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Contact Lie + Teaching = Game Over

active learning

Last year I wrote about a success strategy to help clarify the heart of the adjunt problem: contact hours. (

A second strategy has presented itself post-MLA/Chronicle of Higher Education/Adjunct Project “events” this past weekend. (I’ll address the scare quotes in a bit.)


Run with the teaching angle.


Because it addresses everything else. In the class meeting, active and effective teaching solves problems and moves an increasing amount of students (traditional and non) toward the successful completion of essential objectives. In the faculty meeting, this tactic of applying our teaching successes to our work lives increases communication across with the oldest waring factions. In the executive meeting, active and effective teaching, learning, thinking, and strategizing increases ownership of problems and maximizes participation in problem solving. Anyone not focused on the resolution of conflicts or not focused on increasing the learning potentional of individuals and institutions should quite frankly lose his or her job.


Teacher. Administrator. Staff. Trustee. Board. Human resources. Financial Aid. Library. IT staff. Everyone. You are now on notice: do your job, serve the students or you are fired. The communist-styled committees will not protect you. The state-level bureaucracies will no longer defend your incompetence or justify your lazziness or rationalize the decisions you make every day that harm students, faculty, and whole colleges and universities.


Now, before I go full Alec Baldwin (Glengarry Glen Ross), I want to break it down another way.

Equal Pay/Equal Work + Teaching Excellence = Game Over

Tenure committees will need to consider teaching as equal to research.
Bad teachers will be identified and given the opportunity to improve.
Bad teachers will no longer be promoted into administrative ranks and executive teams.
Bad teachers will no longer control hiring committees.
Bad teachers will no longer regulate professional development funds reserved for teaching.
Bad teachers will no longer control curriculum committees.
Bad teachers will no longer control editorial boards looking for tenured faculty to support their volunteer operations that rely solely on CV credentials including tenure and publications. (To be on the editorial board, you will need tenure or possess outstanding institutional credentials, which will now include teaching excellence.)

(Oddly enough, this is precisely how my MA alma matter Dartmouth College operated for centuries. Undergraduate teaching excellence mattering more than service or grants — well, not in the past two or so decades.)

The high number of adjuncts teaching (in some institutions as high as 90%) and given the growing demand for exceptional teachers as expressed by students, parents, community leaders, politicians, and industry professionals opens a new front in the battle against New Liberal Elitism and Crony Capitalist Conservatism will prove extremely helpful.

Better teaching = better courses = more partnerships between industry-academics-professions

Better teaching = more money = more prestige in changing 21st century (more than a university press publishing contract <— still vital but without links to how the research addresses or at least emerged from teaching I am not sure this model is sustainable given the diverse and growing needs of today’s undergraduates)

This particular phase of the battle cannot focus on securing more tenure track jobs. That front has been opened and pressure needs to be added to private and public institutions already showing signs of a willingness to listen to the wisdom of its faculty.

Ironically, the very UMN-Twin Cities that just came under fire from the Wall Street Journal had been a leading Liberal Arts employer across President Robert Bruininks tenure; he is a very complicated figure whose biography is still being written. But, right now, it doesn’t look like future historians are going to be particularly forgiving, especially if they emphasize the centralized administrative wasted he left behind: (as of 1/7/13 @ 11:00am this article was accessible to all) (audio)

Significant, sustainable equity for adjuncts will only happen after the basic issues of equal pay for equal work has been addressed. Our work is teaching. Along with this conversation we can emphasize new ways to pay for education, especially given how increased state and federal involvment makes it almost impossible to throw the oligarchs in the dustbin of our historic struggle.

Dr. Robert Craig Baum
Green Mountain Division of the Adjunct Nation

About Dean RCB

Dean of Academics Lebanon College Philosophy and Integrated Liberal Arts Writer & Producer (theatre, television, film) Composer & Producer RCB lives in the Upper Valley with his wife and four boys.

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