Friday, July 20, 2012

Quick Reference Guide For Parents on the College Search

Cross-posted at the Adjunct Project.

Many of us have been suggesting for awhile now that, in order for adjuncts to continue gaining momentum, we need to get the issue out into the public eye. We need to get parents and students on our side, or at least make them aware of the situation. Obviously, the mainstream media attention we have begun to garner is helping in that endeavor. The more we dispel the myth that all college professors are overpaid and underworked (ha!), the better off we will be when it comes to gaining public support for our mission.
Which is why I was particularly heartened by an email I received this week from the parent of a high school senior. In the email, this parent astutely asserts that she is affected by colleges' exploitative practices because she is a "future consumer."

Very true, and well-said. Business practices affect the consumer, whether he or she is willing to recognize it or not. This parent is clearly one who seeks to explore these practices before she patronizes the school. She is exactly the kind of parent to whom we should appeal.

She goes on to ask how she can investigate practices and working conditions at her child's prospective universities. With the help of my colleagues and fellow members at New Faculty Majority, we were able to come up with a pretty good plan for any parent who wishes to investigate a prospective school. Use this list as a template for anyone you know who may be seeking similar advice. It's a pretty solid list of resources. And feel free to comment, if you can think of anything else.
  1. Join and engage with New Faculty Majority, especially in the new discussion forum.
  2. Check out the MLA Workforce database, where you can search for schools and see the breakdown of contingent faculty at each campus.
  3. Explore the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Just Ask campaign which contains some good questions you might ask when checking out campuses.
  4. It also may be worthwhile to contact individual departments that depend heavily on adjunct labor (like English and Math). You might get more detailed information that way, as they are more directly connected to the issue.
  5. Finally, if you really want to dig deep, you could even visit the department website, find the faculty directory, and email a couple of adjuncts on the list with questions.
This quick reference is a good start for parents who want to know more about the working (and learning) conditions on their children's campuses. What else should we add?


  1. Great ideas. However number 5 may not always be possible since many Colleges do not list adjuncts in their directory or on department websites. We are the 'invisible' faculty- 'staff' or 'to be determined'...

    1. Or remind them to look for conspicuous gaps... the dog that didn't bark in the night. Ask for names of "staff"

    2. Agreed. Parents can look at course catalogs and compare the offerings with the faculty that are listed online for any department to get a sense.

  2. Good guidelines... the making of a future brochure for parents.

    I wonder if there are groups for parents of college bound high students we could post this to. Returning and non-traditional students too.

    I'd add (thought I had) the link to Debra Leigh Scott's post, What we must demand of our colleges

  3. Bravo, Josh. This guide is tremendously helpful.

    Is there some way that the numbered steps can be posted on the website as well on the blog, slightly edited for the new location, under "Students" and again under "Parents"? And could the webpage be engineered so that students and families who accept your invitation can post additional resources and specific reports as they choose among schools?


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