1. Alice Doesn’t Work Here Anymore
I left my adjunct teaching position in the middle of last semester for a job offer I received after a year of searching—applying for positions like academic advising, admissions recruiting, community education with non-profit organization, and reception at a massage therapy clinic. (This is what the job market in this economy looks like for professors who are trying to exit adjuncting. There aren’t a bunch of jobs out there we can just pick up, despite conservative rhetoric.) I moved out of state for the new job. Which has been neither simple nor easy. My partner and I have been separated for three months as we do everything possible to remedy the dire financial straits we have fallen into due to my “career” in academia.
And yet I didn’t just walk away from my classes. I worked with my department chairs to make sure the right folks in our existing pool of adjuncts took over my classes and were up to speed on my students.
Last week, as their semester came to an end, I received a message from one of the department chairs asking me to enter final grades for two students. “That’s annoying,” I thought. But I also figured he’d realize he was calling the wrong adjunct. I should have known better. This is the same person who, when hired into a full time position many current adjuncts at the college applied for and didn’t get, took a class from an adjunct who had been teaching in the department for over ten years.
So what do you know, yesterday I received a second message. This one with a sharp tone telling me to get my grades in, that they were now overdue. In the middle of my workday in a different state on a different job, I texted the colleague who took over my course. Of course she had gotten her grades in. She then took the time to make a call and figure out that the registrar’s office entered the data incorrectly. In less than 30 minutes we fixed the problem.
2. The Passive-Aggressive Professor
For 10 consecutive semesters, the department head at College B changed my schedule at the last minute, and I was sick of it.
So one term, I lined up a Monday-Wednesday schedule at College A and a Tuesday-Thursday schedule at College B. I was especially careful to let the department head at College B know that I couldn’t change my schedule.
Guess what happened next? The department head from College B moved my lit section to Monday-Wednesday—and scheduled that time for one of his own classes. He didn’t even tell me. I only knew it because I had the foresight to check the schedule.
I dug up the original email where I stressed that I couldn’t change my schedule this term and re-sent it to him. Because I didn’t give a shit anymore, I also asked him why, after working my ass off for our students, I should either take on more stress or lose income because he couldn’t be inconvenienced.
The department head wouldn’t give in, so I gave up the section. I figured I’d be even poorer but at least I’d have a little more time to myself. I could sit in my house and contemplate all the things I couldn’t afford to do with my free time.
Things got weird. The department head called me into his office to tell me that the students were “really disappointed” and that it would be a shame to give the section to another adjunct. It was like a mob movie: “It would be a shame if something happened to your family.”
Then students were stopping me in the halls to tell me how sad they were about missing out on the class and how could I do this to them and to the school, etc.
While it’s always nice to be appreciated, I suspected that the department head had put the kids up to it. And I realized that there was nothing I could do. He would never stop futzing with my schedule and never be up front about it.
By the way: at the same time I was trying to get them to pay me more money. I had learned that the adjunct rate hadn’t gone up in a decade.
I lost both fights, and I quit.
Got your own adjunct horror story? Write me at gordonhaber [at] g mail dot com!