Friday, June 03, 2005


Back to the Land?

A new correspondent mentioned, in passing, that his college has employed relatively few adjuncts (even though the provost wanted to go more in that direction) because it’s rural. The available pool of adjuncts is thin, so the only way to cover classes reliably is with full-timers.

Gotta admit, I never thought of that. It makes perfect sense.

Some ed.d. student out there could do a nifty dissertation on the relationship between adjunct-ification and geography. Once you leave the urban and affluent suburban regions, does the adjunct trend dissipate?

The two schools I’ve deaned at have both been in affluent, educated suburbia, so there has been no shortage of willing and capable adjuncts. (Educated trailing spouses of high-earning execs make great adjuncts and lab assistants.) Certainly I’d expect no major difficulties finding adjuncts in major cities, either. But in cow country? Hmm.

I wonder if, ironically enough, the vast swath of Red America is actually less hospitable to this particular version of outsourcing than educated, densely populated Blue America. That would certainly help explain the preponderance of “Help! My Job is in the Middle of Nowhere!” blogs and letters in the Chronicle.

Thanks, new correspondent. I never thought of that. Suburban blindness strikes again…

That was definitely the case in my last job, at Rural Utopia. There were quite a few non-TT people - sabbatical replacements or lines that hadn't got hardened into TT lines yet - but it was very hard to get people to teach one or two classes a year - the classic freeway flyers - when you're 3 hours from the nearest major university hub. The admin congratulated itself on its enlightened attitude to non-TT people (they were all full time, with benefits, had their own offices, were eligible to participate in department/faculty meetings and to vote, etc. etc.), but it was really a matter of necessity b/c you wouldn't get anyone to take the jobs otherwise. (There quite a few trailing spouses, and they occasionally would teach one class or so, but they were more likely to end up teaching full time as well.) I think this also helps explain the articles you sometimes see from people who are trying to hire in rural areas who say: Crisis in the job market? We can't fill our positions!
What's also interesting -- and sort of poignant -- about this is that it's the urban adjuncts who are least likely to be able to manage on a typical adjunct salary. In rural areas, where the cost of living is significantly lower, it would be possible to live adequately on $25000 a year. In a major urban area, not without going into debt, especially if you've got dependents.

I'll be interested to see how this plays out, when we move to Red State rural.
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