If you’ve never had to live on an adjunct’s salary, the numbers make very good business sense. We take a teacher, a traditionally underpaid professional, who, in higher education is over-educated by definition, and divide up the duties of this one person among two or three equally educated people, then pay them a combined sum that is less than what the original teacher was paid, and we also subtract benefits. It will be embarrassing to explain to the new hires how little they’ll be paid, and that they won’t have health insurance, but it’s worth it to save money. It’s such a simple and forthright concept that it follows that what is good for higher education can expand out into all kinds of jobs and professions.
Adjuncting the Postal Worker
Mail carriers are always running around in a hurry. We’d be doing them a favor by splitting up the work into smaller routes. How small? So small they won’t need trucks, because dividing one carrier into several carriers doesn’t save money if they each drive a little truck. We make them buy those red wagons, which is good for the red wagon company. They walk to the post office every morning and deliver the mail on foot. Think about that carbon footprint. They might have to take a couple of trips, even with small routes, but if the work adds up to more than 40 hours per week, don’t worry, because we pay them by the street. They’ve contracted out two streets, for example, and we pay one small sum for one street, and one small sum for a second street, none of this with benefits and none of it paid until a good six or eight weeks into the contract. And so what at first might seem absurd or inefficient is actually a really great way to save money.
Police Can Do This Too
Except that in addition to them not having cars they also won’t have guns, because guns are cost-prohibitive, and if we have more cops we don’t need more guns. Cops walking around without guns, you say. We say, yes. They do it in England. Except those Bobby uniforms look kind of expensive. We’d get them T-shirts. Or polo shirts. They could buy polo shirts from us and we’d take it out of their first check. But their checks are already small, you say. Can’t we at least buy the polo shirts for them? Which makes it clear you don’t know anything about saving money, because polo shirts, though far less expensive than a Bobby uniform, can also add up when multiplied by the number of streets covered. Are there streets that won’t get contracted out? Maybe, but we won’t concern ourselves with that. People will know where the good streets are and they can always go to one of the good streets if they need a police officer. Isn’t that asking adjunct cops to do more than what they contracted for, if they have to handle the police work coming in from other streets? If an adjunct police officer takes on more work than they’ve contracted for, that’s up to them and of no concern of ours. If adjunct labor is good enough for higher education, which is full of smarties, then it’s good enough for our public sector.
And Utilities. And Hospitals. And Airports
Dividing up everything into smaller tasks and contracting out those tasks for less than what had originally been paid is a splendid way to save money. And saving money is great. It’s the best.
Then why does college tuition keep going up? Why is student debt more than a trillion dollars? To find that answer, we’d have to ask the students themselves, because millennials are spoiled. We used to live on spaghetti and ramen. These kids have expensive tastes. Have you heard about those gourmet burger joints going up? You can buy a burger with truffle oil or caviar on it. And Whole Foods? They didn’t have Whole Foods or Trader Joes when we were in college. If the kids are racking up debt it’s probably because of Whole Foods, who was caught price gouging, remember that? And they wear nice clothes, these kids. And designer glasses frames. If you’re thinking that can’t be it, you aren’t considering how small luxuries add up.
What else could it be? If we’ve lowered the cost of teaching, why would the cost of higher education continue to go up?
Don’t Point Your Finger at Us
Remember, we’re the ones who have been saving money. How much are we paid, you want to know? We are paid in direct accordance with our stature: we’re managers. The decisions we make affect everyone at this institution. We hang out with the university president. We have administrative assistants. We’re paid for money-saving ideas and we have lots of them. Yes, there’s a new building where we have our large offices, and we need to be paid enough to drive nice cars, so our building signals the proper esteem of those within. Because if we didn’t have nice cars and nice offices and people working for us, then they might not trust us to make the big money-saving decisions. You get that, right?
Maybe if you were paid less you wouldn’t ask so many questions. And you’d understand the way the world works. We’d love to be able to spread our influence, because we’re really good at what we do. We’ve got amazing wardrobes and we’ve turned our state college MBAs into gold. And when we hit another line on the budget, we’re thinking, seriously? For example: can’t we get some of these kids to cut the grass? We’ll let them use our mowers. And why are we paying them to serve each other food in the dining halls? Because that’s a good social activity. It’s a way to pitch in and help each other out. Maybe instead of adjuncts we could get the smarter students to teach the average ones. Or a robot. It would be perfect if someone would go ahead and invent an adjunct robot.
No, come to think of it, robots are expensive. They could start out with robots at the Ivy Leagues and then after they’ve mass-produced enough of them, maybe we’d jump on the robot bandwagon. As long as they didn’t need too many upgrades. As long as the students thought it was modern, a robotic state-of-the-art twenty-first-century way to get educated.
Because Without Adjuncts or Robots
College students might self-educate. Which is the cheapest option yet, but there’s not really a way to make money off of that. And to pay us. Because it’s not so much the education as the diploma, and it’s not so much the school as the accreditation of the school, and it’s not so much the teacher as the grades. Unfortunately, students need teachers, and colleges need middlemen to keep the greedy money-loving teachers in check. Can you imagine if a greater portion of the students’ inflated tuition costs went to the teachers instead of to the college? You probably wouldn’t be able to call it a college. You’d have to come up with a whole new name, because it would be a paltry place without cupolas or sculptures or stadiums. Can you imagine if that money went to teachers instead of all that good stuff? And the students, who have to sit there all day with the greedy money-loving teachers, they deserve the good stuff in order to make up for it.
And That’s the Best Part of the Job
Believe it or not, as important as saving money is, we don’t relish it. We’re good at it. We can squeeze money out of existing salaries like nobody’s business. But where the squeezed money goes is what we’ve built. There’s an architectural continuity, with pillars and shaded walkways teeming with friendly squirrels. There are really good T-shirt shops that siphon money from students twice a year via contractual book monopolies. There’s a climbing wall and a waterslide at the rec. center, and a beautiful building full of computers that used to be filled with dusty books. Elliptical walkways are accented with flowerbeds for the parents of prospective students to admire on campus tours. Walking around one can’t help but be puffed up by how great a place this is.