. It's really only going to change when adjuncts get harder to hire, which may come with a rising economy, increasing deportations back to Transylvania, etc., etc. The frustrating thing is that it *could* happen now, with very little real loss in flexibility on the university's part.

    Or administrators could wise up and realize just how much of their (and lower-down faculty's time) the constant hiring/assessment/rehiring adjunct cycle is taking, and, taking all the real costs into account, realize that creating more stable, full-time positions might actually be to their benefit. Unfortunately, the costs (to everybody) of using adjuncts aren't the sort that easily fit onto a spreadsheet.