As part-time instructors at colleges seek to improve their working conditions through unionization, they often find that the people standing in the way of their efforts are not administrators but fellow faculty members, several union organizers and labor experts observed at a conference held here this week.
Tenure-track professors can be resistant to contract provisions that erode their power over faculty appointments or let contingent faculty members assume a bigger role in the shared governance of their institution.
I think this is one of the great open secrets of academia, perhaps especially in English departments which long ago institutionalized a kind of contempt for both women and for freshman writers. I worked for a department that paid (mostly women) adjuncts about half the pay of the (mostly men) full-time professors. There were more than twice as many adjuncts as full-time professors. The adjuncts all taught freshman writing courses; the full-time faculty taught a few sections of freshman English and then, once they got tenure, stopped. There were only a small handful of tenured faculty who were in any way interested in helping to govern the university. It could only strengthen the consumer-oriented administration.
They saw themselves as individual scholars and were generally disdainful of collective self-governance, except, of course, when it came to defending increasingly obscure fields of literary study. They’d take part in any department activity in only the most cursory ways and they were wholly uninterested in the professional fate of the adjuncts, except insofar as they– along with the students– made the limited dating economy of a small Midwestern town seem just a little more profitable. Any suggestion that these adjuncts, many of whom had worked in the department for decades, be given some form of job security or equal pay was either ignored or rebuffed. I am not talking about the 1950’s either; this was the 2000’s.