Thursday, May 13, 2004


The Boston Globe has helped lionize Invisible Adjunct, and Erin O'Connor asks:
I've got mixed feelings about the way IA has become, in the wake of her departure, a sort of faceless poster girl for the degradation of academic work. On the one hand, the human interest that surrounds her story has made it possible to publicize a problem that needs all the publicity it can get. On the other hand, the hand-wringing has a bitterly ironic quality to it: What IA wanted was a job teaching college history; instead, she has become facelessly famous as the woman who was wrongly denied that opportunity. Meanwhile, I have to wonder whether any of the gainfully employed academic historians who have publicly mourned the fate of IA have tried to find a place for her--a real, lasting place for her--in their profession.
I hate to be a wet blanket -- I too have corresponded with IA and she's a very good historian -- but I don't know why we believe people are entitled to a job just because they are smart. And I don't know how Erin, of all people, could call IA "wrongly denied". How do we know that? It strikes me as presumptuous that outsiders can determine who should and who should not have a job, just as it strikes me as naive to think we can simply reallocate money from adjuncts to tenure-track faculty without changing many other incentives in the university system that make it work? The commenters to Erin's post offer some additional good analysis.