Higher Education's Employment Problem
Last week, Salon published an expose of sorts about the dire conditions facing adjunct professors at universities across the United States. The article by Dr. Rosner Fuller provides testimonials from dozens of adjuncts in different fields which together build an unsettling picture--adjunct and part-time teaching staff are being paid startlingly low rates for back-breaking teaching loads.
Adjuncts make up "approximately 70% of all teaching staff in American higher education," but many adjuncts feel as thought they are the least valued cog in the academic machine. Many of the teachers interviewed by Fuller allude to feeling as though there is a "class system" of sorts in Academia, with adjuncts at the bottom. Others claim there is a stigma attached to being non-tenure track, and admit feeling a sense of failure for not finding stable work in their field.
Not only are the underappreciated, they are also underpaid. According to Fuller, the average adjunct receives about $2,700 per class. Given the hours it takes to plan lessons, advise students, and grade work, this amounts to near minimum wage in many cases. According to CUNY Adjunct Project, "an adjunct [at CUNY] teaching full time (4 courses/semester) receives a starting annual income of $24,644," which, as most of us know is an incredibly small income for someone living in new York City. Because of the terrible pay, adjuncts are often forced to take on second jobs which limits the time they can devote to students, thus hurting everyone involved.
In comparisons to other positions, this pay is abysmal: “Amy Gutmann, president of the University of Pennsylvania, takes home over $3 million a year – about 140 times what an adjunct teaching a back-breaking eight courses would earn. The average pay for public college presidents was $428,000 in 2014. Some college sports coaches are paid as well, or even better: the 10 most highly paid college coaches in 2015 each earned more than Gutmann, with some bringing home more than $7 million.” Because of the terrible pay, adjuncts are often forced to take on second jobs.
Fuller's article also exposes how precarious employment is for adjuncts. Because they have short term contracts, universities can simply choose not to re-hire a professor once their contract is up; no reason needs to be given. Because of this, many adjuncts feel as though they cannot "rock the boat" or make any noise. This limits what kind of research they can do, what kind of writing they put out--if they even have the time to do any research or writing at all. “We’ve figured out how to shut down intellectual vibrancy,” Richard Aberle, a long-time English adjunct tells Fuller, “It may not have been intentional, but it had the same effect as if it were. They are all struggling, so now they shut up. If you wanted to kill off intellectual life – left or right – this was the way to do it.”
Fuller's article is simply the tip of the iceberg. For example, CUNY teaching staff, tenured and non-tenured alike seem to have infinite issues receiving reasonable contracts and pay. Similarly, Long Island University's Brooklyn campus recently participated in a preemptive strike, also for contractual problems. In a time where higher education has been deemed necessary for a decent living, it seems unfathomable that those who make that education possible are being so mistreated. And yet, such is the case. It seems that the American university system might be a system set to implode.
Let the Dragon Ride Again...
On the Wings of a Well-Funded Television Studio!
In February of 2015, the unthinkable happened... Winter Dragon aired on FXX.
Winter Dragon is the pilot for a television series based on the Wheel of Time series. The Wheel of Time is a fantasy series written by authors Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson. Spanning 15 volumes, the series tells the tale of a world of magic battling the forces of the evil Dark One in the name of the Light. According to bestfantasybookshq.com, as of 2015, the Wheel of Time was the seventh best selling fantasy series of all time, boasting an impressive 80 million sales worldwide. One can imagine what this might mean for a Wheel of Time television series... LOTS of fans, LOTS of money.
HOWEVER, Winter Dragon was a dud.
(Here's the proof, if you need it [though I definitely DO NOT suggest it]!!!)
Billy Zane produced and starred in Winter Dragon-- a grave error that earned the ire of countless Wheel of Time fans and netizens-- including the original author's wife, Harriet McDougal. Shortly after the unannounced pilot aired in the dead of the night, Mcdougall took to Facebook to react, posting,"It was made without my knowledge or cooperation.I never saw a script."
The short version is that there was a bunch of legal stuff going on. The company that had the rights to a WoT television series had sat idle for too long, and was then forced to produce something- ANYTHING related the series so as not to lose those rights. Furthermore, the company claims that McDougal was well-aware of their plans to act on the television series, and attempted to sue her... !
Winter Dragon... Legal battles... Crying Fans...
Fast forward to 2016.
A glimmer of hope...
In April of this year, Harriet McDougal took to Google+ with these words:
After the major success of fantasy epic- turned HBO drama, Game of Thrones, Wheel of Time fans are excited to see what can become of their own beloved series.
As a WoT FANATIC, I post this in hopes that this "official announcement" is delivered soon...!