Where are PhD Supervisors in the Conversation about Adjuncts?

Billboard 1944 Oak Ridge. Public Domain.

I’ve been in lots of online conversations about adjunctification, and somebody always asks why we keep producing more PhDs than the market will bear. The answer? Crickets.

I’ve just realized it’s a meaningless question — at least, the ‘we’ part of it. Because the people in those conversations aren’t the ones producing excess PhDs. In fact, talking as if this were a general problem of academia obscures the main issue; faculty who produce PhDs benefit from producing excess PhDs, while faculty who don’t produce PhDs are hurt by the production of excess PhDs.

One group of us is doing something that hurts another group of us, while we go on talking as if we were all in this together. We lump tenured faculty together, when one group of tenured faculty is causing the problem and the other groups are suffering from it. Then we argue for hours about what the second group can do about the problem, while the first group keep their mouths shut as if they have nothing of interest to contribute.

I’m tired of being told that ‘tenured faculty’ should solve the adjunctification crisis by meeting, communicating, complaining, educating parents, arguing with administrators, etc. etc. — as if ‘tenured faculty’ were a meaningful category in this problem.  We need to hear from PhD-producing faculty. We need to hear how, and when, they are going to reduce the number of students they supervise. And if they’re not, we need to know why not, and learn about those constraints.

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