Academia’s Underclass

Academia’s underclass is real, and I am not referring to freshmen and sophomores. Of course, it has to be a foreign publication that carries this story because the American corporate media will not talk about this issue. Please take a quick read and return: Facing poverty, academics turn to sex work and sleeping in cars.

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Welcome back. I saw that article when it came out. I couldn’t get through much of it without feeling horrible for the whole education system and the people it abuses.

Tuition fees keep rising but pay to lecturers keeps decreasing. The millions in tuition increases go to non-academic buildings and non-academic administrators and “consultants.” The non-academic administrators increasingly downsize lecturer posts to adjuncts who are academia’s underclass and are paid a third or less. These non-academic administrators are deliberately creating academia’s underclass.

Let me be clear: an adjunct lecturer is often paid only one-third what a “normal” full-time lecturer is paid even when they have the exact same qualifications.

AdjunctsThe plight of adjuncts is very real and I have seen it myself. I knew a guy who had been an adjunct for 15 years and was still making crap wages. He was paid less for three classes than a full-time professor at the same institution was paid for one class. I met a young woman once, just off her MA who was teaching 9 classes and still was barely making her rent.

Worth mentioning that adjunct lecturers usually receive no benefits or at best reduced benefits. They usually do not even receive office space of their own, and many have to meet with students in cafeterias, hallways, or parking lots. And adjuncts have no job security even term to term.

It makes me angry because I see education to be something near sacred and the responsibilities that schools and teachers have are profound and incredible. ALL teachers deserve to be paid well, not just paid living wage, but paid well because of the value they contribute to society.

If you say this is all market forces, you are wrong. The demand for higher education has never been higher. The need for lecturers in higher education has never been higher. The revenue streaming into higher education has never been higher. The problem is all of that money is not going toward meeting the demands. Academia’s underclass is the symptom of a larger problem in higher education.

More reading about academia’s underclass:
House Committee Report Highlights Plight of Adjunct Professors

The Plight of Adjuncts

Low Pay, Long Commutes: The Plight Of The Adjunct Professor

University of Illinois strike exposes plight of graduate students, adjuncts


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