The Collision of Two Americas

Over the last few years, I have sat on a wide range of hiring committees, filling vacant full time faculty spots.  And in most cases, the competition has been intense, brutal–upwards of two hundred applicants for a single position.

Many of us have worked our way through the long torturous route of grad school, part time jobs, generic tuna, and adjuncting.  Many of my peers have lived on incomes that lower the poverty line while we build for a full time position.

The atmosphere in the committees is disconcerting.  Somehow, we have come to see ourselves as the rule, not the exception.  It is not a simple matter of empathy.  It is a loss of perspective.  Faculty look for reasons to distance themselves from the adjuncts that fill our classrooms.

Granted.  Not all adjuncts are hardworking.  Not all adjuncts are good instructors.   Not all adjuncts are well-versed in their disciplines.  The same holds true for full time, though.

Somewhere in our tenure as full time faculty, we have come to see ourselves as the rule: work hard and you will get a full time job.  And we view the ‘exceptions’ as proof of our hard work, our expertise, and our commitment. That is not the case.  The jobs are not there.

As a chair, I have watched the collision described by Anad Giridharadas. Those I have witnessed are not as dramatic, as brutal, but they are as real.

Anand Giridharadas’s TED Talk is a disturbing one.  His challenge resonates.  Don’t let the brutality and drama distract you.

One thought on “The Collision of Two Americas”

  1. Good points, Dr. Z. It is unfortunate. I know some colleagues in this position. Part time faculty members that have toiled for 11, 17, and 22 years respectively. While I am not particularly close to any of them, I can recognize the incredible job they do as adjuncts. All three have tried for years to get FT gigs to no avail. Much of it is due to the perception that some FT faculty have of adjuncts. I think this could be the theme song for the adjuncts.

    The Suburban Professor~ A sociology and psychology professor who has committed to teaching his classes using aliens, zombies, comic book heroes, and technology. All of this helps with his long term immersive study of geek culture. He also recently stole a line from Tony Stark: “I’m not in charge…I just design everything and make everyone look cool.” And, as he is fond of letting everyone know: “I like pie.”


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