Just look at these smug privileged white dudes:
While trillions of adjuncts have no access to peer-reviewed journals, these pilgarlics continue to assert their publishing privilege. Just recently, the soi-dissant Journal of Business Ethics (isn’t that an oxymoron?) accepted yet another paper by them on adjuncts, this one with the dubious title, “Are Adjuncts Exploited?: Some Grounds for Skepticism.” Oh, some grounds, huh? I wonder how much the Koch Brothers paid them to write their newest bit of union-busting blather. Georgetown and George Mason should be ashamed. Libertarians, rein these dudes in! They’re embarrassing you.
You might recall these self-important bastards wrote “Estimating the Costs of Adjunct Justice: A Case Study in University Business Ethics,” which showed (using data and evidence, which we all know are white supremacist social constructions) that most proposals to deliver “justice” to adjuncts are prohibitively expensive, would lead to job gentrification, and have high opportunity costs (such as coming at the expense of poor minority students). Well, after they published that, we activists did the right thing, which of course wasn’t to challenge their actual argument, but instead to call them names, write blogposts in which we fantasize about assaulting them, and, of course, pound the table and assert over and over that adjuncts are exploited.
Well, just like white colonialists, they now want to steal our table. Their new paper looks at six arguments on behalf of the claim that adjuncts are exploited. It develops these arguments more rigorously than any other academics have so far. But, then, in an audacious move that has me wondering about their sanity, they claim these arguments fail. These arguments include the following:
- Adjuncts are analogous to sweatshop workers’.
- Adjuncts are overworked and underpaid compared to full-time faculty.
- They are not paid a living wage.
- They are treated like second-class members of the academy.
- They are or were misinformed about the academic employment prospects for masters or PhD holders.
- Universities profit enormously from adjunct labor and yet pay adjuncts little.
So what do these cisgendered patriarchs have to say in response to 1-6? Well, get your vomit bucket ready, ’cause I’m gonna tell you. Against 1, they say that adjuncts are not analogous to sweatshop workers, because unlike sweatshop workers, they are A) generally responsible for being in their predicaments, and B) have exit options. They even go so far as to insult us by providing data and citing studies showing that pretty much everyone who gives up on becoming college faculty gets a good full-time job doing something else. Against 2, they use Department of Ed data, look at effective hourly wages, and then claim that when we do an apples to apples comparison, i.e., compare a qualified adjunct with the nearest counterpart among full-time faculty, that such adjuncts get paid pretty close to what their counterparts in full-time faculty at teaching-intensive colleges make. Full-time faculty get paid more overall because they do more overall. Against 3, they use thought experiments to show that someone can get paid less than living wage and yet not be exploited, or more than the living wage and yet be exploited. So, they conclude that the living wage issue is a separate issue. Further, they show that adjuncts get living wages (per hour) but not living salaries (per year) simply because almost all adjuncts are part-time workers who work far less than others. Against 4, they show that this is a distinct issue from whether they are exploited, and we could only count it as constituting exploitation if we already had an independent argument proving they are exploited. Against 5, they say pretty much the same thing. Against 6, they claim that people making such claims are guilty of elementary accounting errors, of mistakes people learn not to make in accounting 101:
Even fixing this minor mistake, Hazo’s numbers still wildly exaggerate the university’s degree of profit. Hazo does not take seriously and does not properly account for the substantial costs the university carries to offer its courses, including facilities expenses, scheduling, registration, marketing, admissions, policing, accreditation review, federal regulatory compliance, and the like. The marginal cost to the university of adding another class might be tiny, as Hazo thinks, but the average cost is high. Properly accounting for the cost per class means taking into account all reasonable costs associated with maintaining the university on a per class basis.
Hazo commits an elementary accounting mistake. To illustrate, imagine a movie theater has traditionally closed at 9 pm. The owner considers staying open for another three hours. In doing so, he incurs only slight marginal labor and other costs, since the building, the films, etc., have already been paid for. Suppose his late showings are equally well attended as his earlier showings. He might conclude, “Wow, my late showings making tremendous profit, but my early showings lose money!”
But that is an elementary fallacy. He is correct to conclude that, with most of his costs already sunk, it is smart to add additional screenings. The marginal revenues for these screenings will greatly exceed his marginal costs. But that doesn’t mean that the new show times are for that reason especially profitable when compared to the previous show times. Instead, while it’s true that adding the new show times was a profitable move, the proper way to account for the value of each showing (assuming a constant level of attendance) is to average the costs across show times. Otherwise, this generates the silly illusion that the movie theater loses money in the morning and makes money in the evening, or loses money in January but makes money in December. This is Accounting 101, which Hazo must have skipped in favor of music classes.
Sounds like something a business professor would say. And we all know business professors, with their white BMWs and silk ties, are fascists.
Further, they end that section with this vile and repugnant tirade:
But now consider: Instead of teaching for the university at such a low rate, the typical adjunct instructor could, quite easily, advertise to students that he is willing to teach them the same materials in a private space, such as his living room or in a privately rented room. He could publicize his CV so that students could check his credentials. He could charge students, say, half or a third of Duquesne’s per-class tuition. Students would get a bargain and he would earn more money. (Suppose he charges the 30 students $1000 each, and has to pay $5000 to rent a meeting space over the semester; he then nets $25,000.) Unlike Marx’s poor proletarians who don’t own capital goods, the adjunct controls his own human capital, and can easily rent space for teaching. (Indeed, he might be able to rent space from the university itself, just as MCAT and LSAT prep companies do.) But the instructor would not be able to offer Duquesne credit hours for his class, even though he covers the same materials and administers the same tests.
Now ask: If the instructor did offer to teach this class for one-third the price, but could not offer credit hours, how many students would take the class? The answer is probably few or none. Ask instead: Suppose the university secretly offered each student the following deal: “We, the university, will claim that you received an A in this course, even though you never took the class, in exchange for $3000 of your tuition dollars.” How many students would take that deal? The answer is probably many.
This unhappy thought experiment partly explains why universities can pay adjuncts so little. As we noted, adjunct instructors could just offer to teach students the same materials on their own, outside the university. If the instructors really were producing immense value (to students) in the classroom by imparting their knowledge, they should have plenty of customers. But they would probably have few or none. The reason is that students are for the most part not buying instruction or knowledge, but instead buying credit hours and credentials. The university, not the instructor, provides these to the students. The reason the university can capture as much tuition revenue as it does is in part because the university, not its instructors, provides the thing its customers want to buy. Furthermore, a substantial part of this value derives from the university’s own brand, its public reputation, and its maintenance of accreditation status to issue degrees that employers will recognize and accept.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the evil contained within this wretched paper. They have data on what percent of adjuncts are moonlighting professionals and semi-retired professors vs. “freeway-flyer or career adjuncts” (they say the later constitute less than 1/20th of all adjuncts), on how surveys show that even adjuncts who teach 8 classes a year still work less than the average professor and the average full-time worker in any other industry. They show that at least 70% of adjuncts lack the minimal qualifications needed to get a tenure-track job. Using “Department of Education” data (sounds like neoliberal think tank to me), they claim that the ratio of students to full-time faculty has remained constant over the past 40 years, and that adjuncts are supplementing rather than replacing full-time instructors. They even have the audacity to end their paper by citing studies showing that most adjuncts are happy with their work.
Obviously, Brennan and Magness are hatemongers just trying to rationalize their own privilege. It’s not hyperbolic or offensive at all to call adjuncts–90% of whom are white–“America’s modern slaves” or “sharecroppers” or “indentured servants“. I sure hope that the Philosophy Smoker people (since none of them will ever get full-time professorships) will help us give Brennan and Magness the beatings they deserve.
I hope they die soon and in pain.