I’ve been an adjunct for over 13 years, since I was in graduate school, initially to earn money while I looked for a “real” full-time job as a CUNY administrator. I’ve earned an MBA and a master’s degree in anthropology in that time. My career aspiration had been to be a program manager or administrator in the CUNY system, not a professor. However, after applying to over 200 jobs, I have not seen my extensive experience teaching and counseling students and knowledge of management appreciated as worthy of full-time employment. My job applications have had no response other than a handful of rejection letters. Even after interviews with administrators in the position to make hiring decisions, for some reason, they have yet to make clear to me why my experience and background does not qualify me for a job as an administrator at CUNY. So what began as something “temporary” now has become a lifestyle and a significant source of income—which is to say very little income and an itinerant lifestyle.
The “just-in-time” hiring demands of adjunct teaching means that I’ve had to utilize all the limited financial resources available to me to meet my obligations to my colleagues and students with the same level of integrity and professionalism as do full-time tenured professors, without the same formal support of the institution and staff. It has forced me to create strong relationships with those tenured colleagues who can hire me, or affect a hiring decision about me; however, this means indulging systems of patronage that in the long run foster internecine rivalry among colleagues rather than departmental or institutional cohesion. And unforeseen course scheduling changes have meant that I’ve had to seek public assistance on more than a few occasions. Even now I qualify for food stamps.
I now love what I do—teaching. I love working with, counseling and advising the diverse student populations at the junior- and senior-college level. I just don’t know how long I can keep doing it at my age (55) with little compensation, job security, or benefits.