Face Palm

I saw this story from Southern Illinois University Carbondale this morning, about recruiting “volunteers” to adjunct for them.

Um, whut?

“Qualified alumni would not teach entire courses, but might deliver an individual lecture, lead a seminar discussion, mentor students or contribute to thesis committees.” Um. Again, what?

Who is Herding These Adjuncts?

Not only am I still trying to wrap my brain around¬†asking academics with advanced degrees to step in for FREE, I’m also now struggling to figure out how this would work on a practical level. If you have one volunteer adjunct teaching one lecture, another teaching a different lecture, and so on,who is ensuring that the students are getting any continuity in their instruction, and who is coordinating all of this?

It’s bad enough that students come out of chaining together their major-required and elective courses unclear about what overall competencies, unique disciplinary knowledge and skill sets they have built. And that’s when everything is planned out by curriculum developers, deans, and tenure-track faculty! So what is going to be the impact on students coming out the other side of this proposed plan?

Adjuncts are Desperate for Experience

There also seems to be some implication from the story, too, that some alumna are interested in engaging in this setup. If I had to hazard a guess, I would say that, like many academics, they are desperate for any experience to tide them over on their resume. (Maybe because the job market is so poor, they are willing to do anything to stay connected to academia and continue to apply and hone their skills while working in other lines of work).

In case any of you need a reminder, adjuncting already practically is volunteer labor at many institutions. I’m only half-kidding, as it is nearly impossible to cobble together any semblance of a livable paycheck from adjuncting.

Trust me, I know, as my Ph.D. partner has spent 7 years cobbling together adjunct positions.

If this is something you would otherwise consider, I’ll give you the advice my Master’s thesis adviser gave me back in 1999: “Don’t ever take any job that doesn’t pay, even for the experience. That just allows the [higher ed] industry to get away with the nonsense of devaluing skills, knowledge, and abilities.” In other words, don’t be a volunteer faculty member. Faculty have it hard enough; they don’t also need to work for free.