I read with interest Elizabeth Palmberg’s “How to … Find a Social Justice College” in the September-October 2009 issue. I noted especially the question she encourages prospective students to raise: “Does a school pay janitors a living wage?” Let me suggest that this question be added: “Does a school pay instructors a living wage?”
The percentage of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty members teaching at the nation’s colleges and universities has been declining precipitously in recent years. These faculty members are being replaced by a growing corps of instructors who teach classes part-time or on limited-term contracts, without permanent appointments, adequate compensation, or appropriate professional support. Despite high qualifications, most are paid only a fraction of what they would make as a full-time professor (or even as a janitor) and have no benefits.
I recommend that students and their parents concerned about social justice ask first about the number of contingent faculty relative to that of full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty at the schools they are considering. Social justice colleges need to be sure their own house is in order if they want to be taken seriously as such.
Christopher Dorn, Milwaukee, Wisconsin