Work and scholarship

Our September meetup focused on the question of how to earn a living outside teaching. It was a good reminder that being an independent scholar isn’t identical with being an adjunct professor, although of course there is a lot of overlap. But many of us are pursuing scholarship while doing non-teaching work (librarians, test preparers and readers, editors) or unrelated “day jobs,”  or while raising children. Some are pursuing new intellectual directions in retirement.  Grant funding can be lifesaving, but of course it’s occasional. The issues are different for single people (who have no other source of income in the household) and for married or partnered people (who have responsibilities to other needs of the household).

The Ronin Institute talks about “fractional scholars,” people whose academic vocation is one part of a multidimensional life. What does this mean for one’s identity as a scholar?

Recent articles and further thoughts

A couple of Hidden Scholars call our attention to these articles about scholarship and adjunct teaching.

Sarah Kendzior’s opinion piece for Al Jazeera, “The closing of American academia,” opens with a poignant anecdote of listening to anthropologists discussing structural inequality at a very expensive convention. She considers the meaning of education when Ph.D. scholars are working for poverty wages – and when institutions depend increasingly on unpaid interns at all levels.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a survey by New Faculty Majority, and a related policy paper, about the ways last-minute hiring and limited resources for adjuncts affect student learning. There are links to several other studies and articles. (Audrey Williams June, “How universities treat adjuncts limits their effectiveness in the classroom, report says.”)

The issue of adjunct faculty – their numbers, their pay, their working conditions, the way institutions increasingly rely on them – is getting more media attention these days, and that’s a good thing. There is less attention, perhaps, to the issue of doing scholarly work outside academic institutions. In the long run, we can have an important voice here.