THE ADJUNCT UNDERCLASS

Book Cover

A biting monograph—some of it research-laden, some of it personal—about
how universities are undermining both student learning and the lives of
temporary teachers.

Childress (The PhDictionary: A Glossary of Things You Don’t
Know (but Should) about Doctoral and Faculty Life
, 2016, etc.), the former
dean of research and assessment at Boston Architectural College who now runs an
“ethnography-based consulting firm,” is well-positioned to advance his forceful
arguments about academia. As he shows, on many campuses, a significant
minority—or even a majority—of courses are taught by faculty members known as
adjuncts, a polite term for underpaid, powerless part-timers who stand little
chance of attaining full-time status. At the extreme, some of the adjuncts
sleep in their cars and rely on food stamps, a situation that can occur even if
they have adjunct positions at multiple campuses. At the base of the author’s
anger is hypocrisy: While university administrators and their funders claim to
value the transformative power of higher education, they treat countless
part-time faculty like expendable employees. Though the book is clearly an
outlet for his own anger, Childress also seeks to inform families of
college-age children what they will encounter in classrooms. He shows why so
many campuses have chosen to reduce tenured faculty members and advises current
graduate students hoping to teach on whether it is still a wise career path. In
addition, the author addresses financial implications for families, especially
in a chapter titled, “If We Don’t Pay Teachers, Why Is My Tuition So High?” Of
course, some degree seekers still obtain permanent faculty status, and
Childress addresses how those fortunate professors complicate the adjunct mess.
As a holder of a doctorate that led, at least for a time, to campus insider
status, Childress harbors ideas for change, but he does not seem optimistic
that change is in the offing.

An informative screed on a depressing trend that continues
apace.

kirkusreviews.com

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