Wednesday, February 5, 2014
The Just In Time Professor is an interestig staff report of the House Democrats which was recently released, here.
Readers of this blog as well as faculty do not need a report to understand their conclusions:
By no means comprehensive or scientific, the eForum provided an alarming snapshot of life for
contingent faculty. While the occupation of “college professor” still retains a reputation as a
middle-class job, the reality is that a growing number of people working in this profession fill
positions not intended to provide the stability, pay, or benefits necessary for a family’s long-term
economic security. Whether some adjunct professors piece together a living from their teaching
job or only use it to supplement a more stable primary career elsewhere, many contingent faculty
might be best classified as working poor.
As one respondent put it: “[T]he bulk of instructors at
the college level fulfilling this goal [of educating students] are compensated less than their peers
despite equal expertise, are given no benefits despite obvious need, and are continually stripped
of their voice and dignity by a situation where they must overwork themselves or find a new
career.” Their story is another example of the shrinking middle class and another data point in
the widening gap between rich and poor. Policy solutions for part-time workers more generally,
such as the Part-Time Workers’ Bill of Rights, would help address some of the economic
security issues these faculty face.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Hat Tip: Brent Newton
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
From Coleen Flaherty at Inside Higher Ed:
Most of the existing research on the employment of adjunct faculty and student success shows a negative relationship, not because adjuncts are bad teachers but because their working conditions prevent them from being as effective as they could be. But earlier this fall, a much-cited study disputed by some, showed the opposite: that students actually may learn more from adjunct faculty members -- at least at research universities that can afford to pay part-timers well and that may discourage tenure-track faculty members from focusing on teaching. Now, a preliminary study is mixing up the literature once again, concluding that employment of adjunct faculty has no impact on student success in community colleges.
Sunday, November 3, 2013
The National Center of Collective Bargaining is having its annual conference April 6-8. I have been to this conference and it is excellent. This year, there are excellent speakers and it includes information contingent faculty. Readers and researchers may find this of interest.
Update: A copy of the progam is available by clicking Download 41st Annual National Conference--Preliminary Program
Hat Tip: William Herbert
Sunday, October 13, 2013
As readers of this blog all know, adjuncts are abused by many, if not most universities. They make up the majority of the faculty, but are the lowest paid, have no job security or benefits. It now appears that some adjuncts are fighting back by organizing.
Adjuncts generally have no say in the goverance of the university and therefore, they do not have a "Yeshiva problem." Recall, that in 1980 the Supreme Court in a case called Yeshiva Univ v. NLRB held that faculty who ran the university were managers and therefore, not protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
An interesting post on Workplace Prof Blog explores some of these issues and is available here.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Monday, September 23, 2013
The Daily Gazette ran an interesting article on September 22, 2013 about adjunct abuse, here. The article highlights the fact that adjuncts do not make a living wage. As the article states:
Over the past couple of decades, the number of contingent — or non-tenure track — faculty positions has increased dramatically throughout the U.S., while the number of full-time tenure track positions has fallen.
The trend prompted the American Association of University Professors to highlight the issue in its 2012-13 annual report, which notes “More than three out of every four instructional staff positions (76 percent) are filled on a contingent basis.” Between 1975 and 2011, part-time faculty appointments “increased in number by more than 300 percent,” while “the number of faculty members in full-time tenured or tenure-track positions grew by only 26 percent during the same period.”
“The move to contingent, part-time faculty represents a shift in higher education,” said Bret Benjamin, president of the University at Albany’s chapter of United University Professions, the union representing SUNY employees.
Benjamin said the organization is “getting more involved” in issues related to contingent faculty.
“The faculty who teach [as adjuncts] make a pittance,” Benjamin said. “They make $2,800 per course, and they are almost never hired to teach more than two courses. These are people with Ph.D.s, and they’re making $11,000 a year. I don’t think that’s a livable wage in Albany or anywhere else.
Hat Tip: Harvey Marlow
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Daniel Kovalik, senior associate general counsel of the United Steelworkers union, shared the story last week of the recent death of 25-year Duquesne adjunct professor Margaret Mary Vojtko in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This story has also been featured on National Public Radio.
Hat Tip: The Faculty Lounge.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
This commercial web site posted an interesting infographic about the abuse of adjunct professors in colleges and universities. It is full of shocking statistics which document just how little adjuncts earn and how colleges and universities could not run without us.
Some of the more interesting statistics are that adjuncts make up 76% of college and university facilities and the average adjunct earns $8.90 per hour with no job security.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Hat Tip: Kyara Tobias
Friday, March 15, 2013
Kudos to Western State College of Law which organized the first Adjunct Law Professor teaching conference, details can be found by clicking Download Law Teaching for Adjunct Faculty
The conference will be held on April 13, 2013 at Western State College of Law in California. Registration is $100.00 and CLE credit is available for an additional $150.00. While these fees are reasonable, I question how many adjuncts are actually going to attend. While this is a wonderful first step, law schools around the country, if they are interested in training their adjuncts (and sadly, most are not), should step up and fly their adjuncts out to this conference and yes, pay the registration fee and pay them for their time.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Best Colleges Online, a commercial site, recently published 25 facts about college adjunct professors, here. The most startling statistic is that adjuncts make up 73%, yest 73% of the instructional workforce in colleges today. I know it is high, but it is hard for me to believe that the number is that high. In any event, for those interested in adjuncting, you may want to take a look at this article.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Monday, August 6, 2012
To Teach or Not to Teach is an interesting August 1, 2012 article from the ABA Journal about becoming an adjunct law professor. It implies that the market for adjuncts is becoming even more competitive. The article also accurately describes the terrible pay that adjuncts make and that most adjuncts do not teach for the money. They teach for intangible benefits. As one of the commentators notes at the end of the article, some schools undoubtably abuse adjuncts. They use them instead of FT faculty, instead of being, an adjunct to the faculty.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Adjunct Professor Tim Edwards, University of Wisc. Law School sent in an excellent commentary on student evaluations which is applicable to full-time faculty. I could not agree more with the below statements. It is a bit long, but stay with it as it is well worth it:
Axley Brynelson, LLP
I write to share my thoughts about the use of student evaluations to evaluate instructor performance at my Law School. I have taught here, as an adjunct, for over ten years. During that time, I have taught Legal Writing, Advanced Legal Writing, Civil Procedure I, Civil Procedure II, Pre-Trial Advocacy and Professional Responsibility. The purpose of this document is to inspire discussion, not to offend.
As an adjunct, I am removed from the day to day discussions within the Law School, including those pertaining to student evaluations. When I started, I was not provided with any training. I received no feedback regarding my teaching from any of the Faculty Members at the Law School. I often invited members of the faculty to sit in and evaluate my teaching, but it never happened. From what I understand, this is common in most law schools that rely on adjuncts, both to teach and to keep institutional budgets in check. I am not suggesting that this approach is wrong, only that it has consequences.
Absent such an evaluative process, the only feedback that I have received comes from student evaluations. Most of the time my evaluations are quite good. More recently (and for reasons that I will explain), my evaluations have suffered, due in some measure to my own actions. Unfortunately, it appears that these evaluations are the only tool that the Law School relies on in measuring the performance of its adjunct lecturers. To the extent another metric is being used, I have not been told about it, nor have I seen it in my classroom.
My thesis, which is not wildly unique, is very simple: Absent some corroborating tool to evaluate instructor performance, student evaluations are an inherently unreliable and misleading source of information for purposes of measuring the effectiveness of an instructor. While student evaluations can provide objective information (i.e., whether the instructor is on time, intoxicated, treats the students appropriately or appears to be organized), law students are not equipped to objectively evaluate the value of their own learning experience, or the skills of the instructor, when they complete their evaluations. Their evaluations should not be used for this purpose.
From what I understand, one central objective for the Law School is for its instructors to teach the students how to analyze legal problems and prepare them to practice law. I believe that this requires, among other things, instruction regarding analytical and practical skills that the students will actually use when they become lawyers. This emphasis has been confirmed by recent studies, and consistent commentary, which criticizes the significant gap between theory and practice that pervades our law schools. I have observed this gap, and its impact on young lawyers, who are often unprepared for the practice of law when they graduate. Many students who graduate from the UW Law School do not even know how to cite a case or prepare a basic pleading (as I teach pre-trial advocacy, the blame for some of this should rest squarely on my shoulders). We have seen this over and over at our Firm, to the point that some of my partners are reluctant to hire from law schools that do not have a comprehensive legal writing program.
As an adjunct who litigates, full time, in his “real life,” one of my primary goals is to impart some practical knowledge/skills to my students. Students need to understand that the law, as written, is often applied much differently. Students need to understand (and acclimate to the fact) that the practice of law is demanding and, in many ways, unforgiving. Problems do not have easy answers, and they don’t always have “right” answers. Deadlines become critically important, as is timing. Confusion is common, as clients, judges, senior partners and opposing counsel often make it difficult to solve problems involving competing interests and effectively represent a client. This is a very difficult job with tough challenges that cannot always be resolved by reading a book or looking up a statute. The students need to know what they are signing up for, and to the extent possible, they should be prepared to follow through. Of course, this should be done at the appropriate time in their education.
Some basic thoughts:
- A law school student (especially in her first year) typically has a very narrow set of objectives. Generally speaking, she wants to get a good grade. She wants to know what will be on the test, or what I am looking for in a given writing assignment. She wants to figure out the easiest possible way to get a good grade by doing well on that task, and she wants immediate, detailed feedback on any work she does because she is scared. As a general matter, these students believe that grades are everything, and they are rarely interested in whether they are learning how to be a good lawyer unless it helps them get a better grade. In the meantime, they resist confusion, perceived inconsistency or anything else that detracts them from the most efficient path to a good grade. While this description is somewhat magnified it is, for the most part, accurate. The pressure to perform well and secure a good grade defines their objectives in many critical ways.
- As a law school instructor, my objectives are much different. While I want everyone to succeed, I am less concerned about whether the students are confused or struggling to address a problem. I tell them how litigation works. We apply the rules to different situations and I often ask them questions that do not have an easy answer—questions that require the application of judgment, not just knowledge. I require the students to meet deadlines, and I require them to rewrite assignments that are done poorly. I don’t accept a lot of excuses and I expect a lot from them. At the risk of being truly unpopular, I now ban laptops unless used for note-taking purposes. In addition, I no longer buy them pizza.
- I also focus on problem solving. Setting aside the first few weeks, I do not “spoonfeed” information from the book or hold the students’ hands through every single issue in the reading material. As a result of this, the students become frustrated, but their learning experience is much different. It seems likely that my evaluations dropped because I am doing a better job of teaching and the students are, in fact, learning more. In any case, the evaluations tell me nothing about whether I actually did my job.
- In years past, I have often received very favorable evaluations. In every single one of those situations, I tried to align my teaching style with the students perceived expectations and needs. I “taught to the test” (or in legal writing, spoonfed what I expected on the writing assignment) and did everything I could to placate their needs and expectations (a “consumer” model, if you will). In retrospect, I view this approach as ineffective, and I view the evaluations as somewhat useless because they appear to reflect the student’s comfort level more than anything else.
- Last spring, I taught evidence. Unfortunately, my work commitments distracted me from the class, and I was frequently absent. The evaluations were low, and deservedly so. The students complained about the absences and the resultant disorganization. This is a perfect example of how student evaluations can be used, in limited instances, to identify objectively verifiable problems with instructor performance. I deserved the criticism.
This should not be a popularity contest. Moreover, the Law School should not rely on student evaluations to determine whether the students are learning basic analytical and practical skills. While students may have general, verifiable information to share, they are not presently qualified to assess our teaching skills, or for that matter, whether they actually learned anything in our classrooms. I am not basing this conclusion on a fancy empirical assessment of student evaluations but, rather, common sense, years of teaching experience, and many years of reviewing inconsistent and misguided student evaluations that have done little to assist me as I search for new and more effective ways to teach.
In addition to the fact that student evaluations cannot provide meaningful information regarding teaching skills or learning, they are also inherently unreliable. Consider this by applying the Federal Rules of Evidence, which are designed, as a core value, to exclude unreliable information to prove a given assertion. Setting aside the fact that evaluations may not be probative of teaching skills or learning, many are insulting, false and otherwise prejudicial. More importantly, student evaluations constitute inadmissible hearsay whose unreliability is compounded by the fact that the out-of-court declarant is completely anonymous. Finally, no court would ever consider such random aspersions from an unknown declarant as competent character evidence. Understanding that this comparison is limited because the Law School is not a courtroom, the application of these rules does reinforce a basic point regarding the inherent unreliability of student evaluations. They would never see the light of day in a courtroom.
I am not pretending that I have all of the answers, and only write this short paper to make a simple point: it is not fair or wise to judge adjuncts solely through student evaluations. The Law School should put other measures in place (peer mentoring, etc.) and provide continued training to all of its adjuncts. The Law School should not tolerate an environment where students can surf the internet in class (without reading the assigned material) and then anonymously criticize his instructor for not being “engaging” or “organized.” To bridge the gap between theory and practice, students should be appropriately confronted with the realities of the practice of law, not placated when they are properly challenged. While this may lead to lower evaluations, it will certainly lead to better lawyers.
* * * * *
Tuesday, January 10, 2012
Psychology Today, of all places, published a review of Fight for Your Long Day, which won the 2011 Independent Publisher's Gold Medal for Best Fiction from the Mid-Atlantic Region by Alex Kudera, available here. It is a $14.34 paperback day-in-the-life satire that follows the eventful misadventures of a college adjunct instructor who teaches at four urban universities.
Though I recognize that this is satire and it is a novel, it appears to highlight how badly adjuncts are treated by universities. It is no secret that we are grossly underpaid, have no benefits and many work at more than one institution. It is also no secret that most law schools would not be able to operate without us because we are the only ones that have any useful experience.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Hat Tip: Professor Rick Bales Workplace Prof Blog
Tuesday, October 18, 2011
This should not be a surprise to labor scholars, lawyers as well as to readers to this blog. In Schramm v. Commissioner, No. 8938-09 (T.C. Aug. 30, 2011), a professor who taught an Internet-based course for a university attempted to claim deductions on Schedule C as an independent contractor. The Tax Court rejected his argument and applied the common law right to control test which examined the following factors:
- the degree of control exercised by the principal;
- which party invested in the work facilities used by the worker;
- the opportunity of the individual for profit or loss;
- whether the principal can discharge the individual;
- whether the work is part of the principal’s regular business;
- the permanency of the relationship;
- the relationship the parties believed they were creating; and
- the provision of employee benefits.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Thursday, August 18, 2011
What if law schools opened their own law firms? is an interesting August 17, 2011 National Law Journal article. It reports on a law review article where two professors speculate about law firms operated by law schools. The article also argues that traditional law school should be two in class years with the third year spend operating as a student attorney for this law school law firm.
What I find most significant is that the professors recognize that this law school law firm would have to be staffed by attorneys-not by the professors. The major problem with law school professors today is that many, if not most of them, are simply incapable of practicing law and many never had. But, this is what we have, for the most part, training the lawyers of the future.
Now, I suppose that the law schools will respond by stating that is what us adjuncts are for. Really; law schools should rely on the lowest paid members of the staff who have no say about admissions or curriculum or running the school. But, that is exactly what most law schools today do.
What a system. I hope it changes, but I do not see any evidence of that in that virtually every law school is looking for the newly minted ivy P.hd. who also has a ivy law degree and may have done a federal clerkship for a year or two.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Monday, August 1, 2011
Hello Adjunct, Meet Prof Cozy is a July 22, 2011 Wall Street Journal Online article which is actually a book review of The Faculty Lounges By Naomi Schaefer Riley. The review summarizes what we have been highlighting for some time. Adjuncts are grossly underpaid to the point of being abused at many universities. Some colleges employ 70% of their faculty as adjuncts. As the article states:
To free up tenured professors for research, she observes, much of the teaching at universities is delegated to graduate assistants and "adjunct" faculty who are ill paid and ill treated. An adjunct instructor teaching six courses may earn less than $20,000 a year; an adjunct teaching only three credits short of a full-time position may have to pay more than 20% of his salary to join the university's least expensive health-care program. One administrator noted that "Wal-Mart is a more honest employer of part-time employees than are most colleges and universities" and admitted that adjunct teachers are a "highly educated working poor." Meanwhile, tenured professors at many universities, often with shockingly light teaching loads, enjoy six-figure salaries, summers of freedom and sabbatical years that are, again, unduplicated in the rest of the economy.
Hat Tip: Neil Dudich, Esq.
Monday, July 18, 2011
Professor Greg Duhl was just named Director of Adjunct Faculty at the William Mitchell College of Law. He has asked me to ask my fellow adjuncts what kind of support, training, and recongition they would like to receive from their law schools. Please post your thoughts in the comment section of this blog. Post only once as posts have to be approved before they are published. I will start:
I have been an adjunct for seven years at two major law schools. My biggest complaint (aside from the terrible pay) is that I do not feel that I am part of the faculty. I teach at night and am an outsider. It would be nice to be included on faculty emails and correspondence and to solicit my input on issues. Though it would be difficult to attend faculty and scholarship meetings, it would be nice to be invited.
One school is better then the other where I teach. Seminars were held on grading students, on teaching skills and publishing in law reviews. Those seminars were all very helpful and should be held more often. It would also be nice to formally meet once in a while with the faculty that teach in your discipline and find out what topics are covered to avoid overlap.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting story on September 30, 2010 called the Ultimate Power Hobby. It is basically about why adjuncts, well adjunct. Interestingly, the article focuses on a New York atty who teaches one night a week at the Univ. of Penn. Law School. The article describes adjuncting is part as follows:
Generally, adjuncts fall into one of two classes: The so-called professional or practitioner adjunct brings the experience of a successful career and isn't in it for the money. Academic adjuncts, many of whom have doctorates, teach in hopes of landing a tenure-track job, and for most of them the salary and lack of benefits are a hardship. Reliance on adjuncts is increasing. In 2007, part-time teachers made up 50% of faculty at degree-granting institutions, according to the association of professors, up from 41% in 1995.
A university has much to gain from well-chosen professional adjuncts, including cachet and credibility. And adjuncts also form a potential donor pool. Like many schools, the University of Michigan Law School has a number of donors on its adjunct faculty roster, says Todd Baily, the law school's assistant dean for development and alumni relations. The development office may pass a donor's resume to the dean and faculty members who vet applicants, or fund-raisers may approach professional adjuncts about donations. Adjuncts "get to know an institution from a different perspective and are invested in it," says Mr. Baily. "It's one resource for us, but it's not our primary resource."
Individuals interested in adjuncting may find this article of particular interest.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Important Law Review Article On the Current State of The Legal Academy And The Lack of Emphasis on Training Lawyers
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
On Technology Law is an interesting blog by Texas Attorney D.C. Toedt who practices intellectual property and is Adjunct Law Professor at Univ. Houston Law School. The blog addresses much more than technology issues. It contains notes and "cheat sheets" which summarize different areas of the law such as arbitration and choice of law. It is worth book marking and checking out.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
Monday, July 26, 2010
Steve Blank recently wrote on his blog an interesting posting about why someone with something to say should consider teaching. It is called You Cannot Take It With You. As the posting states:
- If you don’t teach it or write it down, the accumulated knowledge of your career is gone.
- War stories about your career can be entertainment, or even better if you want to teach, make them the basis of a strategy and methodology worth passing on.
- Retirement doesn’t have to be only about golf and skiing.