Victims of Circumstance: Academic Freedom in a Contingent Academy

By Marshall, Eric | Academe, May/June 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Victims of Circumstance: Academic Freedom in a Contingent Academy


Marshall, Eric, Academe


Due process approaches to academic freedom may not adequately serve the new academic workforce. To survive, academic freedom needs to be more tight y linked to professional conditions of work.

The producers of Adjunct Survivor plan to hire a dozen (actually, make that five hundred) men and women aged twenty-two to seventy-five, all of whom either hold advanced academic degrees or are currently enrolled in graduate programs. Each will teach four undergraduate classes at no fewer than two different colleges, each no closer than thirty miles from the next. The producers will enroll thirty undergraduates in each class and mandate specific reading materials for the courses. The instructors will have to maintain at least one scheduled office hour each week for each course, and they can assign no fewer than fifty pages of written graded work for each student during the semester. The participants will be placed in a large urban setting with a crippling cost of living and be paid $15,000 a year. Each week, viewers will tune in to follow the routine day of selected adjuncts and learn which participants remain in the classroom, which have been let go midsemester, which have been able to pay rent and put food on the table, and which have not. At the end of the fifteen-week season, the producers will dismiss the entire cast and, if the show is picked up for a second season, recast immediately prior to the start of the new season. Former participants will be eligible to be recast on the same terms as everyone else.

For more than ten years, I participated in Adjunct Survivor, teaching English at the City and State Universities of New York (CUNY and SUNY). And yet, for all the struggles and tribulations (as well as the pleasures and rewards), I know I was one of the lucky ones-typically able to teach all of my courses at a single campus (Queens College, CUNY). I often cobbled together twelve credits in a semester (despite contractual limitations) by picking up some "nonunit" work available to adjuncts on campus, and I always received written notification of reappointment well enough in advance. I taught in an excellent department, which not only treated adjuncts well but supported them professionally and defended and advocated for them. The relations between full- and part-time faculty were, by and large, open and collegial.

I never felt restricted in what or how I could teach (within the limitations of departmental needs), nor in what I could say or do in class or off campus. Indeed, insofar as the conventional understanding of "academic freedom" is concerned, I felt (and still feel) I enjoyed it thoroughly and unconditionally. I actively organized for the union and advocated publicly at rallies and conferences and in published articles for adjunct rights and conditions and never, I believe, suffered retaliation of any kind. For six years, I held offices in the faculty union, the Professional Staff Congress (PSC). For ten years, my English composition courses occasionally engaged political topics, taking positions often at odds with the CUNY administration and board of trustees. And yet I never feared for my job-beyond, of course, the typical job insecurities sadly inherent in adjunct work.

As a CUNY adjunct, I had not thought much about academic freedom, or so I believed-although it was discussed within the PSC and around the university. When I did think about it, it was in the conventional sense: connected to what could be said in the classroom and what could be said, written, and done outside of it. It was about administrative intrusion into traditionally faculty-controlled domains. It was about censorship, distance education, sponsored research, and administrative involvement in curricular matters. In other words, it was about liberties, as commonly conceived, which could be accorded or withheld at the discretion of some administration.

But the usual and customary understanding of academic freedom has also long wedded it inseparably to tenure, thereby greatly diminishing its relevance for adjuncts and largely excluding them from the conversation.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Victims of Circumstance: Academic Freedom in a Contingent Academy
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.