Why Does Academia Treat Its Workforce So Badly?

Together these employees now make up an amazing 73 percent of the nearly 1.6 million-employee instructional workforce in higher education and teach over half of all undergraduate classes at public institutions of higher education.


Academia has bifurcated into two classes:  tenured professors who are decently paid, have lifetime job security, and get to work on whatever strikes their fancy; and adjuncts who are paid at the poverty level and may labor for years in the desperate and often futile hope of landing a tenure track position.


And, of course, graduate students, the number of whom may paradoxically increase as the number of tenure track jobs decreases–because someone has to teach all those intro classes.


those lucky enough to get a tenure-track job have to move to a random location, often one not particularly suited to their spouses’ work ambitions or their own personal preferences . . . a location which, barring another job offer, they will have to spend the rest of their life in.


I have long theorized that at least some of the leftward drift in academia can be explained by the fact that it has one of the most abusive labor markets in the world.


as a class, low wage workers do not face the kind of monolithic employer power that a surprising number of academics seem to believe is common.


The Persistence of Exploitative Academic Labor Markets


[…] once one has bought into the academic status framework, it’s hard to escape it. Graduate school is basically an extended period of socialization into the conviction that academia is more exalted than just about anything else.


[…] many people who have been so socialized have a preference for working in academia so strong that they are willing to forgo lots in salary, benefits, and security in order to secure employment, however tenuous, in academia.


[…] increasing the supply of adjunct jobs relative to tenured jobs creates a rising status premium for the tenured and reduces their responsibility for the least desirable elementary courses.



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