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When and where did the universities start flattening real wages for teachers, and letting the administrators cream all the money off?

My guess is the mid-70s, when real wages flattened generally, but I'm not sure, and I don't know which university was the test bed, or if there was more than one, whether private or state (my guess is private).

I'd like to add this topic area to my repertoire of standard polemics, because adjuncts are getting fucked over so badly, but I need to understand the history. Readers?

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quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

Hoo boy. I'll try to keep this under ten pages.

My mother was a university prof and I've been in academe for my entire so-called adult life, so I have buckets of personal experience. No statistics, though. I studied biology and tried not to think about the depressing state of my job.

In the High and Far Off Times (1950s), temps really were temporary and nearly all teaching was done by permanent staff. Not necessarily all tenure-track (for instance, my mother was a "lecturer" for way way way longer than a man would have been), but all permanent with such benefits as were customary. Even as a lecturer, she taught three courses a semester, not five or even more as is now customary for faculty without tenure. It's hard to really screw over permanent colleagues, especially when you're still living in the afterglow of 19th century notions about acceptable behavior among "gentlemen." (I know it sounds nutty these days, but people really did have standards about what was Not Done among your ingroup.)

Then came the combination of baby boomers looking for jobs, baby boomers with lots of degrees because they had to keep getting student deferments so they wouldn't get killed in Vietnam. Also, the women's movement, so lots more women with degrees and expecting to find jobs, not just marriage.

Result: good academic jobs had thousands of applicants. One of the searches I happened to have inside information about, Trinity Baptist College in Arkansas, had over 500 applicants. If you've never heard of Trinity Baptist College, join the club. Nobody has. And they had 500 applicants. With that kind of buyer's market, you can do anything you want to new hires. And they did.

The only thing that could have saved academe was stringent regulation requiring them to hire fulltime faculty. It would have been a no-brainer from a pedagogical standpoint because how much time do you think a dead-tired adjunct can devote to their individual students? Adjuncts do an amazingly good job, especially considering that they're paid less than minimum wage on a per hour basis, but they really are not given the time for luxuries like individual attention. I know. I was one for years.

It's easy to have that regulation. California, for instance, fines schools that fall below some percentage of fulltimers (I think it's 50%), so, oddly enough, schools manage to stay about one faculty member above that.

But universities will do almost anything to run all that boring educational stuff as cheaply as possible -- using adjuncts to the max, raising tuition, raising their "overhead" take on government grants, and so on. That way there's more left over for new buildings to put big donors' names on and, oh yes, almost forgot, big administrative raises. And since the administrators make the decisions about money, somehow that last is always a priority.

About that unionization point. I have a hard time stopping the hacking laughter long enough to address it. There are professional associations, and there are teachers unions who do what they can, but it's not much. Almost no faculty are willing to strike, and without that they have no bargaining power. There are a few graduate student teaching assistants in, I think, Michigan, who managed to get unionized. There are a few others I've heard about, but not recently.

Adjuncts? Pretty much forget it. They have zero bargaining power, and there's always another one ready to take their job. They're semester to semester, so they don't have to be rehired. They can't even get unemployment because they haven't officially been fired.

Untenured but tenure-track faculty? Forget it. Park in the wrong spot once and piss off a senior prof and --poof! -- no tenure. I'm not actually being funny. Look up obsequious and you'll see "untenured faculty" in the definition. There's a reason why academe absolutely needs to have tenure.

Tenure-track faclty? Why would they bother with unionization? They think they've arrived. When the administration starts cutting their benefits and not giving them raises, they have no clue what to do.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

'cause all of our family members in academia have done quite well, over the years.

We only have one left who hasn't retired--a "dean."

Now, regarding secondary education "teachers," the ones in our families who have not fared as well, were them. And this was a factor in ALL of their retirement plans. (Some were in unionized situations, others in states where there were very weak to nonexistent unions.)

At any rate, Dems and Repubs with their collaboration on standardizing and privatizing education--starting with "No Child Left Behind," and including this Administration's "Race To The Top" piece of claptrap--have darn near destroyed the field of education, as far as I can tell.

Adjuncts (I thought) are not formal educators, or am I wrong?

So, if they are more or less hired on a "contract basis," it does not surprise me that they are getting the short end of the stick. [Which is not to say that I condone this.]

You know--"the new economy."

BTW, I've heard that "attorneys" are now being hired out of law school as "contract" workers, so to speak.

IOW, they are hired to complete "specific tasks, research, or handle specific cases." And of course, law firms do not offer them any benefits.

I don't know what this place is coming to!

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

That's about when the requirement to be tenure-track (to be on track for some job security) began to require a doctorate.

Which is way too much, and the wrong kind, of qualification to teach college. Just to head off THAT discussion.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

What Quixote said.

Except that in NYC, adjuncts in public universities actually have some power. Not a lot, but some.

Although... I'll be very interested to know if we manage to keep even the crap insurance our Welfare Fund has been buying for us (and bankrupting itself to buy!), under the "Affordable" Care Act. [Still trying to assemble a history for Corrente!]

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

Unfortunately, it wasn't just administrators. Every state wanted high status universities, and governing boards of the high-status private and public universities wanted to maintain their advantage. The means was to hire star faculty, by offering salaries way above the previous norms and greatly reduced teaching loads, including the right never to have to deal with common undergraduates. The lure of these benefits effectively killed faculty solidarity. Tenured faculty tended to think they deserved the kind of salaries that they heard about in elite law firms (a Ph.D. is a higher degree than a J.D.) or among management in large corporations. In return for perks for themselves, they went along with converting the institutions into the kind of institution we see throughout the economy -- a few highly privileged persons and a mass of abused workers.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

This is a subject on which I know way more than I want to know. Here's a quick summary, Lambert, write me if you want more. (It may take me some time, though...)

In the 1960s, being able to get tenure (read: job security)depended on what level of courses you were expected to teach. Most college level courses require no more than a college-level math education, so quite number of people with Bachelor's or Master's (more common) got tenure.

Some time in the mid-to-late 1970s, the market for M.S.s changed. Universities began to require doctorates for tenure-track teaching positions Just Because They Could, and people with an M.S. or better began to apply to 50+ or 100+ colleges.

At that (not very well-defined) point, things went nuts.

Submitted by lambert on

Faculty had little bargaining power and so the administrators were able to go nuts immediately.

I was looking for a place where it all started, a test bed like Chile, but the answer I'm getting is that it all happened all over the place more or less at once. True? False?

Is there no Diane Ravitch of adjunctification?

Full disclosure: Both my parents were full professors and my father was a department chair in the mid-70s. He hired a ton of people for the tenure track. So far as I know, there was no concept of an adjunct. Perhaps I have an idealiized view.

a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

Your view was true of the "market" as of about the mid-1970s. By the mid-1980s it was madness, as I've described it. In this respect academics are close to being canaries (what is close to being true?) - The Academy awaits the academicians.

quixote's picture
Submitted by quixote on

Exactly. What's now happening everywhere started in the universities in the late 70s-early 80s. Reagan gave the green light to the screw-everybody-you-can mentality, and the glut of people with PhDs made it very easy to do in academe.

Yes, it pretty much happened everywhere simultaneously because the conditions were right everywhere simultaneously. That's also why it's happening everywhere outside unis now: too many people scrambling for too few jobs and no regulation to stop those with power from screwing everybody.

Edited to add: yes, your memory serves you well. In the early 70s adjuncts were very rare.

jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

we in Calli have more important things to do in the UC system than 10yr, education, and all that other not so important stuff. We are getting ready for Janet, no money for teachers or classes but plenty for the incoming queen. This more than likely di-fi and hubby dick saying thank you for all those govt. contracts so we'll have the Calli tax payers fix the mansion on the hill.

I would think the mid 70s is about right, here in Calli since the late 80s all UC service people have been outsourced so there no longer in a union, some or no health care, and retirement who needs that in the New Amerika hurry up and die program. This was done by dick blum and friends and guess who owns those companies. The 1% have pretty much taken down a great system. Yes you need a PhD. for 10yr and friend of mine daughter is on her way to that.