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updated tue 8 jan 08


Snail Scott on sun 6 jan 08

> Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2008 12:03:48 +0900
> From: Lee
> [Tony,] The big problem about the University positions, is that there
> are very few spots to go around compared to the number of M.F.A.s
> being churned out. What do you think of teaching part time like
> you did at Sheridan? Does that give a person a better chance after
> their MFA, to replace someone retiring at that school? Part time
> positions help you get experience and make contacts.

Part time positions do offer experience, but you generally
have to take it elsewhere to convert it. In my observation,
adjunct 'internal candidates' (i.e. applicants who already
work for that school part-time) generally get less respect
than unknown candidates from outside the program. It's
just psychology at work. The adjunct is a known quantity,
warts and all. The new applicant is putting their best foot
forward, as is the internal applicant, but the unknown's
flaws are still hypothetical. Based on the limited interview
process, they may seem to have none.

The adjunct was typically hired without much (or any)
search, and was probably a local resident at the time.
The new applicant is the product of an extensive
(and expensive) national or international search
process which may have attracted more than a
hundred qualified candidates, and the new applicant
is one of the few who rose to the top to become a
finalist for the job. The internal candidate might be just
as qualified as the new candidate, but you can see
how easy it is for the hiring committee to think "Heck,
we got this adjunct just by asking around the
department; they're pretty good, but a national
search has gotta turn up better folks than that. What
are the odds that the best candidate is actually the
person who's already here in our backyard, working
for peanuts?"

Now, the unknown candidate might have been a lowly
adjunct as their previous job (and probably was), but
that's different; that person is still an unknown quantity
to this hiring committee; a person from whom great
things may be hoped and whose bad habits (if any)
have not yet been exposed. Likewise, the local adjunct
will probably receive a more optimistic response when
applying to another school than they will in applying
for a full-time post at the same school where they've
worked for years.

It's not inevitable: some internal candidates do get hired
full-time at the same school, but it's rare. I've seen it
happen over and over. Good internal candidates get
passed over, and are more likely to be hired elsewhere.
It's just the way it goes.

It's also easy for a committee to forget that there's a limit
to what an adjunct can (or should) do for their paycheck.
Looking around, the committee may think '"this person
hasn't done too much compared with our other faculty"
and forget that an adjunct position is limited by definition.
Any adjunct who does enough work to compare favorably
to full-time faculty is doing a lot more than they are being
paid for, and that perpetuates a system already prone to
abuse. If adjunct faculty can be induced to do extra work
for the long-shot prospect of a full-time job that may never
be offered, the school may decide that a full-time position
isn't even necessary. (Why buy the cow, etc...?) This is a
particular concern in ceramics, where the non-teaching
workload (kiln firing, glaze mixing, maintenance, etc, can
be huge. Adjunct faculty are often expected to act as
unpaid technicians as well as teachers, and it can be
difficult, but necessary, for an adjunct to draw the line.
(For full-time faculty, such duties may be part of the job,
as are administrative and other obligations, and they
are paid accordingly.)

Contacts can be valuable, though. Since most full-time
faculty were (as noted above) hired from elsewhere,
they can be a knowledgeable resource about how
things are handled in other places. They also know
people 'out there' and can sometimes offer information
from personal experience about a college or a person
at a job you're applying to elsewhere. They may hear
through their own contacts about good opportunities,
and let you know about them, too.

Most full-time faculty have done their time in the adjunct
faculty 'trenches' themselves, some for many years
before a full-time post was offered. It's rare for anyone
to get a tenure-track job right out of grad school.
People with a few years of experience are something
most employers want, and colleges are no exception.
Unlike industry, however, few academic part-timers are
ever promoted internally.


p.s. Yes, I do use 'they' as the non-gender-specific
third-person singular pronoun that English lacks.
I refuse to write 'he/she' in every other sentence!
Living languages evolve through use.