I have been following the articles about the situation of adjunct professors, and am amazed, as I assume most people are, about the extremely low compensation that these individuals receive.
Although this is a nationwide trend, it unfortunately appears to be even more pronounced at Miami University.
There are frequent articles from many sources about the ever increasing cost of a college education. The most frequent reason often cited is the trend to ever more opulent facilities that all universities feel they need to build to be competitive with other schools.
Another, less often cited reason, is the rapid growth of middle level and upper level management.
Almost all schools have greatly added assistant dean, associate dean and other administrative positions in recent years. Of course each position demands administrative support and further staff.
If the trend to hire adjunct professors as opposed to tenure track instructors is an attempt at cost management, it is an extremely short sighted one.
What will a university look like in the future if the majority of the teaching staff is temporary and poorly paid?
Even the most well educated and dedicated individual can’t be expected to perform well while being paid only a subsistence level wage.
Tenure track or tenured professors are the core of a university and contribute to the sense of loyalty and tradition that keeps a school vital.
The classroom, where the professor and his or her students meet is ultimately where the learning occurs, and should be recognized as the most important element of any university. Currently our higher education system in the U.S. enjoys an enviable reputation throughout the world, and many come here because of that. However, that is not guaranteed to last if the instruction is perceived as second class. The adjunct professors have a legitimate complaint. Is it moral to pay someone less than a living wage just because you can.
Associate Professor (Ret.) Tufts University