Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Part-Time Racket


Portland State University is locked into a months-long labor dispute that focuses on the role of temporary and part time teaching faculty at the University. While the Oregon State University system averages about thirty percent part time staff, PSU is reaching towards fifty. No one, not the administration, the faculty, nor the students think more part time faculty results in a higher level of quality in education. And they are right, it doesn't. The part time teaching racket exists as an employment catchment for people with Master's degrees in particular, those that find themselves under-qualified for tenure track positions but over-qualified or too niche-educated for mainstream commercial jobs. From experience I can say that part time faculty are typically paid a flat fee based on in-class hours, a system that devalues extra time spent on curriculum development and grading. And in order to earn a living wage, and make the inevitable student loan payments, part time instructors teach many, many classes, sometimes at more than one campus. What ends up being created is a factory-farmed education. The students are numbers, the curriculum is simplified, attachment to the university fades, as does pride in one's vocation. The recent higher education boom has seen massive increases in infrastructure and technology at our universities, but little investment in the heart of education, the people. Are you an alumni? Tell your school how you feel about the role of part time staff. They listen. Or at least they should.

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