“When Mary Margaret Vojtko died last September—penniless and virtually homeless and eighty-three years old, having been referred to Adult Protective Services because the effects of living in poverty made it seem to some that she was incapable of caring for herself—it made the news because she was a professor.” So begins the dark tale of what it means to be an adjunct professor in the United States today, further explored in these essays and articles.

1. “The Teaching Class.” (Rachel Riederer, Guernica, June 2014)

In this excellent essay, Riederer, an adjunct professor herself, discusses the lack of support her peers face in the classroom, a lack of healthcare benefits, substandard pay, administrative hostility and more. With teachers this stressed, students should be concerned about the quality of their education. Riederer gives the dictionary definition for adjunct, but I would like to point out its synonyms: Subordinate. Auxiliary. Assistant. These terms and their connotations demean the work adjuncts do.

2. “The Adjunct Revolt: How Poor Professors are Fighting Back.” (Elizabeth Segran, The Atlantic, April 2014)

This comprehensive article outlines the downsides of an adjunct-based faculty and offers activists’ suggestions, including government funding, changed hiring methods and more.

3. “The Part-Time Faculty.” (New York Times, April 2014)

Professors present and retired write in to the New York Times to share their experiences working as adjuncts.

4. “Zero Opportunity Employers.” (Sarah Kendzior, Al-Jazeera, September 2013)

Kendzior’s cutting piece delves into the heart of today’s job crisis: “In the post-employment economy, full-time jobs are parcelled into low-wage contract labour, entry-level jobs turn into internships, salaries are paid in exposure, and dignity succumbs to desperation.” This is a must-read.

Photo: Photo by Lee Koromvokis for PBS