Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Worst Idea I've Heard Lately...

Let me lay out my biases right now: I hate for-profit colleges, almost (but not quite as much) as I hate for-profit hospitals. Now, an asshat that used to work for the University of Phoenix (you know, the for-profit, on-line college with no football team but a giant $455 million football stadium) has started a company to certify (for a fee) adjunct instructors for colleges (don't let the .org fool you, it's a for-profit company-- another way these asshats try to fool everyone).

InsideHigherEd reports that the cost for the adjunct seeking certification is $395, plus $75 a year for renewal. The program reeks of pop-psychological, self-help, pseudo-scientific bullshit-- the "Ten Core Competencies" and the like (ever notice how any given list of desiderata is always some nicely even or iconic number like 7, 10, 12 or 101? That's a big red flag right there...)

Adjunct faculty are already the most educated and qualified section of the working poor. Many adjuncts work for as little as $2,000 a course, with their course load being limited to 2 or 3 classes so the University can avoid paying health insurance benefits (yes, enlightened universities also abuse workers in the same way Wal-Mart does). Adjunct work is often hard to find, and many young academics take the jobs for the resume building, even though they could make more money working at a Starbucks. Preying on contingent faculty fears that they may not get renewed or get that first adjunct job is just sleazy, and that is exactly what this bullshit "certification" process is doing. If Universities want better adjuncts, they should pay better and provide support resources (mentoring, teaching development workshops, etc.) out of their own pocket-- not feeding their adjuncts into a for-profit clusterfuck that serves only to line the pockets of the company and make administrators think that they doing something worthwhile. We are dealing with people with Ph.D.'s and M.A.'s-- they don't need more classes from University of Phoenix ilk.

Tenured and tenure-track faculty actually have some power here. If we find out that our institutions are giving employment preference or requiring people to go through this kind of certification, we ought to be raising some serious hell. Our contingent bretheren deserve our support-- and to paraphrase John Bradford, "There, but for the grace of God, go us."