Archive for September, 2007

There’s plenty of rhetoric out there about how adjuncting is destroying academia–I’m not going to write one of those posts. As both grad student and adjunct, adjuncting is the thing that allows me to buy books and build a library rather than rent FROM the library, and I’m eternally thankful, really. It’s also the thing that keeps me tied into new technology (because I’m not an English teacher at that other school, I do Computer Information Systems, and I can’t afford to lag behind ever at all to keep up in that field). And honestly, as long as my administration is good, and it has been, then it’s not a bad situation. Our administration has got us travel funds and poor, but still present, benefits for part time instructors. A lot of the problems most adjuncts have are absent in my position, so you shouldn’t be here to listen to me complain about them.

 Instead, I’m going to write about a moral issue that I don’t think I should have been stuck in to the middle of, and why this sort of ethical issue is what *I* think is wrong with being an adjunct.

 This past summer I taught a few independent studies at my adjunct school for a couple of reasons: I knew the students, they weren’t going to graduate on time without taking those courses now, they’d been given bad advice during registration, and my super nice admin person asked politely (also, this money is going directly to my books for fall, but it’s mostly a secondary concern). Now, I’m teaching the course in the fall that these nice ladies will be in as well, should they pass the ind. study, and that’s where things got funky.

 One student entered the final with a few missing assignments but more or less ready to earn a B. Until, of course, she had a major case of test anxiety and failed the final. Because the class was ind. study, and because the final was online, I wasn’t there to help out and calm her down and she failed. I should also mention that this is a final given university-wide, I can’t just turn around and rewrite it and give the student another chance. There’s no second chances here, period.

 This knocked her flat into D territory, where she wouldn’t be allowed to take the next course till she retook this one.

Now, as the teacher of the next course in the series I realized that this student was the make or break point on my course running as a real course (and a hybrid at that) or being an independent study as well. There’s a severe difference in pay for instructors of hybrids vs. indepedent studies, with hybrids being some of the best paid courses the college offers.

 Naturally, this is a big problem. I did what I knew was right, that is gave the student the grade she deserved/earned/insert rhetorical word choice here, but I’m sure plenty of people wouldn’t. If this were my only job, if I were supporting a family, would I have made the same choice? (Well, yeah–it’s me.) But I know from talking to people I work with that that is not always the case.

I hated being put in that position anyway. Students in general know we need 7ish students to run a course, and she knows everybody else enrolled. Nothing (except luck) stopped this student from finding out that she had my number–literally. There has been the occassional case of a student leaning on a teacher for a higher grade so that that teacher will get paid more in the next term (at another school, and that’s why the teacher was now at my institution).

My lovely fiance asked what I thought the answer to all this was. He laughed at me when I answered “Tenure.” But well….

Working in a system where your student evaluations *might* determine the number of classes you are given next term, where your perfectly ethical actions *might* get you docked in pay by two grand, isn’t cool. I cringe when I hear fellow grad students say they wouldn’t mind working at a nice community college. They sound wistful and carefree, as if getting cut out of the responsibilities of more stereotypical academia might be a kind of paradise.

“You really might want to rethink that…” I say….


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