May 11, 2003

"Consumer Protection": Statement by AHA/OAH Joint Committee on Part-Time and Adjunct Employment

"Everyone in the historical profession has a stake in ameliorating this situation. It is important to halt the erosion of tenure track positions, and where possible to increase them. It is equally important to improve the working conditions and lives of part-time/adjunct faculty and their ability to support student learning."

-- AHA/OAH Joint Committee on Part-Time and Adjunct Employment Press Release

The American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians have recently formed a permanent Joint Committee on Part-Time and Adjunct Employment. This committee has recently issued a statement with the following five recommendations:

1. the inclusion of adjuncts in "the collegial relations and communications of their departments;"

2. accurate statistical reporting by history departments on their use of adjunct faculty;

3. the recognition of standards for the "appropriate proportion for courses taught by adjuncts" (they recommend an absolute maximum of 20 percent for 4-year institutions, and of 30 percent for research institutions);

4. a pay scale for "part-time faculty [that would ] be set at a minimum of 80 percent of what a full-time faculty member of comparable training and experience would be paid for teaching a course at that particular institution;"

5. and finally, since none of these recommendations are enforceable, they recommend that "history departments should undertake to meet these standards and will be commended for substantial progress and good practices in the AHA and OAH newsletters."

The above is a start (it comes rather late in the day, but it's a start nonetheless). Implementation of any of the above recommendations would be good, implementation of all of these recommendations would be even better. But given budgetary constraints, how are history departments to implement such recommendations? To do so, they would need the cooperation of university administrations, and how are they to secure such cooperation?

What I find promising is the following request, which comes at the very end of the statement:

"Additional Request for AHA Council Action:

The AHA/OAH Joint Committee on Part-Time and Adjunct Employment requests that the OAH Executive Board/AHA Council vote on the following action. We believe that this action has potential for moving for change in many places and without major long-range organizational effort.

That the OAH Executive Board/AHA Council contact all college accrediting organizations and all journals and media that list colleges and universities by various criteria and ask them to include the following information in their reports:

- number and percentage of part-time/adjunct faculty

- number and percentage of courses taught by part-time/adjunct faculty

This is a matter of public information to which prospective students and their families are entitled as a matter of consumer protection."

This I like. Here I think they are on the right tack. I suspect the only way to change things is to make this "a matter of consumer protection." This means that students and their parents are consumers, of course, which suggests that education is a product. Am I not therefore buying into the very commodification of education of which I so often complain? Yes.

I honestly don't see another way. Universities have a vested interest in continuing with business as usual, increasing their reliance on adjuncts while doing whatever they can to make this reliance invisible to parents, students, accrediting organizations and the public at large. It is very probably the case that the only effective way of pressuring them to stop the erosion of tenure-track positions is to make this reliance on adjuncts visible to the tuition-paying students/parents/consumers who currently do not understand just what it is they are paying for.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at May 11, 2003 09:13 PM

its all a question of management, all ideological battles of the last hundred years have been about management, do we manage top down, do we manage down with carrots and sticks and through hobsons choice fool the 'customer' into thinking they are determing their fate by choosing 'a' over 'b'

Margaret Thatcher said "There is no alternative."

what she meant was there is no choice but to offer choice without there being any other choice

its insidious, i cannot think of any other choice besides management either, so, its a choice of which management style

of course, as one who refuses to manage, )and is thus unemployable because he is the wrong sort (class) to employ as a labourer) its a bit rich of me to say so

Posted by: meika von samorzewski at May 11, 2003 11:06 PM