They also solicited some responses from activists, which, alas, provide further evidence that adjuncts’ rights activists are not intellectually serious people.
Joe Fruscione, a former adjunct professor of English and co-founder of Precaricorps, a nonprofit that offers temporary financial assistance to struggling adjuncts, said Brennan and Magness seemed “almost willfully ignorant that many adjuncts are exploited,” with their repeated declarations of having “no stance” on that issue. Over all, he said, their argument seems to imply — falsely — that if “all adjuncts can’t get a raise, none should.”
What we actually say is that we don’t take a stance on whether they are exploited or not. We’re just saying that here’s what it would cost to stop exploiting them, if they are indeed exploited. And of course we don’t say that none should get a raise. We just say that realistically, universities could deliver “minimally good jobs” to at most about 1/3rd of adjuncts only at the cost of firing the other 2/3rds. We say to readers that we’re not here to tell you what the right trade-off is, but rather that there is a trade-off.
Carol Nieters, executive director of SIEU Local 284, which represents adjuncts at Hamline University in Minnesota, defended the $15,000 per-course pay and benefits figure, saying it’s “really about equality, justice and an indicator of whether a campus is investing in instruction and a stable learning environment.”
Overall, she said, the report “pits students against underpaid adjuncts as a way to avoid the real crisis in higher education where faculty are marginalized and students are saddled with outrageous amounts of debt. When one in four families of part-time faculty are enrolled in one or more public assistance programs, we need a dramatic change.”
One of the things we point out is that money for adjuncts has to come from somewhere. Further, money spent helping adjuncts is money that could have been used to lower the price of tuition or to provide scholarships or debt relief for poor and low-income students. Again, we don’t take a stance on what should be done, but rather simply invoke that there are opportunity costs to helping adjuncts. Any money spent helping an adjunct is not money spent on some other cause in social justice.
Fruscione also took issue with the assertion that adjuncts actively choose to work in higher education over other, presumably worse choices. Such as argument would be fine if higher education were truly meritocratic, he said, “but it’s not.” To say adjuncts prefer low-paying jobs “is again problematic, because academia isn’t a level playing field. Whether they see it or not, adjuncts are exploited.”
Of course, we don’t actually argue that academia is meritocratic. Our point is rather simple: Regardless of how tenure-track jobs are allocated (whether it’s merit or not), one thing we can reasonably assume is that adjuncts prefer working as adjuncts, despite how much that sucks, over their other options, whatever those might be. (In order to deny that assumption, you have to think most adjuncts are stupid and irrational, and thus take what they think is an inferior option over what they think is a superior option.) Thus, to fire an adjunct is to requires that adjunct to take what she herself considers a lesser option. In that sense, to fire an adjunct harms her. We also say that the fewer options adjuncts have, the worse this is.
I was talking to an editor at the Wall Street Journal about this yesterday, and he said that most of the faculty he’s talked to say the money should come from firing administrators and re-allocating funds to instruction and students. I’m cool with that! But good luck making that happen.
I got an email from Mr. Robert Baum, one of the activists in the adjuncts’ rights movements. Mr. Baum calls himself Dr. Baum, but he has a fake degree from a fake university, so that is of course fraud. Here’s what Baum said:
You and precious (and your pecious article) now have the broadest audience possible at Inside Higher Education. Your “ideas” will now be publicized across multiple sectors your. I believe you are using this horribly written and Freshman Comp researched article to “disrupt” the flow of conversations, especially as you take a “campus watch” approach and offer suggestions for how campuses can deal with the coming insurrection.Over the course of the next weeks myself and about ten others will challenge your:
1) idea of “peer review”
2) false premises
3) red herrings
5) lack of research
6) utter lack of care and mercy (see Georgetown’s Jesuit principles and Pope Francis’ jubilee decree)
7) worst possible libertarian argument by self-proclaimed libertarian
I’ve hereby outlined the seven points of critique I will personally widely publish.
When the time is right.
Have a WONDERFUL spring.
Dr. Robert Craig Baum
Professor | Producer | Writer | Composer
Notice what Baum did not threaten to do: He didn’t threaten to try to publish a peer-reviewed article in a similarly ranked or better ranked journal criticizing our argument. Again, this shows the utter lack of intellectual seriousness among these activists. Unfortunately, many of them just don’t care about scholarship.
Regard Mr. Baum’s degree, here’s wikipedia:
The EGS lacks academic accreditation from an accrediting agency that is recognized by the U.S. Council for Higher Education Accreditation. As a result, degrees from the EGS are not currently recognized by many state education authorities in the United States. The State of Texas currently includes the university on its published list of institutions that issue “fraudulent or substandard degrees” and notes that it is illegal to use an EGS degree to “obtain employment” within the state.The State of Maine includes the EGS on its list of “Non-Accredited Colleges and Degree Mills.” The State of Michigan Civil Service Commission states that degrees from the EGS “will not be accepted…to satisfy educational requirements indicated on job specifications.”
So, there’s a good argument to the effect that universities owe it to their students not to hire Mr. Baum.