Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fight Night: Tenure vs. Adjunct Professors

Normal Job: you are offered a contract with a salary and benefits. Usually, you can get fired at almost any time, but you have some legal protections to prevent you being treated terribly.

In academia, things are not so normal. The two extremes are tenure and adjunct. This post is a short explanation of the two types along with links.

In a tenure job (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenure_(academic)), the position is guaranteed for life along with your salary, benefits, and other perks of university life.

The main idea behind this type of position is that the professor can do research without having to worry about outcomes and receiving grants. He or she can do new research to explore new science without deadlines and practicality. While this may sound silly, some of the best research can come out of this type of work. (The pros and cons of tenure could be their own blog post.)

Tenure track professors are basically the royalty of the university world.

The opposite end of this spectrum is an adjunct position. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenure_(academic)

Figure 1: Adjunct Professor. Look at this poor adjunct professor; he doesn't even get a white board as part of his job, only the pen.

Adjunct professors are people without permanent positions at universities; they are hired part-time to teach classes. Adjuncts teach more than half the courses at public universities. Sounds like a regular job, you say?

Not quite: adjuncts are often paid poorly and have very few benefits. Most adjunct professors don’t even have access to copying, office space, or curriculum guidelines. Teaching a class at a university isn't even enough to guarantee library access!

Adjunct positions almost never lead to full time positions so they are not even a good stepping stone to a career.

Adjuncts are just another fun example of the problems rampant in academia. Luckily, adjuncts are starting to unite together (http://www.adjunctproject.com/) to fight for their rights. Hopefully, in the future, adjuncts will be better protected since they are responsible for teaching a great fraction of the classes at universities.

If this type of terribleness sounds familiar, that’s because they are remarkably similar to post-doc positions (http://www.parsingscience.com/2012/10/so-you-want-to-be-indentured-servant.html)

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