March 07, 2004

Debates over Unionization

A reader who prefers to remain anonymous has proposed the following topic for discussion:

As a full-time Lecturer with a Ph.D. at a campus of a massive regional state university with a very strong faculty union, I've recently taken quite an interest in debates over unionization.

The topic I'd be interested in seeing discussed here is whether, in their efforts to win job security for Lecturers and other so-called temporary faculty, unions should make a distinction between adjuncts with Ph.D.s and those without. My university system does not, and the unfortunate effect of its advances in
gaining job security for contingent faculty is that newly arrived Ph.D.s and ABDs are being squeezed out of the system during the current budget crisis (which
is especially severe in my state) because departments are required by the union contract first to accommodate Lecturers who have been working in the system for a while, regardless degree attainment. In this system, those tend to be
terminal MAs, and Ph.D.s and ABDs are finding themselves losing work to faculty who, while playing an important long-term role in their departments that needs to be recognized, are not as qualified for their positions as the newer people.

I would be interested in hearing other people's thoughts on this issue, because most of the discourse that I read here (though I have to admit to checking
in here only periodically) and elsewhere on the academic labor movement does not explicitly address the disparity of qualifications that sometimes exists within the broad category of 'adjunct faculty,' which also varies dramatically between departments, especially at those institutions (and I speak here of four-year institutions, not community colleges) near the bottom of the so-called 'national hierarchy of colleges and universities.' I'm thinking here especially of Marc Bousquet's recent piece in the Minnesota Review
("Tenured Bosses and Disposable Teachers"), which presents the adjunct composition workforce as composed of underemployed Ph.D.s., rather than of terminal MAs. His version of the adjunct problem seems only to represent the state of affairs at
research schools and more elite colleges. In my state, Ph.D.s dominate the Lecturer category in the nationally recognized state research universities, but
not in the regional teaching universities, where the adjunct workforce is in a state of transition and, while terminal MAs still dominate the Lecturer workforce and the discussion of the prospect of gaining job security for adjunct faculty, more and more Ph.D.s and ABDs are arriving, spat out from the research institutions who exploited their labor during their graduate training, which was (or is) much more lengthy and expensive than that of the terminal M.A.s.

So I'd be really interested in seeing a discussion of how the 'Academic Labor Movement' is to define its constituency. To what extent should a union that
represents contingent faculty draw distinctions between employees based on degree attainment? How might those distinctions be made?

Not that anyone asked :), but since it's my blog, here's my opinion:

First, a union is supposed to be just that: a union. Once you start making divisions, you're undermining the potential strength your union, and helping management to follow a divide and conquer strategy.

Second, it's not at all obvious to me that terminal MAs are "not as qualified for their positions as the newer people." If we're talking about teaching, many of them are likely at least as qualified, if not more so.

Third (and I'll probably get flamed for this, but here goes), the academic profession is undergoing a process of deprofessionalization. I won't rehearse the grim statistics, which I've already cited ad nauseam (check under "Academia" and "Academic Job Market" in my sidebar). Suffice it to say that tenure-track lines are being eliminated in favour of part-time and short-term contracts, and that the bulk of teaching in the American college system is now performed by an untenured majority.

I believe that reprofessionalization would require an insistence that you don't teach at a four-year college or university without the PhD. Teaching assistantship, fine. Though it's obviously open to abuse, there is nothing inherently wrong with the notion that graduate students should serve a teaching apprenticeship by working as teaching assistants. But once you put ABDs in the classroom as primary instructors, what you're saying is that the Ph.D. doesn't much matter: those without can do it, if not as well, then at least well enough to allow the administration to save a pile of money on labor costs.

I'm firmly convinced that one reason why we find ourselves in the mess we're in is that the profession has failed to behave like a profession, which is to say, failed to maintain guild-like restrictions on the point of entry. This is not some kind of romantic pining for a warm and fuzzy artisanal world we have lost. What guilds do is sometimes not very pretty. But that's how they maintain themselves as guilds.

Does my third point contradict my second point? No, not at all. I readily acknowledge that a terminal MA can be as a good a teacher, if not a better teacher, than a Ph.D. My point is that a profession which claims the Ph.D. as the main form of certification must insist on the Ph.D. as the main form of certification. My husband worked for a law firm prior to passing the bar. There was a lot that he was allowed to do, but there were also some restrictions (eg, he couldn't represent someone in court). Did passing the bar somehow magically make his legal research and writing incalculably better? Of course not. Was he capable of appearing in court even before he had passed the bar (even though he was not allowed to do so)? Of course. But he had to jump through that hoop and get that certification before he could assume all the relevant responsibilities over which his profession claims to have a monopoly. That's guildlike. That's how they continue to assert that claim.

Now, if I were Queen of the Academy for a day, I would bring in tight regulations and restrictions which linked practice to certification (okay, first I would have to create a binding regulatory body, the lack of which is precisely the problem). I would be careful to include some kind of grandfather clause, so that terminal MAs who had been teaching for more than a year or two would be exempt from the new regulations. The point would be to create the kind of restrictions that would allow the academic profession to reclaim a monopoly on their labor.

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at March 7, 2004 09:14 AM

[IA wrote]
"But once you put ABDs in the classroom as primary instructors, what you're saying is that the Ph.D. doesn't much matter: those without can do it, if not as well, then at least well enough to allow the administration to save a pile of money on labor costs."

I agree. What can happen is someone who is ABD will get tracked into teaching the intro courses and won't get out of that track because they are struggling to get enough classes each term to survive economically. This may require them to be "Freeway Flyers" who shuttle between a number of campuses in an area. Years of doing this may pass and the desire to complete the dissertation may wane as it become increasingly clear that the odds of getting a tenure-track job with a PhD are pretty slim.

Just as managers in the corporate sphere are using "just in time" hiring of temps to do a job, deans and administrators are following the same trend and hiring "just in time" profs who have the skills to teach a course. Having a large pool of temps who either have a terminal M.A., are ABD, or have a PhD but are not on the tenure track is such a huge savings on salaries and benefits, why would college and university administrators change the system -- of course, unless they were pressured to do so.

Posted by: TDA at March 7, 2004 11:14 AM

Not disagreeing with you, just asking: what is the status of real-world professionals who are invited back into the academy to teach, regardless of Ph.D attainment?

Just to be contrary (though I'm telling the truth as I perceive it), I'll note that of the six classes I've taken or am taking this year, the two best have been taught by MLSes with real-world experience, and the worst by a Ph.D with none.

Of the others, FWIW, all have been taught by Ph.Ds, one with real-world cred, the other two not.

Posted by: Dorothea Salo at March 7, 2004 11:42 AM

"Just as managers in the corporate sphere are using "just in time" hiring of temps to do a job, deans and administrators are following the same trend and hiring "just in time" profs who have the skills to teach a course. Having a large pool of temps who either have a terminal M.A., are ABD, or have a PhD but are not on the tenure track is such a huge savings on salaries and benefits, why would college and university administrators change the system -- of course, unless they were pressured to do so."

And what is sad is that unions tend to do nothing to stem this trend (see the recent adjunct contract with Emerson College). Their focus tends to be the adjuncts who have been employed by a particular college or university for the longest period of time. They seek and achieve a certain (small) measure of gains and protection for these individuals, but in the process leave the soon-to-be exploited class without any protections whatsoever, and further agree to terms that will make it effectively impossible for these newly hired adjuncts to ever qualify for inclusion in the bargaining unit, usually by agreeing to benchmark numbers of classes taught in consecutive semesters.

Posted by: Chris at March 7, 2004 12:09 PM

"First, a union is supposed to be just that: a union. Once you start making divisions, you're undermining the potential strength your union, and helping management to follow a divide and conquer strategy."

I believe that making certain divisions will actually strengthen the union. An all-inclusive union supposes that all members share the same situation, and thus have the same goals.Now, in the engineering departments and some econ/business departments, most lecturers have a day job. They thus will have different priorities than say lecturers who teach as a job.Including these people in will weaken the union rather than strengthen them.

Looking at graduate student unions as an example. When the Yale humanities/social science students voted for representation several years back, the pro-representation side won by a large margin. When they tried the same vote some time last year with the entire grad population, they lost. Reasons include the the life sciences guys feeling that the platform didnt help them very much.Issues like how foreign student work visas wasnt even an issue when the vote was restricted to the humanities/social science departments. The engineering/sciences on the other hand have large numbers of foreign students.

To have a large all-encompassing union isnt very practical since different groups have different priorities. How many humanities lecturers are aware of issues like lab costs? How many engineering lecturers are aware of the book requirements? (engineers rarely write books. And certain portion of grant money is paid to the school for the upkeep of labs.)

Posted by: Passing_through at March 7, 2004 01:55 PM


That's a good point. I have to admit that I was thinking of fields that generally don't have such real-life connections (which fields are also, and probably not coincidentally, the most heavily adjunctified). If I were Queen of the Academy for a day, I would consider making adjustments and exemptions for areas of study in which the real-life professional experience of an instructor could substitute for a Ph.D. Such exemptions would not apply to the teaching of Restoration Drama or American colonial history.

Again, my point is not that people without the PhD aren't capable of teaching, but rather that university administrations have taken advantage of the looseness of the requirements in order to create a new class of permatemp instructors. Take adjuncting, for example. This began as something innocuous and even positive: Since most departments can't possibly cover all possible fields, you bring in a real-world professional (someone with another day job) to teach a course in a specialized area, and could pay that person far less than a regular faculty member (because that person had another job, and was teaching as something extra). We now see where this one led...

Posted by: Invisible Adjunct at March 7, 2004 04:36 PM

IA, thanks for posting my query!

Certainly the heart of this problem is that many universities have, as you say, been deprofessionalizing their academic workforces for many years now, and that trend needs to be reversed somehow by reinstating the Ph.D. as the entry-level requirement for teaching at a four-year institution. And this is why the question of unionization becomes complicated: much-needed job security for exploited part-timers can end up inadvertantly undermining the goal of reprofessionalization by allowing people without the Ph.D. to gain quasi-permanent status, thereby creating a system in which a terminal M.A. is a viable, though hardly utopian, path to a university teaching career.

The "grandfather clause" that you suggest, which I've also been thinking about, seems to be very fair to people who've put in time in a university. It does, however, pose a problem in terms of creating long-term change. Some non-elite universities rely so heavily on M.A. labor in lower-division and sometimes even upper-division courses in the humanities that the sheer number of long-term instructors holding the M.A. (many of whom entered the system when there was not a sufficient labor pool of qualified Ph.D.s, especially in areas without a local Ph.D. program, but some of whom entered more recently because such a career path was made possible--if not very secure--by the univerity's labor structure) is so high that it would take some 30 years for them to retire and be replaced with Ph.D.s. Meanwhile, many Ph.D.s would continue to be displaced during budget crises. So this goes to the problem that Chris points out in post#3: unions' gains for long-term adjuncts can effectively be losses for somebody else. And when there are big differences in qualifications...

Incidentally, IA, I used to agree with you that good teachers were good teachers, regardless of degree attainment. But observing the people on my campus and discussing this issue with colleagues has made me think otherwise. What follows is obviously a generalization that wouldn't apply to all, but what I've observed is that Ph.D.s and A.B.D.s teach critical thinking in very different ways than most of the terminal M.A.s, precisely because of the deeper level of analysis that earning a terminal degree requires. The latter tend to do this hazy "well here's this side of the issue and here's that side of the issue and you have to decide where to stand" presentation, while the former tend to approach debates far more analytically, asking students to find and evaluate the assumptions each side of the argument makes and the reasoning that each uses. The latter is certainly more challenging for students, so all else being equal (and the other side of this issue is that the terminal M.A.s seem to be far more enthusiastic about teaching lower-level courses, especially composition, than the Ph.D.s, and enthusiasm of course motivates students), the Ph.D. would likely be the more desirable teacher in the context of a four-year university whose general education curriculum includes critical thinking. There's a reason we're called doctors of _philosophy_, and there's also a distinction to be made between competence in the skill of pedagogy and depth of the knowledge of and approach to the subject matter. It's also worth noting that 1) some Ph.D.s are poor teachers because they have never been taught to teach, and this can be rectified with an appropriate institutional support system and a culture that rewards good teaching; and 2) universities are able to continue to deprofessionalize the workforce in the humanities precisely by treating M.A.s and Ph.D.s as interchangeable when they're not.

Of course other disciplines raise different questions, as some other respondants have noted. And that's what makes this such a difficult question when a union is to represent faculty in disciplines with very different norms, especially at schools that offer a number of practical programs in which non-academic experience is as important as depth of knowledge of an academic subject. Perhaps a clause that gives each discipline the right to set its own definition of "professional qualifications" would help. This definition would likely be quite different in the liberal arts disciplines (the mission of which which my discussion above exclusively addresses) than in others.

And as for the question of whether distinctions undermine the unity of a union: my union represents faculty (tenured, tenure-track, and non-tenure-track), librarians, and counselors, so by definition it draws distinctions between groups with different professional norms. Even within the faculty categories, differences in compensation are tied not only to experience but also to degree attainment. Moreover, as those of us in the humanities know all too well, contracts also typically define different salary scales for different disciplines. Would it be that much of a problem to split faculty into different categories for other purposes as well?

The underlying trouble would likely come not from the presence of distinctions per se, but from the uncomfortable institutional climate that they would create. Part of what one has to do either as a graduate assistant or as an M.A. instructor of record is to assert one's professionalism in the face of the ideal of the Ph.D. as the defining professional credential. Drawing explicit contractual distinctions with implications for job security would undermine people in very troubling ways that also need to be considered.

Posted by: anonymous reader at March 7, 2004 05:50 PM

I really like your guild analogy. I think you mention trying to limit infighting among professors (those with only a masters and perhaps a lot of teaching experience vs. those newcomers with PhDs)but by saying people with PhDs must take precedence over those with only a masters, aren't you again dividing the faculty? How about those with masters who are completing their doctorates?

Posted by: Joel Murphy at March 7, 2004 11:31 PM

As has already been suggested here, the problem of varied interests among different groups of members of a union is a very difficult one. I am afraid that the recent settlement of the strike of grocery store workers in California is a foreboding of what may lie ahead in industries beyond retail across the country. Pleading the competative example of Walmart, management insisted on a reduction of benefits to its employees. After a protracted strike, union and management agreed to a settlement which created a two-teered system. It did so because there was no constituency in place to defend the interests of the lower teer: future employees. It preserved benefits and wages to current employees, but provided for a severe reduction for future employees. Perhaps a somewhat similar "settlement" is already upon us in the adjunctification or Walmartization of higher education.

Posted by: Ralph Luker at March 8, 2004 03:10 AM

Ralph makes a really interesting comparison that I've been thinking about a lot recently too. Whereas the California grocery settlement made the two-tiered system explicit, what's really insidious about the university version is its backhanded nature: what appears in theory to be a fair settlement that applies equally to every person with the same job title is in practice one that creates losses (in job security and sometimes in benefits if one's time base is reduced) for those who seek entry or who have only recently entered.

But I'd also add that the university situation adds complications beyond the current/future employee distinction precisely because of the differentials in qualifications between people working under the same job title. These differences are not ones that have nothing to do with the job in question, as would be the case in the example of a person who took a job as a grocery checker after being laid off from corporate work that required a B.A.. Clearly differences in degree attainment would not be relevant at that level of employment and would even be retrograde if asserted (in that unionized grocery employment is one of the few remaining options for the un-degreed to achieve job security and a living wage). But in the university, these differences exist in the context of a profession that maintains an (however now illusory) ideal of the Ph.D. as the requisite means of acquiring a kind of training specific and necessary to the job in question. And terminal M.A.s are not grocery workers, fast-food workers, or even migrant laborers in any sense beyond that of the employment structure in which those on part-time contracts find themselves. They are people whose credentials are well above those of the average American and who have options--a number of which are positions in education for which the M.A. is the appropriate qualification. Such as teaching in community colleges. Or in high schools.

So if I were queen of academia for a day, I'd draw contractual distinctions between adjuncts with different qualifications, ensuring that those with the higher qualifications could under no circumstances be bumped by those with lesser qualifications. There'd be a distinct hierarchy, decided on by people in each discipline. In the humanities, it'd likely be Ph.D.s (and M.F.A.s for creative writers) on top, A.B.D. in the middle (for the sweet innocents out there, this is "all but dissertation"--i.e. advanced Ph.D. students), and M.A.s on the bottom. But, in the interest of being humane, I'd also add a provision that any adjunct not renewed because of a budget crisis would receive help in finding a new placement--whether that be through some calls made to neighboring institutions (department heads at non-elite universities sometimes have strong ties to local community colleges and public school systems and have been known to make calls to place Ph.D. and A.B.D. adjuncts who've been displaced through the combination of budget crises and bizarre union contract provisions) or through a program of tuition waivers for M.A.s who want to acquire a subject credential to teach high school in their discipline.

But, alas, I'm not the queen of academia any more than IA is, which of course is unfortunate because IA has a smashing analogy between the legal profession and the academic profession as it should be but alas is not. And this analogy allows one to pinpoint the nature of the problem faced in academe when one tries to unionize the diverse constituency of persons who occupy adjunct titles. Suffice it to say that everyone would know that things would be seriously awry if those with training as paralegals had for years been allowed fully to act as attorneys and had begun to displace those who had the J.D. and had passed the bar but found themselves employed under the title "paralegal" because the number of jobs as "attorney" was somehow falsely held down in an attempt at cost-cutting. If this sounds like an absurd scenario when transposed into the language of another profession, it's because the academic employment structure is itself absurd, even perverse.

Posted by: anonymous reader at March 8, 2004 04:30 AM

ABDs who are hired to teach at institutions should in theory be people going to finish their dissertations soon. nth year ABDs should therefore not occur often. Possible reasons we see nth year ABDs is that they simply do not have the ability to complete the program (honestly, not everybody is capable of finishing) or the juggling of job commitments leave them with litle time to finish up.

One idea is to push for say a 3-year contract with ABDs, where they teach a minimum of 1-2 classes a semester with the rest of the time spent finishing up their dissertations. The condition is that they _have_ to finish within that time frame, or their contract will not be renewed.

So whats in it for the ABD candidate? He/she will have the stability of a regular paycheck to focus on finishing up.

Whats in it for the department? From a larger perspective, having ABDs not completing their PhDs is inefficient, since the resources used to trained them is not maximized. From a practical standpoint, hiring and firing lecuturers repeatedly also incurrs costs for the department. They have to allocate resources to search for a candidate, interview a candidate, etc. By getting people in their ABD stage, the odds of getting a "fit" later down the road is higher. ABDs are more adaptable towards different styles of research done at different institutions.

While the job market is bad, the truth is that most departments still hire phds every year. Since hiring are still going to continue, getting someone they eventually keep is more efficient than one they dont.

Posted by: Passing_through at March 8, 2004 10:27 AM

I don't buy the anonymous poster's generalization that PhDs are potentially more skilled at getting students to think criticially and analytically. I've seen too many PhDs for whom the subject of their dissertations (and subsequent careers) became so enmeshed in blatant dogma that they deflected any attempts to critique their flawed work with defensive, career-minded dishonesty. Honor professionalism and the guild mentality if you must, but let's not pretend that earning a PhD makes one a superior teacher. The PhD has absolutely nothing to do with it.

Posted by: J.V.C. at March 8, 2004 11:46 AM

On #10:

My state system has a structure in place for ABDs, although they prefer not to use it. If you expect to finish, your advisor thinks you'll finish, they make you a tenure-track offer, you accept, but you show up without a Ph.D., you get the title of "Instructor".

An instructor occupies a place in the hierarchy between lecturer and assistant prof. You get a 3 year contract, full tenure-track pay and benefits, even your startup package if you're in the sciences. You officially teach the regular research-active load (3+3 at my employer, less at the big universities), and have all the tenure-track responsibilities, but your chair is expected to negotiate some reduction with you. You then have 2 years to convert the AB to a Ph; if you do, the minute your dissertation is accepted your rank changes to Assistant Professor and your tenure clock starts ticking.

I think Passing_through's proposal was for less pay but less responsibility, leaving the candidate with more time to work on the dissertation. My first year here, I hardly touched the dissertation - but that's because this was a respite from the poisonous atmosphere I'd ended up in in graduate school. Proving to myself that I could start a research program, find collaborators, get funding, get publications on new subjects was worth the break in progress.

Posted by: ABD Instructor at March 8, 2004 01:25 PM

And a pony. Don't forget to wish for a pony, too. (See Belle Waring's post at John & Belle.)

Seriously, there is no guild. There's no-one to enforce this.

The bar is enforced by judges (who won't allow people who aren't members of the bar to appear before them--except, of course, pro se) and, to some extent, by laws against non-lawyers giving legal advice. Who is to prevent a non-PhD from teaching a college class? The college? Can anyone imagine a state legislature passing a law?

There's a distinct difference between academia and the law.
There's nothing in academia equivalent to a court. Law firms can be considered similar to colleges; clients can be considered similar to students. But nothing is like a judge. Further, lawyers can always hang out a shingle. Academics can't. Academics must work in a college. They don't take fees. In this sense, they were never professional, so cannot be regarded as having been deprofessionalized.

There was a sweet spot between (say) 1950 and 1970 when money flowed into academic institutions and holders of PhDs did well. Those days are over. Wishing won't bring them back.

Posted by: jam at March 8, 2004 05:11 PM

To #13: Don't forget to wish for a "straw person" either. :)

But seriously, jam is right that the lack of a mechanism for enforcing the ideal that four-year college courses be taught by Ph.D.s allows for the hiring and abuse of non-Ph.D.s and in fact has enabled the current employment crisis to happen. (And I believe that IA acknowledged this in her initial post.) The only arena in which the percentage of courses taught by Ph.D.s is relevant is in the national rankings in which that percentage is a factor. Those are highly dubious to begin with and are only a driving consideration for those campuses that are trying to maintain their high ranking or striving aggressively to improve it. And numerous campuses that are concerned about their Ph.D. percentage tend to cook the books in order to hide an overreliance on graduate student labor anyway. (Not calling graduate student instructors "instructors of record" for taking charge of lower-division courses in which a faculty member never appears in the classroom, for example.)

But without the mechanism of enforcing the Ph.D. as baseline requirement, is all lost? While this "queen of academia for a day" business of restructuring the foundational principles of the profession is obviously a fantasy (and I don't recall anyone having claimed that it was any more than that), the more serious issue for those of us who do have the privilege of union representation (and overall this representation is usually more beneficial than problematic) is how to attempt to intervene in the process to create incremental changes in the contract if they're so desired. This involves not wishing for ponies but rather asking difficult questions about how differences in degree attainment and longevity as an adjunct within a specific institution should be translated into a contract provision that addresses the order of layoff or entitles certain adjuncts to be given priority over others in contract renewals, for example. This kind of questioning involves thinking about whether it is in the best interest of all of the parties involved to agree that all adjuncts of all kinds currently working in a department should be accommodated before new adjuncts of any kind are hired. And in this budgetary climate, these provisions have very real effects on many people, including Ph.D.s who take adjunct work for a few years while seeking (or before giving up on getting) those increasingly scarce tenure-track positions. (And yes, Passing_through, departments continue to hire Ph.D.s to the tenure track each year [though the market in my field was severely depressed this year and our professional association has not even, to my knowledge, mailed the market statistics that usually are released in December], but not in sufficient quantities to keep us off the adjunct track. And a notable number of those tenure-track positions go to people "moving up" from other tenure-track positions or to junior faculty "stars" wooed from prestigious campus to prestigious campus.)

In any case, to a certain extent even this kind of questioning of contract provisions for contingent faculty amounts to arguing over who gets to jump into turbulent waters on the few lifeboats available as a tempest destroys the ship. And clearly there are no easy answers. But it's worth asking, because those of us who haven't given up on waiting out the tenure-track market for another couple of years would prefer not to get kicked out of the adjunct game as well.

Posted by: at March 9, 2004 03:06 AM

Like the unions. Don't think (and please don't bite my head off) that grad students and ABDs TA-ing and lecturing at their institutes of study should be unionized. Just think that there should be standards of what's acceptable. Nobody below an MA allowed in a classroom or to run discussions or grade unsupervised. If a school gives funding, the MA years should be spent getting the coursework out of the way. If work is required for funding, a research assistantship is a great way to go. Part of that coursework for me was "Intro to College Teaching" required by my department, and eventually by the grad school. Discussions on course planning, ethics, and supervised grading and a couple of lectures. MAs can teach freshmen and sophomores (the equivalent of CCs, where the MA/MS is the base requirement), PhDs can teach anything up through grad students.

Adjuncts should not have to compete with grad students and vice-versa. PhD adjuncts should certainly not be paid less than organized grad students -- they are teaching (or should be) fofr different reasons and have different experience levels.

Of course, I'm lucky. I teach at a place where we have a fairly strong faculty union, and most of the tenured and TT faculty have served their time in the adjunct trenches. Oddly enough, I find that the part-timers are much more divisive than the full-timers. When money became available for partial cost of living raises, full-timers voted to split it proportionately with the part-timers, and then, when there was another question on allocation, deferred to the part-timers on how the funds should be allocated. Part-timers are included in all functions, included faculty retreats, on the same first-come, first-served, basis -- and yet the part-timers who went were very agressive about making sure that in future no part-timer be left out -- because the notice went out on the faculty listserve. There is also a real sense of entitlement from the long-term part-time faculty -- if a job opens up, the MA part-timer who's been here 15 years thinks that he or she should be preferred over a PhD who hasn't "put in the time." Me, I'm still contingent, and will probably have to be an adjunct again before getting a TT job, to judge by the number of polite rejections I got this year, but I just don't get that attitude at all. Um ... rant over.

Posted by: Another Damned Medievalist at March 9, 2004 02:35 PM

Before too many analogies are made to the legal profession, some info:
(1) The job of "paralegal" is about 30 years old. (I was one of the first, before I went to law school.) The use of paralegals has helped keep down costs for clients. It has, however, hurt lawyers of the less-ambitious sort, who were content to do routine work; that work has gone to paralegals.
(2) It's not true that lawyers never work as paralegals. These days, lawyers (those who can't get better jobs, and those who prefer to work part-time for personal reasons) work for legal temp agencies, doing paralegal-like document production work & sometimes brief writing. In at least one case of which I know, some people who lost lawyer jobs in a government reduction-in-force applied for & accepted paralegal jobs; to them, these jobs were preferable to the available alternatives.
(3) When I started practicing in 1975, life for lawyers, at least at the top, was pretty cushy: clients were loyal, and there was "lock-step" compensation (i.e., everyone of the same vintage made the same salary). Your partner was your partner for life, and advertising was "unethical."
None of these things is true today. Although, for the moment, the lawyers guild does a moderately good job of protecting lawyers (better than, say, the MLA), lawyers are subject to the same market forces that college teachers are. Those forces are making the job less attractive, compared to what it once was, every year. No more lock-step compensation; the mantra now is "you eat what you kill." (Meaning, your compensation depends on the business you bring in--sort of like teachers having to bring in grants.) It takes longer to make partner every year. And partners regularly depart for greener pastures (as do star professors) or are forced out when they are deemed insufficiently productive (in which their fate is worse than that of the tenured teacher).
Finally, of the two arguments for privileging (as I understand is said in academic circles these days) Ph.D.'s over M.A.'s: one is principled and one is not. The argument that Ph.D.'s do a better job of teaching critical thinking is principled. (Whether it's true or not is a separate question.) The argument (IA's, I believe, in her queen-for-a-day guise) that Ph.D.'s should get priority over long-employed and arguably equally-qualified MA's merely to uphold the worth of the Ph.D. certification is unprincipled and purely careerist.
To my mind, these changes are inevitable and will grow, not diminish, for Ph.D.'s and J.D.'s both. They are "customer-driven," in part. (Many who comment here think customers are making bad choices about what they "purchase" from the academy. Many lawyers also think clients who demand economies are making a mistake. Too bad, they're going to continue to do it, just as some people prefer cheaper goods from WalMart instead of more expensive goods from boutiques.) And they are driven in part by the influx of women into the labor market. When women enter a field that's previously been exclusively (or almost exclusively) masculine, the field becomes de-mystified: much of what has previously been upheld as necessary becomes exposed as monopoly profits and privilege. And when women enter a field, they increase the number of applicants for every job, and thus enable employers to hold down prices.
Re-read Trollope, and notice how the impoverished gentlemen who have to work, because they lack "private means," feel oppressed because they have to be at the office by 10 a.m. and stay until they go to their clubs at tea-time. Re-read "The Movie-Goer," and check out the hours that Binx Bolling works as a stock-broker. Re-read Agatha Christie, and see how little work is done by the young men who work as "secretaries" (and how chic that job used to be). Those days aren't coming back, nor are tenure-track jobs for everyone with a Ph.D. or partnerships in good firms for all JD's.

Posted by: randomlawyer at March 18, 2004 05:33 PM