Thanks to Alissa Quart’s March 21 op-ed, “A bigger scandal at colleges: underpaid professors,” for redirecting the focus toward adjuncts and perpetual visiting faculty while the college admissions scandal has firmly fixed the spotlight on university practices. These “temporary” faculty members are often a department’s bread and butter, teaching a disproportionately large number of courses. It’s easy to see why universities that pride themselves on strong departments need adjuncts and other instructors to free up tenure-track faculty to pursue their research along with teaching. Yet by undervaluing the role of adjuncts and temporary faculty, universities have lulled themselves into exploiting them.
Caring about the character of the institutions our students are attending is long overdue. A transparent rating such as the Fair Labor Seal that Quart proposes would, and should, be another factor students and families use to evaluate the best fit, along with academic reputation, location, safety, etc.
The writer is a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Lowell.