Monday, May 12, 2014
Wise and worldly academic readers, did you ever hide your side teaching gig from your advisor?
Eventually I came to him and said "Next term I would like to teach a class at a local college. I can get all the notes and assignments from somebody who has already prepared them, so it won't take much time." He agreed, and he supported me on my eventual path to a TT job at a teaching-focused institution.
The other issue is that even if the advisor is approving of the non-R1 path, a lot of institutions have strict rules on moonlighting. If people in positions of responsibility don't know something, they don't have a responsibility to report....
All but one full time faculty member bio begins with a description of research interests and/or a list of research publications. Even if Bridgewater is a 'teaching' school, you're not going to get a tenure-track job (or tenure!) without a successful research agenda.
So grad advisors aren't wrong to tell you to focus on your research over teaching, since that's what you'll have to compete on to actually get considered for the (non-adjunct) teaching jobs.
I would presume that if this is a problem, then it would arise when showing the papers one shows when starting a new job (drivers license, birth certificate, etc.). Perhaps the moonlighting issues that arose concerned fields in which most graduate students are domestic, rather than international?
They want someone who can be ALL OF THOSE. And 28 and fresh out of grad school, too, so they can offer a cheap first salary.
For what I've actually done, and for the impact I've been able to have in the classroom and in advising (hey, advising, remember that?), I was incredibly fortunate to work in a doctoral lab that was consistently not funded and where the grants made it back consistently excellent but just missing the funding cut. So I had to work the TA's to earn my keep, and I built some AMAZING relationships along that path.
Point-blank: that PI wouldn't be allowed to take students today because of the failure of funding (even though we got papers out and were productive on the proverbial shoestring), and I would be expected to be in a lab where the funds were flowing, and those pressures to avoid all the TA gigs which were every bit as important a part of my graduate education as generating scholarship would have been something I wouldn't have been able to avoid.
So: we want more versatile and more broadly productive faculty members, even as we don't provide them the capacity to become more versatile and we demand deep specialization.
The system is at cross purposes.
All of the rest of us who actually got tenure-track jobs washed out of academe for one reason or another—we failed to get tenure, we lost our teaching jobs due to financial exigencies, or we just got tired of the academic rat race altogether and bailed. Some of us went to government labs, others went into industrial R&D, and a couple of us even went into academic administration. One even became a venture capitalist.
In retrospect, the student who took a job at a strictly teaching academic institution probably had made the best career choice of all of us.
As CCPhysicist says (I read his postings on physics jobs), the chances of a new physics PhD getting a tenure-track job at an R1 university are only about 1 in 20. So a fresh physics PhD needs to get some sort of teaching experience along the way, because a job at a teaching-oriented institution is probably the only sort of full-time academic job that they will be able to find. This may be an emotional letdown for someone who really aspires to do cutting-edge research, but a full-time teaching gig at a school with a status considerably less than that of Harvard, Yale, or Princeton sure beats freeway-flying for the rest of your life.
A physics PhD fresh out of graduate school can probably get their necessary teaching experience by taking part-time gigs at local CCs or 4-year colleges. This experience will look good on your CV while you chase around for that elusive full-time teaching gig. At least, this will tell you if college teaching is your bag.
Yet I can't teach those same 100-level CC math classes as a "successful" M.Ed. with years of high school math experience teaching, say, logarithms to the reluctant and confused as I have not flailed my way through a graduate course in topology, just gotten A's in multiple graduate courses in how to teach math.
This is a an awesome system.
But I suspect grad students (and even full-time faculty, if they have little incentive to protect time for research) are always going to moonlight. You haven't even mentioned the number of people teaching (or serving as resource people, or whatever it's called; gigs that don't involve being instructor of record may actually be favored, since they leave fewer traces) for online for-profit entities while also holding down full- or part-time jobs in more traditional academic sectors.
"But isn't the lesson that the 'jobs that actually exist' are the adjunct jobs that these grad students are already filling?"
The lesson is that most faculty jobs you have a chance to get will be a step or two lower on the academic pyramid than where you earned your degree, and those universities and colleges actually care about teaching performance.
They always have, to some extent, but that concern has grown in recent years because of the increased emphasis on student retention and graduation and success after graduation (actually getting a job based on your learning outcomes). It has also grown because it is easier to find someone with "all of the above" skills.
"Apparently research universities are already training people that are sufficiently qualified to teach your students..."
Minimally qualified. One issue with the "why don't you hire your own adjuncts" question that becomes evident after sitting on some hiring committees is that many adjuncts are adequate enough to rehire on a semester-by-semester basis but few are optimal.
"...qualified to teach your students - you just aren't willing to offer those teachers benefits, a living wage, or job security."
No, we are not financially able to have more than half of our class sections taught by tenured or tenure-track faculty, even young ones at the low end of the pay scale. Read the board minutes of your favorite school, paying careful attention to the budget lines and income lines.
There are full-time jobs out there. My CC hired more than you might imagine this year, as we have for the last several years. (But not forever, since we now have a professoriate that is as young as it must have been in the 60s and 70s.) Many job candidates are unaware that these jobs even exist, let alone what we want in a candidate.
Which is it - you can't afford to staff your classes with full time teachers, or the teachers you have aren't worthy of full time pay?
If it's the former, then training people to be better community college teachers isn't going to do anything to open up more teaching jobs.
If it's the latter, why aren't you doing a better job training and supporting your teachers once you have them?
Can you read? Then read what I wrote one more time AFTER you go read the detailed annual budget of the schools you are concerned about. If you read ours, you would discover (as I wrote) that we can barely afford the full-time faculty we have, but we still offer professional development opportunities to our adjuncts for free (and in some cases for pay). You clearly have no clue how tight the budgets are at a Community College.
Similarly, if you wonder whether faculty at a lower-tier state school have to do teaching as well as research to earn tenure, obtain a copy of the tenure requirements at the school (it wasn't searchable on the web) and read it. Or ask them. It usually follows a sliding scale from a 5-5 (or higher) load to a 1-1 (or lower) load, but there are anomalies.
IMHO, the hardest jobs out there are at lower tier colleges that have a teaching load like a CC and still require research for tenure because they have a fantasy of becoming an R1.
Yes, I can read quite well. But I fail to see how anything you said is actually responsive to my comments.
I made two central claims:
1) That grad students (and PhDs) from research universities are already deemed qualified to teach students at Bridgewater State and community colleges.
2) That, though these schools are perfectly willing to hire these students (and PhDs) as adjuncts, they are not willing to hire them for permanent positions.
You responded to each of these in turn, in effect offering two competing explanations of why these adjuncts aren't hired to full time positions:
(R-1) They are "minimally qualified," in a way that makes them good enough to be rehired each semester, but not good enough to be hired for a full time position.
(R-2) You can't afford to hire those people into full time positions anyway.
But neither of these deny either 1) The judgment of these schools that Research PhDs are good enough to teach their students (even if they could be better)
2) That "the jobs that actually exist" at these schools will continue to be primarily low-paid, insecure, no-benefits adjunct positions. Indeed you note that even your school's recent hiring boom is only temporary.
Pointing to the financial reasons WHY you won't hire more full time people doesn't make more full time jobs available. And neither will training more Ivy League PhDs to be better teachers.
I don't know about your school - maybe you're doing all you can. But I personally know over half a dozen Ivy League PhDs and ABDs who teach or have taught as adjuncts at Bridgewater State, with no hope a permanent gig. So I find it especially galling to see Dean Krebs leading an initiative to 'start' training students for these mythical jobs.
But you should seriously think about what you're saying about your teachers here when you relegate the to the status of 'minimally qualified.' Is that something you'd say to them? Is that something you'd admit to your students? How can someone be good enough to put in front of students year after year but not worthy of job security or a decent wage? And why should anyone want to train to work at an institution that (whether through choice or necessity) has normalized such teaching and employment practices?
The jobs that EXIST include full-time tenure-track faculty positions. I know this because my college hired in several departments this year. If I told you how many tenure-track positions we filled in the last 5 years, I suspect your head would explode.
The best qualified candidates for those jobs would need the kind of teaching background that was the subject of the discussion described in the first paragraph of Dean Dad's column.
Its relevance is that your second assertion is logically unconnected to your first as a result of the distinction between minimally qualified and best qualified. In the case of the university department you keep returning to, it could be as simple as the lack of a book contract as an indicator of scholarship suitable to attract and advise MA candidates.
On the other hand, your (R-2) version of my argument again totally misrepresents what I said to the point where I question your close reading of my argument. I did not say you can't afford to hire any full time faculty, which is patently absurd, I said you cannot afford to replace all adjunct positions with tenure-track faculty.
I'll repeat: At my college, almost HALF of all sections are taught by full-time tenure-track faculty and our budget barely supports our leadership's commitment to that goal.
It is patently false to assert that colleges do not hire SOME of their adjuncts into permanent positions. I know many counterexamples that show your second claim to be incorrect. And it is preposterous to assume that a college could hire every one of their adjuncts into a full time job. READ THEIR BUDGET!
And if they did manage to have a fully full-time faculty, what do you think happens in 2009 when the budget gets cut by many millions of dollars?
Now I agree that it is entirely plausible that ONE small department at ONE regional university does not ever hire its own adjuncts, but that shouldn't surprise you if you understood the basics of job dynamics. They expect to hire someone else's very best adjunct while someone else hires their best one. Happens all the time in my world.
By the way, the odds that a particular college or university would find its own adjunct suitable for a tenure track job decreases to close to zero as you go from the CC level to the top R1 level, and that assumes a budget line exists. If you don't understand this, and its implications for a job search, you need a better mentor.
First, let me thank you for continuing to engage with me in this conversation. I actually think there's less disagreement between us on the factual matters here than you think. I hope you don't mind if, in the spirit of charity and (moderate) brevity, I ignore the comments that assume I'm simply stupid or desperately naive.
I see now that the main issue here is due to a scope ambiguity in my earlier claims that came from trying to be pithy and provocative at the cost of precision.
Of course you're right that SOME full time hiring takes places at community colleges and teaching schools. (But of course there are also SOME R1 and SOME jobs at elite liberal arts colleges). And I never meant to deny that SOME contingent faculty are eventually hired into permanent positions. Nor do I mean to single out community colleges as especially problematic in this regard. As you say - anyone who thinks that adjuncting anywhere is a reliable path to a permanent job has been poorly advised.
But it follows (based on your own claim that "almost HALF of all sections are taught by full-time tenure-track faculty")that THE MAJORITY of sections are taught by contingent faculty. And if, as is often the case, the average full-time faculty member teaches more sections than the average contingent faculty member, it follows that A MAJORITY OF THE JOBS (perhaps a substantial majority) at these institutions are the kind of poorly compensated contingent work that grad students from research programs are already routinely hired for.
And I bet you and your administration have to fight hard to keep the percentage of classes taught by full-time faculty that high. There are many other institutions that are either less committed to that goal or less successful with it. If so, that's further support for my claim that THE MAJORITY of jobs at 'teaching schools' are the sort of contingent labor these grad students are already doing.
The budgetary reasons WHY these institutions rely so heavily on adjunct labor are not germane to the question of whether or not those are the majority of jobs available.
Finally, my own knowledge is mainly about jobs in the humanities. But I didn't just select a random department at some random school. I singled out a department that teaches a required course for all incoming students at THE VERY SAME UNIVERSITY that is leading this initiative.
In any case, I'm happy to continue this conversation here indefinitely, but I'm not sure anyone but you and I are listening. If you'd prefer to move to another venue, you can find my e-mail address on my website. (www.firstnamelastname.com)
Since you ask, more than 75% of our humanities classes are taught by full-time faculty, and even a majority of our college-level math classes are taught by full-time faculty.
Like I said, I think your head might explode if you knew how many faculty positions we filled in the last 5+ years. But at least half of the applicants don't make it past the best/minimal qualification cut because of weaknesses that this program in the NE would helf fix.
Finally, if you think budgets are irrelevant to this question, you need to learn some basic arithmetic or read Dean Dad's book or his many blog articles on "Baumol's cost disease". No one can hire you without the money to meet payroll, and you would not want a full-time teaching+research job at the salary and benefits you would be offered if the current budget was spread across a 100% full-time faculty. Do the arithmetic. You also might not want it if most of those full-time jobs were one-year (or even one-semester) renewable contracts because of enrollment uncertainties.
Here's why your remarks about budgets are irrelevant to my argument:
"X% of our jobs are adjunct jobs as a result of budgetary necessities" logically entails "X% of our jobs are adjunct jobs."
My central claim is that the high percentage of adjunct jobs at 'teaching schools' makes it very misleading to claim that those schools are 'where the jobs are.'
Whether or not these schools have good reasons to have so many adjunct jobs is utterly immaterial to the question of how many and what kinds of jobs there are. If you'd like me to give you a Socratic interrogation on the moral bankruptcy of your strategy for defending the present system, I'd be happy to open that up as a second line of conversation. (Hint: What kinds of budgetary considerations do you suppose your part-time colleagues face with regard to food, clothing, transportation, housing, health care, child care, and retirement savings?)
But your most recent remarks are germane - I can't yet tell from those numbers whether the majority of your instructional staff for credit baring classes are full time or not. Perhaps you can tell me.
So go ahead, blow my mind. How many full time hires has your institution done in the last five years? And how does that compare to your adjunct hiring in the same period? And how representative is that of community colleges or, more broadly, the 'teaching schools' covered by this initiative?
Finally, on the qualification issue: It's an established fact that research ABDs and PhDs are already teaching as adjuncts at these schools. And it's an established fact that the work they do is precisely "teaching students," especially (though not only) freshmen in required courses. There are really only four possible positions:
(1) The work that adjuncts do is not especially specialized or important. In this case, your adjuncts may be sufficiently qualified and adequately paid for the work they do, even though they're not well-trained enough for your full-time positions.
(2) Your adjuncts are sufficiently qualified but inadequately paid for the important and/or specialized work they do. (And they may or may not also be sufficiently qualified for your full-time positions).
(3) Your adjuncts are not adequately qualified for the important/specialized job that they do, but they are adequately paid for their inadequate work.
(4) Your adjuncts are neither adequately qualified nor adequately paid for the important/specialized job that they do.
So which is it? I say it's scenario (2), but no amount of job training is going to fix that. If it's (3) or (4), then job training can only bring us to scenario(2).
So job training only makes sense as a solution to scenario (1), and then only if the additional skills needed to qualify for the full-time jobs are teaching related. But it's really implausible that any teaching skills are either as difficult or as important to student retention as teaching the kind of required freshman gen-ed classes that adjuncts are typically hired for.
That is NOT the claim being made by Dean Dad Reed. His claim is that teaching intensive jobs are "jobs that actually exist". That claim is not misleading. It is based on facts such as ones in the article series I linked to in a related thread.
In my field, physics, data clearly show that the majority of faculty jobs are at teaching institutions. (The table is about halfway down that rather long article.) Even though there are 50% more faculty at PhD granting institutions than at BS and MS granting institutions, there are 50% more job openings at the latter. About 2/3 of the academic openings are at teaching intensive schools, jobs that the typical R1 graduate program pretty much ignores to the peril of their graduates.
Those schools ARE where job openings exist. There is a lot of competition for those jobs, and being "minimally qualified" will not get you a second look, let alone an interview.
BTW, in physics there is a pretty good reason for PhD programs to ignore teaching jobs: 2/3 of the PhD grads will get jobs outside of academia and those jobs pay MUCH better than teaching jobs. However, some subfields of physics do not lead into industry and it is sad that they do not prepare their students very well for jobs that actually exist. There are no excuses at all in fields where the vast majority of openings are in academia.
(Those data are now a decade old, but we have local evidence that the spike in PhD production in recent years has made the problem worse than depicted in those 2003 data from the AIP.)
You will have to make do with national data because a precise description of the size of our faculty and the number of recent hires would identify my institution.
As for your other remarks, they have already been answered. If you don't understand what "more than 75% of humanities classes" means, I can't help you. Ditto for the distinction between minimally qualified for part-time work and optimally qualified for a tenure-track position. (There is also a middle ground of one-year renewable positions where the Dean does not have to worry whether the person will be likely to earn tenure and do good work for 25 years after getting tenure.) And please don't overlook the simple matter of wages being set by supply and demand. I happen to believe that our adjuncts are (on the whole) underpaid, but there is at present no shortage of minimally qualified applicants and no money to pay anyone (tenured or adjunct) more than they currently earn.
If you disagree, please calculate the faculty pay at Bridgewater if all of the classes were taught by full-time faculty and tell us if you would take that job for the rest of your career.
There is no one-size-fits-all description of adjuncts across the spectrum of higher ed, or even at a single college. Your list of 4 categories does not even cover all of the possibilites at my college!
What's more, although teaching is an important part of doing these jobs, to actually get them, research competitiveness is often more important. For some explanations of why that is, see this post:
Suppose that's true for only half of the MS/BS granting institutions. Then, using the physics numbers from your link, over 60% of full-time openings are for jobs in which research is likely to play a major role in standing out in a crowded field of applicants.
Incidentally, those numbers show that only 16% of full-time job openings are at community colleges, compared to almost 40% at PhD granting institutions. So even on those numbers, it would be foolish to prioritize the credentials needed for a community college over those needed for a research university.
This is all the more true when combined with the fact that research credentials will be as (if not more) important for many of the jobs in the middle 44%.
But it's actually worse than that for your argument, because that post is from 2007, so the numbers are presumably based on hiring trends in 2005-6 or earlier.
But as more recent studies from the AIP note:
"The proportion of physics PhDs who accepted postdoctoral positions rose to over 60% for the classes of 2009 and 2010. Relatively fewer PhDs accepted potentially permanent positions, dropping below 30% and tempering the short upward trend from 2004 - 2008."
Even in 2007 your linked post notes:
"Universities are shifting resources from permanent positions to temporary ones. ... The economic reason is that they are cheaper, particularly when we consider part-time faculty at the CC level."
So, unless one of us wants to redo the calculations, there's no reason to think the hiring distribution from before 2007 are representative of current hiring trends.
"More than 75% of humanities classes" does not mean "More than 75% of humanities faculty." It also doesn't mean "more than 75% of recent faculty hiring."
The issue at hand isn't class coverage, it's job availability.
Whatever the amount of faculty pay would be if everyone was full-time, it's greater than what your adjuncts are living on now. If the former number is not enough to pay qualified professional teachers, neither is the latter.
My physics data were for the period that ended in 2004. Please learn to read. I'm not surprised that there was an anomaly that pushed the academic rate above 30% for a short period (I have seen a lot of retirements), but the physics market has always been around the 1/3 point except when 90% were getting academic jobs.
It is completely irrelevant whether the remaining humanities classes are taught by a large number of people teaching one class each or a smaller number with a higher load. It only matters what fraction of students are in a class with a tenured or tenure-track professor.
You don't seem to understand that if colleges taught all classes with full-time instructors or professors, the number of totally unemployed adjuncts might soar.
But my claim, which you continue to ignore, is that while teaching is an important part of job performance, for the majority of jobs, research competitiveness is more important for actually getting a job - even at 'teaching schools.' So long as that continues to be the case, training people to be competitive in getting the jobs that there are will rightly focus on research.
Yes, I see the data was from 2004; I didn't read the footnotes the first time. Is that really a more relevant topic of conversation than the fact that you're relying on pre-2008 data to make a point about present hiring trends?
1. The percentage of sections taught by tenure-line faculty, which you reported, is not the same as the percentage of students who are taught by tenure-track faculty, which you claim is important.
2. The teaching load - and professional status and financial stability - of the faculty are tremendously important to the ability of faculty to contribute to student learning.
3. This started a discussion about where the jobs are and what kind of jobs those are. The percentage of students taught by full-time faculty is only indirectly relevant to that.
Yes, even if we convert all part-time teaching into full-time jobs, there won't be enough jobs for all the adjuncts. That's unfortunate, and it's unfortunate that we don't have a better safety net for the unemployed. But it would be a much more honest and humane system than the current two-tier system which grinds people down and exploits their hope, enthusiasm, and eventual desperation.
Why are you so invested in defending current practices? Why not admit, as Dr. Reed does in his most recent post, that the current state of higher ed employment is deeply structurally flawed? Then you could join forces with your adjuncts and their defenders to demand public reinvestment in higher education. And you could brag about the high percentage of classes you manage to staff with full-time instructors, even while acknowledging that it's not enough, and challenging other institutions to follow your lead.
Your new item 2 appears to be a debating diversion because it has already been addressed. You already conceded item 3 when you acknowledged that a majority of jobs are at predominantly teaching institutions. And you now concede that full employment of every adjunct out there is impossible, although you still seem unaware of the basic fact that the number of students and sections fluctuates to a degree that a tier of part-time adjunct faculty cannot be avoided.
So, having agreed that what I have been writing is based on fact, you now introduce a new "claim" that you are the world's expert on the criteria used by CC and BS granting institutions (where no graduate courses are taught and research is of value only if it can be done by undergraduates) as well as MS institutions. Sorry, but my experience and that of friends and colleagues at such schools runs exactly counter to your advice.
Why are you fighting against an initiative that would give many currently clueless new PhD grads a fighting shot at the significant number of full-time tenure-track jobs that actually exist? They can already do research!
BTW, I don't have to "admit" that the structure of higher ed is deeply flawed, I know it is deeply flawed and have documented some of those flaws. And I certainly do not defend the funding decisions in my state and my home state, some by legislators and others by those at universities (both faculty and the "managerial class") feeding the arms race that relies on adjunct labor to generate tuition that supports research. Those flaws are irrelevant to the reality faced by people looking for jobs.
But unless this initiative is going to increase the number of full-time teaching jobs available, all that a training program can do is increase the competitiveness for those positions and increase the qualifications of those who end up in underpaid adjunct positions. I can see why that is good from the standpoint of the employers, but I don't see how it's good from the standpoint of job seekers in general. Even those who win out will have to work harder for the same rewards.
I know almost nothing about your school, because you won't tell me. But my point was simply about the different references of different terms. sections is not the same as a measure of students. Unless all sections are of the same size, or unless the average section size is the same for tenure-track and adjunct faculty, the proportion of sections taught by each group will not match the proportion of students taught by each group.
You're right, this is really just a side issue. But when you go out of your way to misinterpret what I say, instead of trying to imagine what I might have meant if I were a moderately intelligent person, it does make the pedantic debater in me want to point out your failure to carefully read your very own words.
"Sorry, but my experience and that of friends and colleagues at such schools runs exactly counter to your advice. "
Yes, and my experience and that of my friends and colleagues runs counter to your advice. Indeed, the people I know who are stuck teachings as adjuncts at Bridgewater State include people who went out of their way to get teaching experience and further educate themselves as teachers. And it has not served them well on the (non-adjunct) job market.
There are a number of possibilities for this mismatch of experience, but here are a few:
1. Your experience, and that of many of your friends and colleagues, in in physics or STEM fields. Mine is in the humanities. Maybe it's different in these very different fields.
2. Much the experience that you're relying on is from pre-2008, at which point the jobs drastically decreased, dramatically increasing the competitiveness for jobs and further accelerating trends
3. Much of your experience and that of many of your friends and colleagues is heavily weighted toward community colleges and not at the (by your own 2004 physics numbers) over 80% of jobs at very different institutions.
4. I'm complete moron, desperately in need of your advice to spell out advice that has been obvious to anyone who cared to look for more than a decade.
Look, it's pretty clear that we've reached the limits of productive exchange in this forum. I actually think we agree on a lot of the most important issues, and we might both benefit from learning from each other's different experiences. If you'd like to try to have such a conversation, I'd be happy to start fresh via e-mail. But otherwise, I'll invite you have the last word.