Academia remains the home of blue model ideology, but not even the country’s most rabid mouthpieces for blue ideas practice what they preach. The Atlantic profiles National Adjunct Walkout Day, a protest scheduled on February 25 for adjunct professors dissatisfied with their pay and work conditions. According to The Atlantic, organizers are having trouble mobilizing support for the protest; some adjuncts fear losing their jobs, in part because they don’t have the kind of group cohesion that can make for a successful protest.But the conditions they are anxious about are real enough. Lots of tenured professors want to believe that all is well in a university system that works pretty well for them. But as it exists now, the Ph.D. system in this country urgently needs to be pruned back—especially in the social sciences and the humanities. Take, for example, the fact that adjuncts get paid far less than full professors even though they often teach the same number or more classes, and make up an ever-growing majority of those employed to teach at the college level. Here’s The Atlantic:
The percentage of academics who work part-time has grown in recent decades. A 2009 survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Education indicated that 75.5 percent of instructors at institutions granting two- or four-year degrees held contingent jobs and/or were not on the track to tenure. According to a recent article in Elle, the reverse was true 20 or 30 years ago, when 75 percent of professors held tenured or tenure-track positions. In the past, adjunct professorship could be thought of as the way dues were paid before attaining tenure, but these days many adjuncts who have worked for years or even decades cannot realistically expect to attain full-time professorship.
Attempts to correct this trend have failed. In California, the state that will see the biggest activity by adjuncts on the walk-out day, legislators passed a law requiring that “full-time professors must teach 75 percent of the credit-hours in California community colleges.” But the law didn’t move the needle and, since then, the percentage of classes taught by adjuncts has only increased. Tenure track jobs are getting harder, not easier to find. That one of the country’s bluest institutions is also it’s most punitive guild system, a place of poverty and misery for so many who work in it, is a stinging indictment of the blue model.For millennials, some important advice: If you can’t get into a top Ph.D. program, you should seriously rethink your life plan. Getting a subprime Ph.D. is one of the surest ways to accumulate debt and unhappiness, leaving you bitter and poor. The top schools will probably be fine, but the Grim Reaper is headed toward some second- and third-tier Ph.D. programs near you, and he’s moving faster than you think. It is highly doubtful that states are going to keep subsidizing these programs, and students from them will suffer because most university faculty are unbelievable snobs when it comes to prestigious degrees. You will suffer a lifetime of discrimination in a shrinking field if you go this route. Think twice, and then think again.A good rule of thumb: if the income from your trust fund isn’t enough to cover your grad school costs while allowing a comfortable lifestyle with vacations and a nice car, then enrolling in a second-tier grad school in the humanities and social sciences is not a smart choice for you. The exception: if you live in a community property state AND you are legally married to a successful hedge fund manager or tech entrepreneur AND your lawyer tells you there’s nothing in the prenup that will limit your financial prospects in the event of divorce, you can study anything you want anywhere you want to go. Otherwise, take our advice and use your talents on something more likely to bring you some joy.