Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Part-Time College Instructors and Teaching Assistants

Colleges and universities have three classes of teachers in their hire: the professors (of varying ranks), the adjuncts or part-time instructors, and the teaching assistants. They essentially inhabit three different worlds. The professors receive a professional-level salary (varying by rank, experience, location, and type of institution. They additionally have the normal suite of fringe benefits, including the important health insurance. Professors have their own offices, are given computers and telephones by the university, and have their own campus snail mail box. Most are awarded tenure after a probationary period, which is usually prefunctory.

Part-time instructors typically are paid by the class, and at a
fraction per class of what the full-time faculty receives. They receive no benfits, being only of part-time status. Because of this, many have to hold down part-time positions at two or more different institutions, or work part-time at some other job. Imagine running into your English instructor working in a convenience store or delivering your pizza. It can happen.

Teaching Assistants are the true proletariat of the academic world. They teach classes or lab sections with small compensation, have long hours, very little discretion in how they conduct classes, and often times are called on to do additional duties. Fri
nge benefits? No way. T

The different classes of college teachers live different life styles. Professors are more bourgeois, especially those with higher academic rank. Some may even be soccer moms and dads. Their beverage of choice is a nice single-malt scotch or cognac. They vacation in the mountains or rent a condo on the coast for a week.
Part-timers drink inexpensive plonk or a nice beer; and are content with a weekend in Gatlinburg. TAs drink on-sale beer, and do spring break if someone foots their bill or kicks in for gas.

Of course, it's not all one-sided. A junior professor or part-time instructor does not further her career by being named Miss Spring Break Bikini. A grad student can probably pull it off (the act; maybe not the bikini, itself!), and be regarded as a free spirit in her department!
And graduate students notoriously do not have to mow lawns, except as a part-time job or if some professor decides that lawn mowing is "part of graduate training."


  1. "A graduate student can probably pull it off" . . . .

  2. That's about right. Maybe different at big name institutions.

  3. As an adjunct faculty member, I can say that we're encouraged to keep a low profile.