The sweeping use of part-time professors — or adjuncts — is crushing the job prospects for many college professors searching for a tenured, full-time career. And it’s African-American educators that are most affected by this “adjunctification” of America’s universities, Slate reports.
Colleges love adjuncts. Part-timers are 80 percent cheaper than their full-time counterparts; on average, they’re paid meager salary of $25,000 with no health benefits. And they’re easy to get rid of — adjuncts have no job security.
The best part is that they often have the same credentials as tenured educators: Masters degrees or PhDs.
From 1975 to 2011, the usage of adjuncts have skyrocketed 300 percent, according to a report issued by the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
“The proportion of African-Americans in non-tenure-track positions (15.2 percent) is more than 50 percent greater than that of whites (9.6 percent),” Slate said, quoting data released by the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education.
Black professors make up just five percent of American full-time educators. Excluding historically black colleges, that figure drops down to just four percent. Slate says that several factors, including poor graduate school attendance, are behind these dismal numbers.
“Historical discrimination in college enrollment […] means black students are less likely to know someone who has been to graduate school,” Slate adds, which in turn decreases their chances of pursuing a post-graduate degree.
And just applying to graduate schools — never mind the actual tuition price tag — costs an arm and a leg. On top of this, there are politics within the system that impede Black professors from exiting adjunct territory into a tenured career.
“For[…] African-Americans, tenure and academic labor have long looked like managing bottom lines and keeping the upper echelons of the Ivory Tower white and male,” the article continues.
Slate calls it “the new old labor crisis” because it’s an issue that’s all too familiar.
During the late 1960s, Black students protested against the lack of tenured African-American professors. “They understood that tenure was a political tool. Tenure is so political that departments, administrators, and even faculty have used tenure to restrict black academics’ access to university resources,” Slate said.
Whether there are racist undertones — as Slate infers — behind the poor figures defining America’s Black educators is unknown. But if lawmakers passed the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights Act of 2013, some of the issues plaguing adjuncts would be rectified. The bill would “extend Affordable Care Act coverage mandates and family and medical leave protections to part-timers,” Vitae says.