Rob Jenkins of the Chronicle of Higher Education seems to think so.

Straight Talk About ‘Adjunctification’

It’s unclear precisely when the term “adjunctification” was borne. It’s mentioned as far back as 2000 in articles about the job market in the humanities. Linda Collins used the phrase in a speech in 2002 when she was president of the California Community Colleges’ Academic Senate. Since then, the condition she so succinctly described—academe’s overreliance on adjunct faculty members, especially at two-year colleges—has only gotten worse. More than half of all U.S. faculty members now hold part-time, contingent appointments.

That situation and what to do about it have become frequent topics of conversation in The Chronicle and elsewhere. Having followed the discussion closely, and having dealt directly with part-time faculty members for many years as a former department chair and academic dean (not to mention being a former part-timer myself), I’ve concluded that there is no single solution. Perhaps we can take steps to alleviate it over time, but only if we come to fully comprehend its various nuances.

Unfortunately, much of the rhetoric surrounding the hiring of contingent faculty members remains emotionally charged, which is understandable, perhaps, but not particularly helpful. Bitterness and frustration, however justifiable, lead to impractical demands, unrealistic expectations, and, in some cases, further inequities. As a counterpoint, I’d like to offer some dispassionate observations based on my 30 years of experience in higher education:

Yes, an overreliance on part-time instructors harms the academic enterprise. It’s no surprise that many studies have concluded as much, and I’ve seen the damage firsthand.