When PGOAT said yesterday that adjuncts have to teach a lot more than regular faculty, she was dead serious. A junior faculty member at a research school can expect a teaching load of four or five courses a year. That’s just about what the university thinks is reasonable for finding a good balance between teaching and research, assuming a 60-70 hour work week. But someone picking up random adjuncting jobs might have to teach as many as seven or eight courses a year just to make ends meet—nearly double the junior faculty’s teaching load. If you’re teaching that much, you just can’t do any research.
But, as PGOAT mentioned, most people in philosophy start out adjuncting. So how does anyone ever get out of it? Well, they can quit philosophy. But for those who stay in, not all adjuncting is created equal. Junior people can find one-year contracts to teach six courses. A department that’s not looking to exploit anyone too viciously might need an extra body to take a few courses for a year or two. This sort of department typically pays a living wage for a six course load. You can teach those courses and still do some of your own work on weekends. That’s exhausting, but doable.
What’s not doable is the position you’re in with a department that always has a bunch of classes taught by adjuncts, and does so to save money. A department, in other words, that builds exploitation into its budget. Those are the jobs where you’ll end up teaching eight classes at two different schools just to pay your rent. And those are the jobs that almost guarantee you’ll never move up. As D’Angelo might put it, philosophy’s like chess and not checkers: ain’t no way for a pawn to get kinged.