I finally received my letter of appointment for teaching in the fall (with about 3 weeks to spare, huzzah!) and it appears that I’m only teaching one class in the fall. This means that my income for the semester is going to be less than half of what I was bringing home as a grad student (and Flying Spaghetti Monster knows that isn’t much). Combine this with my impending student loan payments, and you have one cranky Dr. Freckles (and even crankier Mr. Dr. Freckles). Maybe it’s just self-serving rage, but I can’t help but be appalled at the frequency with which universities employ people with advanced degrees for almost no pay and absolutely no job security or support. If parents ever got wind of the fact that their precious darlings were being taught by the modern academic equivalents of sweatshop labor, they’d be pissed, particularly in light of skyrocketing tuition. I can hear them asking, “So what are we paying for, exactly?” I can’t say that I’d blame them.
Never mind the graduate classes being taught by adjuncts (like me). I’m grateful to have anything at this point, but it does trouble me that even at the graduate level, one can’t be guaranteed of a tenured or permanent faculty teaching a class. This does untold amounts of damage to students as they go through their programs and struggle to find suitable mentors. If there are limited numbers of permanent faculty, and a high rate of turnover, what are students supposed to do when it comes time to get advice or letters of recommendation? If relationships are important for retention and development of undergrads, they’re doubly important at the graduate level. One of the best things about my time in grad school was developing professional and friendly relationships with faculty, because it helped me to expand my research horizons and to be socialized into academia. I worry that as adjuncts become more common at all levels, students will miss out on these opportunities.
Eh, enough ranting from me. In happier news, I finally learned to knit. My 14-year-old piano student is quite the crafty one, and she offered to teach me a while back, but our schedules never seemed to work out. After this week’s lesson, I stayed later, and she taught me. I’ve knitted about 3 feet of what will eventually become a scarf. There are definitely some uneven patches, but overall, it looks good! Another friend is going to teach me to make hats soon, and I’ll be in business. Quasi-unemployment has its perks, for sure.