justice for adjuncts
In the article referenced in the last post, Davis alludes to an adjunct professor Duquesne University who died in poverty. Her name was Margaret Mary Vojtko. According to NPR, “After 25 years of teaching French at Duquesne, the university had not renewed her contract. As a part-time professor, she had been earning about $10,000 a year, and had no health insurance… Vojtko died Sept. 1 after a heart attack at the age of 83, destitute and nearly homeless.” Vojtko’s death is seen by many as a rallying cry for adjuncts who, the NPR articles notes “make up a whopping 75 percent of college instructors, with their average pay between $20,000 and $25,000 annually.”
This 75% can be a largely invisible (though by no means secret) part of the university labor force. Now there are some people interested in improving conditions and there are some resources for current or prospective adjunct professors. Here is an article about the attempt of Duquesne adjuncts to unionize. Here is a place to read about the conditions some adjuncts work under and what they are doing about it. Finally, here is an online tool that shows adjunct salaries by institution. In my view, the “proletarianization” of the university may undermine good scholarship and perhaps even academic freedom. These are welcome movements against a big social problem.