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Higher education’s darkest secret

With days to go before classes begin, it’s not uncommon for department heads, or even deans, to ask adjunct professors to take on last-minute teaching assignments, reports. For one professor, this offer was tempting. She was a “part-time” professor and her husband was unemployed. She had taken on more classes at several area colleges in order to support her family and afford health insurance. Despite the extra work, she was still making under $25K per year. The professor knew that refusing the offer could mark her as “uncooperative” and torpedo her chances for a full-time teaching position. Yet she knew there was no way she—or any of her colleagues—could take on yet another class. Better to cancel the class, she suggested to the dean, than to give students a teacher who cannot serve her students. The dean nodded gravely and said with some urgency, “But we don’t want to cancel the class. Really, all we need is a warm body in the classroom.”

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