The case of Margaret Mary Vojtko made much more public a conversation that’s been heating up in academe. Vojtko, an adjunct professor at Duquesne University, passed away at 83, shortly after the university didn’t renew her teaching contract. Although many facts and facets about the woman’s life, wages, health, and relationship with her employer have been uncovered and discussed — and opinions aren’t equal on all sides about her story — Margaret Mary has quickly become the patron saint of the discussion of fair labor practices related to adjunct and contingent workers. The plight of the adjunct is not only very real, it also serves as a marker for the kinds of employment available for those who receive an advanced degree.
But the problem doesn’t stop with those underemployed teachers (who make up an estimated 68–75% of higher education instructors). In many cases, these instructors are working to educate and graduate classes of students who will enter a teaching workforce already overpopulated and underpaid. Those teachers who, like Vojtko, show up day after day to teach classes (sometimes for as little as $1,200 per course), may literally be educating students into nonexistent or below-minimum wage jobs.
Hybrid Pedagogy is here announcing a call for articles that address these issues.The goal of this series will be to examine our role as pedagogues in a system wherein education does not always result in opportunity. We’ll look at our complicity in adjunct labor practices — whether we are tenure track, part-time, contingent, or alt-ac — and whether there is pedagogical value in making explicit for students how their college experience is and will be shaped by an increasingly bleak job market.
We believe there is a need for bravery and risk at all levels of the institution. As Lee Skallerup Bessette and Jesse Stommel write in “A Scholarship of Resistance: Bravery, Contingency, and Higher Education,”
Educators need advocates and need to be advocates. We can’t just notice the problems, but must take specific action to solve them individually and institutionally … We need to actively ensure that academia is a safe place for contingent faculty to speak openly about their professional lives without fear of losing their livelihood. We need to gather together in number so our pedagogies and politics can be safely laid bare.
Hybrid Pedagogy is seeking articles that are unafraid to enact this laying bare. We are looking for works that blend personal narrative with research, academic rigor with intimate reflection. For many, contingency isn’t just a political status, it’s a personal matter; at the same time, serious discussion of the situation in higher education deserves thoughtful, scholarly dialogue. Only a balance of both approaches will get to the heart of the matter.
Consider submitting an article (1,000 – 2,500 words) or abstract (250 words) that responds to or pushes against the following questions:
- What are our responsibilities to academic labor? Whether we are tenure-track or contingent, should we be actively seeking to balance the scales of employment in higher education?
- How candid should we be with students about academic employment — the difficulties of obtaining full-time work, the paucity of jobs, the likelihood of low wages — and the state of higher education?
- Can we strike a balance between promoting lifelong learning that often occurs outside formal institutional boundaries and demonstrating the continued relevance of formal educational institutions?
- Does the value of a college education lie solely in the increased earning potential it can garner? If not, how do we respond to concerns that choosing a less-lucrative field of study may have long-term economic consequences for students?
This is a rolling call, and we will begin accepting and publishing submissions immediately. Publication priority will be given to submissions received by November 15, 2013. To submit an abstract or article, visit Hybrid Pedagogy’s submissions page. Please direct questions to Chris Friend, Director of Hybrid Pedagogy.