Two months ago, we noted the passing of Margaret Mary Vojtko, adjunct professor of French at Duquesne, and not, despite the ecclesiastical name, a member of a religious order.

More information on her career, slide into poverty, and death, has come our way.
While it’s hard to say exactly what Duquesne should have done for Vojtko in the months before she died, her case highlights the devil’s bargain universities have made by exploiting adjuncts—who, at Duquesne and elsewhere, are finally fighting back.
Marx's "industrial reserve army" might give administrators a great deal of power, but Rand's "sanction of the victim" still has some bite.  In a link-rich commentary on the Slate investigation, Historiann delivers a pep talk (Cold Spring Shops speak for some versions of a jeremiad) to any faculty member, particularly any contingent faculty member, on not eating the crap sandwich.
It’s not the responsibility of adjunct faculty to solve the problems that properly belong to the university! Adjunct faculty should tend to their own needs and interests, and to hell with your employers.  If the university you teach for has made you no commitment, then you owe it–and its students–precisely jack squat.  Please, please, please: DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF DEMONSTRATING MORE LOYALTY TO AN INSTITUTION THAN IT DEMONSTRATES TO YOU. Our employers looks after their own interests; that’s why most of us don’t have tenure-track jobs.

I agree with Anderson’s conclusion that an adjunct union recognized by the university might have helped out Vojtko, but if adjunct faculty should learn anything from the Vojtko example, it’s that no one will look out for your interests if you don’t look out for them yourself.  Think about your future, not five years down the road, but thirty-five; does your university pay into Social Security?  Does it make contributions to TIAA-CREF on your behalf?  If you never find a tenure-track job, will you ever be able to afford to retire?  What happens if (like Vojtko) you are involuntarily “retired” from adjunct teaching?
It's not quite "Withdraw your sanction."  At the margin, though, it might help turn college teaching more like a profession, than like a religious calling.
Margaret Mary Vojtko might have been happy to live like a nun, in poverty and embodying a spirit of service and sacrifice to her students.  Will you?
A comment at a College Misery post notes that having a vocation can be an excuse for management to lower salaries. "We don't need admins thinking that devotion is a substitute for pay or benefits."  Yes, how else did the Pope get all that cheap labor to staff all those abbeys?  The next commenter brings up the compensating differential.  "We'd love it more if they'd get out of our way and let us DO it, but they underpay us AND undermine us. I can accept one but not both." Underpaid and undermined. Sounds like an abusive relationship to me.

Withdraw your sanction.  Withdraw your support.


Historiann said...

Preach!!! (Although you are clearly captive to the logic of neoliberalism.)

Stephen Karlson said...

Until someone is able to offer a working set of rules for allocating resources that does not rely on markets and the incentives so created, it's probably more effective to use those rules and those incentives to one's own advantage.