to universities across the nation, Kansas universities
are resorting to hiring freezes in the face of budget
reductions. However, a dangerous attitude among some higher
education officials nationwide is that this is an opportunity
to change the way universities operate permanently.
By hiring more "adjuncts" to come to campus
just to teach a course and then leave, the university
gains "financial flexibility" to meet changes
in education funding. University presidents who are big
on being CEOs—and small on academics—are proposing the
hiring of temps as a permanent way to manage U.S. higher
education; hence "perma-temps."
With 80 percent of our education budget tied up in tenure-line
and classified positions, making these hire-a-profs a
permanent portion of the faculty seems like the business-like
thing to do.
Faced with a 20 percent state budget cut, the chancellor
of the Tennessee Board of Regents is proposing hiring
many more adjunct teachers. He is following the business
models of Florida and Colorado where outsourced instructors
have become a larger proportion of the faculty each year.
Temps are hired on a piece-work basis, often from $800
to $1500 per credit hour. They generally receive no health
care, no retirement benefits, no office or research facilities.
And they can find themselves out of a job the very next
semester after the economy goes south. Temps are cheap
and easily dispensable.
Florida, a state with volatile funding, has used this
model to meet the state’s roller-coaster commitment to
education. Colorado got into adjuncts after forcing all
community colleges and 4-year universities to have a uniform
2-year curriculum with common syllabi and tests—"seamless
articulation." Colorado universities, realizing their
unique programs did not start until the junior year, waste
few resources on staffing the first two years. As a result,
these states have cohorts of perma-temp teachers driving
from campus to campus, teaching heavier loads than a K-12
teacher, and living a precarious existence on near poverty
The damage to the academic system is great. The remaining
full time faculty have to take over all of the advising,
research, faculty governance, and curriculum oversight
load. Most critical of all, the university students’ academic
community is drastically diluted. The adjuncts, hectically
dashing around to do enough assembly-line teaching to
fend off hunger, have no time for researching their field.
And they are no longer part of providing or participating
in the seminars and other professional academic activities
that make them cutting-edge teachers.
According the Marc Bousquet of Santa Clara University,
less than one-third of U.S. university faculty are tenured
or tenure-track. And there is a trend downward to using
more adjunct faculty as well as graduate students to teach.
Kansas has remained a strong state in educational achievement.
We built strong universities so our best academic students
can work directly with our best academic professors.
While perma-temps may be a cheap way to staff a discount
store, they are a terrible way to staff a university.
John Richard Schrock trains biology teachers and lives