On Teaching Fashion: The Adjunct Shuffle

There has been much in the news this week highlighting the state of contingent faculty in academia.  I want to take the opportunity this week to post news and resources for those readers of Worn Through who are juggling scholarship, adjunct teaching, other professions and life.   I offer at the end of my post an invitation to share your thoughts with other readers and fellow adjunct fashion instructors.

The news is good. Adjuncts are organizing and finding constructive ways of being heard. Most recently in the news, The IRS is “warning” educational institutions to realistically count adjunct hours.  As quoted from an article in the Huffington Post:

” The IRS noted in the Federal Register that “educational organizations generally do not track the full hours of service of adjunct faculty, but instead compensate adjunct faculty on the basis of credit hours taught.” In short, most colleges are only paying part-time instructors for time spent in a classroom, and nothing for time spent grading or preparing.”

The IRS is inviting comment towards the creation of guidelines that could ensure part-time college instructors the opportunity for health care under the Affordable Care Act.  The downside of this measure is that educational institutions are cutting adjunct hours to save themselves from having to support adjuncts with insurance. Comments are being accepted here if you are inclined to give your opinions.


The image above sourced from insidered.com highlights some not so fun adjunct faculty facts such as:

  • Adjuncts teach about 1/2 of the undergraduate courses in public institutions.
  • Adjuncts make up 73% of the employee-instructional workforce in higher education.
  • 1/3 of adjuncts make less than 2,000.oo a class.

Students may not realize or even question the difference between an adjunct and a full-time professor.  An article this week in Billfold Magazine highlights the efforts of Instructor Karen Gregory to educate her labor studies students on the realities of teaching adjunct. You can find her syllabus here.
Being an adjunct teacher is exhausting and rewarding simultaneously.  I hustled as an adjunct educator and freelance designer for almost 7 years before landing a full-time position. It is heartening to see adjuncts and educational institutions organizing around the rights of contingent workers as noted in this recent Insidehighered.com article.

As well, the Chronicle of Higher Education is in the midst of a major data gathering undertaking called “The Adjunct Project.”  Efforts such as The Adjunct Project are critical in providing the hard data needed at the federal level to make policy changes that benefit adjunct teachers.

In terms of support for adjunct faculty, I personally juggled freelance design with adjunct teaching so was able to make use of the valuable services (health insurance) provided by The Freelancers Union.  This  organization was set up by independent and freelance workers with the mission of promoting the interests of independent workers through advocacy, education, and services. Independent scholars and educators participate in The Freelancers Union.

The chronicle for Higher Ed has a wonderful forum for non-tenure track academics here. I have found good advice and lots of humor on the forum.  In preparing this post, I asked my adjunct colleagues about resources for  contingent faculty they frequent.  Many note that university resources are scant and often superficial. What resources can you offer? If this discussion is relevant to you please comment.

Happy Teaching!

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  • Monica Sklar February 08, 2013 11.20 am

    FYI-I have been an adjunct instructor on and off for 10 years, so if anyone wants to discuss I’d be happy to. Great piece Kelly.

  • Kelly February 08, 2013 11.27 am

    Thanks Monica! Yes, I am hoping folks comment if just to make some connection with others doing the adjunct shuffle.


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