FRANK TALK ABOUT WHAT WE DO WITH OUR LIVES

A Glimpse Behind the Ivy Curtain—Footnote 2

[2] What follows refers to those academics lucky to be on the “tenure track,” which means they have six years after their initial hiring as an Assistant Professor to impress their university enough to be granted tenure and be promoted to Associate Professor. Those are the folks most people are thinking of when they talk about “college professors,” though sadly they are becoming less common as universities look for ways to save money and avoid the hassles of making long-term commitments. Once the overwhelming majority at most universities, tenure track positions have gradually given way to cheaper contingent faculty (“adjuncts”), who teach an increasing number of the introductory courses in the humanities and social sciences. These “disposable professors”—be they graduate students, recent PhDs or other underemployed faculty between permanent positions—are paid by the course (the national average is around $2,700 per course) and generally receive no benefits, no office, no job security, and no chance at tenure. They exist in a shadowy realm outside of normal campus life and the usual academic career path, though few students and fewer outsiders have noticed. They represent a growing practical and moral problem in academe, with no solution in sight, and they probably taught you or someone you know English Composition or Introduction to American History. That is for another time, too, but for now see: “The Disposable Professor Crisis,” Salon.

  1. […] In present parlance, that means university faculty members are evaluated according to the classic trilogy of research, teaching, and service to the academic community.[2] […]

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