by Joseph Fruscione
George Washington University
I’ve been an adjunct for 13 years and counting, and as another semester is winding down I find myself wondering about two related things:
1) Despite experience, service, and research productivity, is the long-time adjunct akin to an old car–i.e., reliable but not sexy compared to the new models? How can we express ourselves on our CVs, cover letters, and overall professional engagement to make headway in such a poor job market?
I have a PhD in English and have been out of graduate school since 2005 but teaching since 1999, so I’m no longer ‘fresh’ in certain committees’ eyes. I’ve known of several
advertised Assistant Professorship positions that prefer a younger candidate fresh out of a PhD program. (Some, a little awkwardly, recently spelled out such preferences in the job ad itself.)
2) I stress to my students early that I’m fair but challenging, and that I think constructive challenge is the cornerstone of a university education–i.e., writing different kinds of papers, writing and researching in new ways, unlearning old methods, and/or understanding that working hard for a B+ should trump an easy A.
Some students embrace this challenge, but I worry about the others who resist it and turn any frustration/resentment into a poor–if also unfair–course evaluation. I haven’t been directly affected by this, but I worry sometimes that fickle, grade-obsessed undergraduates might not see the big educational picture.
Given our contingent status, where is the balance between challenging undergraduates appropriately but trying to ensure fair evaluations (…and a realistic chance for a FT job)? Has anyone been directly affected by a similar issue?
I suppose this is more of discussion-starter than informative post or anecdote, but I’ve been wondering about these issues often this year. I’m lucky to be surrounded by supportive, empathetic FT faculty, but there’s simply a point where some might not ‘feel’ these issues in the same ways.