Derek Bowman, a recent philosophy PhD who is currently employed as a part-time lecturer, writes in with a suggestion for addressing the increasingly prevalent practice of hiring part-time or adjunct faculty to meet teaching needs. I present it here for your consideration and discussion.
In recent years, the philosophy blogosphere has done an admirable job making important information about admissions and about the tenure-track hiring process available to all students and job-seekers, and concern with equal access to information has been a central issue in recent conversations about the future of departmental rankings in philosophy.
But even at their most successful, these efforts do nothing to address an employment system that is guaranteed to leave a large percentage of young philosophers disappointed, frustrated, and financially distressed. At best, they can provide fairness in access to information about how to best navigate an unfair system. We can never achieve fairness in the philosophy job market as long as we routinely use part-time adjuncts and term-limited ‘visiting’ professors to fill predictable, long-term teaching needs.
But what can we do? Individual departments often have limited control over their instructional budgets, and underemployed ABDs and PhDs rarely have any power to negotiate for better terms.
The first step is for philosophers to make it clear that we do not regard these positions as normal and acceptable forms of professional employment. One concrete step in this direction is for the APA and the PhilPapers Foundation to disallow the posting of ads on PhilJobs for clearly exploitative positions. At a minimum, this should include most non-benefits-conferring, part-time work designed to fill regular teaching needs. But it might also plausibly include those term-limited post-docs and visiting positions that fail to provide time and resources for the professional development necessary to secure future positions.