If I were still adjuncting, I'd have that "A" on my door (of the office I shared with 5 other adjuncts). I'd put it on a t-shirt. I'd have it on a bag I carried student papers around in. Heck, I might even put it on my syllabi, next to the rest of the alphabet soup after my name.A red “A” signifies that you are an adjunct, some other contingent faculty member, or that you sympathize with contingent faculty members. The idea is to signify some level of unification and to spread awareness. Imagine if a student sees more and more red letters on faculty doors. The student may even see a room full of letters, or letters mysteriously attached to hallway desks (because there is no office or door). Eventually, a student is going to ask someone what it means.
Needless to say, I think this is a great idea for raising awareness. Most students really have no clue about the differences in status among their "professors." They know a TA is not a professor, and that's about it. They certainly have no idea what an adjunct is nor why they should care.
I do wonder how far it will go or whether those who speak up and take this symbolic action and have the courage to answer students' questions will not be censored by those who see a threat to their own status. As one commenter puts it over at the Chronicle:
But, then again, what are they going to do? Fire all the adjuncts? Not hardly. Maybe if just one or two brave souls showed their resistance. But not if the whole adjunct/TA/permatemp workforce did. It'd be a catch-22. Permit them their symbolic action, which embarrasses you, your department, and your institution, or fire them and teach the comp, gen ed, and other classes you think you're too good for.To engage in free speech you have to have tenure. Adjuncts don't have tenure or any of its protections or privileges. They should be very careful, lest the University or College send its thugs, viz., the tenured faculty, to break up their symbolic action.
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The sheer absurdity of self-delusion that permeates academe at all levels has really started to get to me. It's fair to say it's even beginning to poison how I feel about my own "independent scholar" projects. After all, those projects, should they reach publication, would be intended as contributions to to an academic culture that -- while preserving its intellectual integrity for the most part -- is exploiting its workforce, selling its graduate students a false bill of goods, saddling its undergraduates with an increasing burden of debt yet increasingly weakening prospects for employment, and generally telling itself a bunch of lies about the importance of the work it does produce.
This post and the comments following it say volumes. Now, I don't know a whole lot firsthand about how advisers and others writing letters of recommendation for academic job candidates go about their business, but I do recall a post on this same blog about a year ago (I'm too lazy to find it and link) about how search committees looked at letters, especially from advisers, as neither here nor there. As a matter of course, they expected glowing letters. Non-glowing letters might raise a red flag, but, beyond that, a candidate's own materials (and interview, if it got to that stage) mattered a lot more.
Such is slightly absurd, but at least there's some sense to it. Yes, a candidate's own materials SHOULD matter more (even though we are talking about that always ambiguous matter of "fit"), but references of one sort or another are obligatory. Now, however, I am told, that what letters say DOES matter, especially after your first time or two on the market. And not only that, but who writes them at this stage matters more, too. It isn't enough that your adviser, whom you have worked with for 8 years or so, writes you a glowing letter. No, you need other people from outside your grad institution, too. In other words, search committees "like to see that job applicants are networking, conferencing, and reaching beyond their intellectual cradles (so to speak). It’s a sign of intellectual and professional maturity."
Two things are wrong with this:
- This profession takes it as a matter of course that people WILL be trying for MORE THAN TWO YEARS (!) to get a job AFTER they have earned the credentials qualifying them for those jobs.
- In order to be out "networking, conferencing, and reaching beyond their intellectual cradles," they need to retain a foothold inside academe. As adjuncts. As postdocs. As VAPs. In other words, the unspoken subtext here reinforces the "privileges" of affiliation. Just stay in the game, and you'll have a better chance next year. Remain complicit and the system may reward you in time (yeah, like, when Hell freezes over for the majority of us).
Oh, the charades are unending .... because, you know, seriously? Most of this "important and valuable" work will end up gathering dust on the library shelves or off in some obscure, institutionally affiliated, password-protected corner of cyberspace devoted to boring-to-anyone-who-doesn't-have-alphabet-soup-after-their-name academic journals. Really? Lives are at stake? Wars will be won and lost? The rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer if this person doesn't get the institutional support of a tenure-track position?
Come on. I'll be the first to say that I find these same dusty tomes worthwhile. They contribute to an ongoing conversation that is itself valuable and important in a "this is humanity trying to figure itself out" sort of way. But really, most of what we do on its own ISN'T important or valuable to anyone outside a very small group of academics -- to the extent that, once we're no longer "still in school," we're supposed to search far and wide for these few people for whom our work IS important and valuable so that they can explain it to search committees who otherwise couldn't figure it out for themselves!!?
This says more about how too many folks on the tenure track see their own work than about the actual work of job candidates.
We. Have. Already. Been. Doing. This. Job. For. Years.
You search committees are fooling yourselves if you think you're doing a service to the profession, the field, or even your own department by believing this process is getting you the very best "fit." For every person you hire, there are a hundred others who could do just as well if not better. Stop wasting your time. Given the number of applications you're getting (that you cannot POSSIBLY sort through with true integrity), you'd do just as well putting all the names in a hat and picking one -- or, hell, pick three or four to interview.
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"A" is also for acquiescence, anger, answers, and action.