My first hint that my adjunct office buddy had departed came the week before fall semester when he wasn’t at the back-to-school faculty conference. We were among the handful of adjuncts who were regulars at these things—eager to gain some teaching tips and inspiration while enjoying some camaraderie with other folks on campus.
By the end of the first week of classes, it was clear he wasn’t around. I missed him. We’d exchanged ideas about our teaching, laughed a lot, and talked about our lives. He was generous and thoughtful, even designing the flyer for my book signing and assisting me with my Power Point for my adjunct conference keynote presentation this past spring.
As an older adjunct who was also a novelist, I wasn’t looking for a fulltime gig, but I knew Jeff was eager to join the ranks of the university’s fulltimers. And he’d more than shown his investment in the campus, offering workshops to fellow faculty, joining a faculty learning community, and dedicating great chunks of time to his class preparation.
But after a few years, it became clear that no fulltime job was forthcoming. And when I called Jeff, he told me financial realities had finally caught up with him. In October, he’ll begin a fulltime job at a call center for a mega health care company in our area.
I know he’ll do a fine job, but he is incredibly over-qualified and over-educated for the position. At heart, he’s an educator and a lifelong learner. But as long as universities depend upon an ever growing pool of poorly paid adjuncts to cover their classes, there will continue to be folks like Jeff who simply can’t afford to stick around. Dedication doesn’t pay the bills.
For the foreseeable feature, “Adjunctville” will be a revolving door, one piece of the larger economic reality in our country. What the low unemployment rate doesn’t capture is the millions of Americans who’ve been unable to find fulltime work in their chosen fields and have taken jobs for which they’re over-qualified.
I don’t know about you, but this makes me feel really sad. I’d love to know your thoughts on this!