Skip to content

How to Be a Tenured Ally to Adjuncts

  • by
Guest Blogger / October 30, 2013

Guest Blogger Dr. Elizabeth Keenan teaches music history at Fordham University and Columbia University. With the exception of a one-year VAP, she has been adjuncting since 2007.

I’m an adjunct at two different private universities.* In those positions, I’ve encountered numerous tenured and tenure-track faculty who were allies to adjuncts, and numerous faculty who were not.  After Monday’s post critiquing ineffective tenured allies, I want to be a bit more productive than deconstructive. One of the things that I’ve learned from my long years studying feminist activism is that critique has its place, but positive actions should emerge from it.

Here are some handy tips, if you have tenure (or are close to getting it), and you’d like to be an ally:

1. Recognize that your job is dependent on adjuncts. In many departments, adjuncts teach the high-enrollment, introductory courses that (in part) give the administration its numbers for determining how many tenured and tenure-track faculty lines will exist. Now, this is a not-nuanced version of how administrators decide these things, but, big picture: adjuncts make it possible for tenured and tenure-track professors to teach small, upper-level classes by teaching high-enrollment, entry-level courses. They put the bodies in the seats.

2. Reframe your perspective of the “adjunct problem.” One of the biggest problems in the relationship between adjuncts and the tenured is a perception among tenured faculty that adjuncting is something you have to do for a couple of years before you get a tenure-track job, and that if you’re any good, you’ll succeed. However, the reality is that the percentage of tenured and tenure-track positions is ever shrinking, despite increasing student enrollments. Reframe your understanding of the “adjunct problem” as the creation of a long-term, growing academic underclass, rather than a temporary setback for a few individuals.

3. Listen to adjuncts. If you talk to adjuncts…, 

Read more of this interesting and helpful article at:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *