I want to talk about something a bit different, right now. Different than my usual fare, that is. As a part-time college student, working toward and hoping to attain a professorial position in the future, I am appalled to find over the years that some of my best teachers, some of my greatest professors were piecing together bits of positions at various colleges and universities to create a better than full-time position in many parts. These teachers work long hours but have no health care, no benefits of any kind, no chance at tenure.
At the same time I have seen heads of departments, fully-tenured professors, who were far worse teachers than their graduate teaching assistants, and far, far worse than the part-timers. It is offensive to me that colleges, with their ever-rising tuition, cut teachers and professors positions to the bone, in what is surely an abusive process.
I have read of professors who live in shelters, or have to move in with family, who lose their homes and are stretched financially as badly as any fast-food worker. Meanwhile we pay actors and musicians obscene amounts of money, athletes, the same, CEOs and administrators are often making 300 times the average wage of the people who work for them, and professors, those teaching and guiding and attempting to light the spark in the brains of the rest of us are struggling with food stamps, being treated as if their calling were somehow an avocation to which they should count themselves blessed to partake.
I have to wonder why the boards at these institutions don’t worry that the quality of education might be harmed while a professor is struggling to keep a roof over their heads, when they are teaching and training people who disrespect them, in institutions that also disrespect them. It’s offensive.
I expect that when I spend $30,000, $50,000, $75,000 or more for my education that the people who are teaching me are able to be paid living wages, that they would not have to worry about medical insurance, that they would have a pension in their future. I am wounded to learn that my professors may be struggling to feed their families or that the best of the best may never reach tenure-track.
It is discouraging, but then again, I am quite willing to teach overseas. In fact, I would truly love to do so. But in the meantime, aren’t you as horrified as I am to find that adjunct (that is part-time, not staff, non-tenure track) professors have grown to four times the number they were a generation ago? That tenured-track is going away? That we value the teaching profession so little, while valuing education so highly? How can this be? This is a travesty and unutterably sad.