March 2, 2015

National Adjunct Walkout Day unites professors across nation

Adjunct professors at the University of Chicago, and across the nation, participated in National Adjunct Walkout Day on February 25th, which aimed to raise awareness about the unfair treatment of adjunct professors by university administrations.

An adjunct professor is a part-time faculty member who is hired on a contractual basis. Unlike tenured professors, adjunct professors are less costly to hire and are not entitled to the same benefits as those with tenure. As a result, many universities have significantly reduced their hiring of tenured faculty in favor of more adjuncts as flexible, part-time staff. In 2013, 41% of UChicago faculty taught on the tenure track. However, not all non-tenure faculty positions are adjunct professorships.

Last Wednesday, several UChicago faculty participated by speaking with their students about the casualization of academic labor and the impact this has had on access to quality education.

Professor Ashton Lazarus, a collegiate assistant professor in the Humanities, who participated in Adjunct Walkout Day, discussed his reasoning with his students.

“For National Adjunct Walkout Day, I spent some time talking with my two sections about some of the major shifts in higher education over the past several decades: primarily the rapid increase in tuition and administrative personnel, and the decrease in tenured and tenure-track faculty,” he said. “So although the event was called National Adjunct Walkout Day, and many adjuncts across the country did indeed walk out, I think many of us saw this as a great opportunity to start a conversation with our students about the direction in which the academy is heading.”