Outsourcing has even reached the ivory tower. The concept of an adjunct professor, a visiting professor who is only going to teach a few classes at an academic institution for a short period of time, has been around for more than a century. But adjunct professors were not that common until the 1980s, and were frequently highly qualified visiting professors or experts without academic affiliations. That changed as universities grew rapidly but did not expand the number of tenured faculty positions to match the growth. Instead, colleges and universities across the country began hiring lower-paid adjunct faculty. The trend has intensified in the 21st century, and as of 2013, more than 70 percent of all college instructors are part-time adjunct faculty.
The Tenure Track
Tenure-track faculty are full-time junior faculty in line to be granted tenure. Tenure means you cannot be dismissed except for crimes or morally reprehensible acts. Tenure is designed to guarantee that professors have academic freedom to conduct research and present the results and their opinions without fear of retribution. Critics argue that tenure also protects incompetent teachers and can leave academic institutions without the flexibility they need to hire faculty in rapidly growing disciplines.
Adjuncts Lack Protection of Tenure
Many critics of the current system point out that the lack of tenure leaves adjuncts vulnerable to retaliation. An article in "The New York Times" points out that professors outside the tenure track have been terminated after disagreements with university administrators over issues ranging from grading to writing controversial op eds in newspapers.
Heavy Adjunct Faculty Workload
Adjunct faculty typically have to carry a high workload to make ends meet. Some part-timers have to teach as many as seven classes a semester, sometimes at multiple schools, just to make ends meet. Another issue reported by adjuncts is the growing phenomenon of "back-to-school hiring." This is when teachers are hired a week or two or even just days before classes start. This often leads to glitches like the class being canceled at the last minute because of low enrollment. Adjuncts are also sometimes replaced -- with no recourse or appeal possible -- by a full-time professor who wants to teach a class.
Low Adjunct Faculty Pay
According to a survey by the American Association of University Professors, adjuncts teaching a typical four-class course load earn an average annual salary of under $25,000, usually with no benefits or job security. On the other hand, the average salary for full-time academics -- who rarely teach more than three classes a semester -- was $82,556 in 2012, according to another AAUP survey. Some adjuncts are paid as little as $1,000 to $1,200 per class.
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