When I asked a former professor of mine about a future in higher education, she replied: “There isn’t one. It’s hard to hear, but anyone who tells you there are opportunities in higher education is either lying to you or sugarcoating the situation.”
Professor exploitation has long been a problem, but it recently reached a peak in prevalence and severity. Adjuncts, or part-time professors, are teaching at two, three, four different colleges at once, commuting for hours between cities, and in some cases, facing the prospect of homelessness if their contracts are not renewed the following year. Faculty members here at Ithaca College have confessed that their tenure approval was more a matter of timing and luck than skill or qualifications. So distressing is the adjunct crisis that tenured professors have actually written to the provost and asked to postpone their pay raise so their colleagues might receive a living wage. How bad does a situation have to be in a capitalistic society for people to actually turn down money?
This is education we’re talking about, not the fast-food industry, which faces strikingly similar problems. Something is fundamentally wrong with a society that devalues teaching because it consequently devalues the future. These corporate policies should not be a part of the college experience — not for professors, not for students. As a part-time professor from Burlington College said at a unionization meeting Wednesday night, “The Board of Trustees is made up of people; people have phone numbers.” Let’s get dialing.
Steven Fowler, senior writing major