Monday, September 23, 2013

ban the books and can the poor

Although started-small-but-went-viral "The Death of Adjunct Story" is most specific to adjunct-instructor and retirement-age poverty as well as coverage gaps in Medicare and Medicaid, there's news that working-age poverty and poverty for full-time workers have been increasing during the recent "recovery." But if you're living in this country, you probably didn't need me to tell you that, and you don't have to be Warren Buffett to know that inequality is getting worse.

In other news, Ralph Ellison's 1952 National Book Award winner Invisible Man was banned in Randolph County in North Carolina, and school board member, Gary Mason, stated, "I didn’t find any literary value."

But I doubt this relates to any current poverty trends. Unless it does. A lot.

Back to Pittsburgh, based on what one-time three-rivers-area contingent Dave Newman, the novelist I just exchanged interviews with, wrote, a scary aspect of Duquesne adjunct pay is that it could be high for the Pittsburgh area. In relation to what he wrote in Raymond Carver Will Not Raise Our Children, I asked Dave whether an adjunct teaching three courses would actually earn only $9,000 total per year while his full-time, but non-tenure-track, officemates could earn 30K with benefits. Dave responded:

Second, what’s sad about my novel is that those numbers were pretty accurate at the time for an adjunct teacher in Pittsburgh. I think Duquesne pays $3500 per class now but that’s a recent increase from $2500. I think Robert Morris pays $1750 per class. Community colleges pay around $2200. It’s insane. You really could go from being a lecturer making 30 grand to teach a 3/3 load to teaching a 3/3 as an adjunct and making $12,000. It’s scary. Again, I can’t imagine anyone thinking this is acceptable, but the general consensus is: oh well; what did you expect, dummy; if you don’t like it, go to Wall Street; then they’ll accuse you of being a Wall Street scumbucket. 

This reminds me of how, because I was conscientiously trying not to exaggerate, some of the pay numbers for university presidents and athletic directors are too low in Fight for Your Long Day.

Back to the wealth gap, one of my main points of curiosity about Philadelphia was that we had two of the first university presidents (or CEOs) to earn over a million dollars in annual compensation, this in the 1990s, and we had entrenched poverty throughout the city. So in my particular contingent experience in Philadelphia, it was always easy to see, highly visible in train stations and city parks and libraries and other public places, that many of us adjuncts were doing better, in terms of total pay, than plenty of folks surrounding us. That's how bad it was, and is, out there, so to speak. My observations about such extreme inequality were significant enough that grim but comic absurdity became natural circumstances for Protagonist Duffleman once one factored in egregiously high college tuition and much of what we're taught about America's great wealth, freedom, and democracy from K through 12.

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