The student newspaper at George Washington University, The GW Hatchet, recently reported the layoffs of several part-time creative writing faculty members, ostensibly owing to institutional cost-cutting measures. For many years, a number of distinguished part-timers have taught at GWU, and I often regard my own time teaching in the creative writing program—mostly in a part-time capacity—as a formative period in my life. Back then, part-timers often carried teaching loads (2-2) resembling full-time loads and provided valuable departmental service that full-timers often did not provide. Noting that adjuncts probably earn a small fraction of what the full-timers take home, it does not seem like best practices—either corporate or programmatic—to eliminate these low-wage positions.
The article quotes a senior staff member as indicating that “budgetary pressures” drive the reductions among the part-time ranks. Moreover, the article quotes a full-time faculty member as saying “cuts to adjunct faculty will also make full time instructors’ jobs more difficult because they will have to take on more classes and have less time to spend one on one with students.” Both statements trouble me. In terms of cost-cutting, I have to imagine that the leadership of a wealthy, land-owning school could choose from a host of other options rather than axing a handful of part-time faculty, but appears to punish both the creative writing concentration as well as the category of people who may have to scuffle the most with our expensive world in order to teach the arts of prose and poetry. The full-time faculty member, meanwhile, conjures too much privilege among the tenure-track ranks, and misses the point. Here we see part-timers losing part of their livelihood as well as their foothold in the field. I enjoyed the response from a current part-time creative writing instructor (who loses a job) for voicing, in effect, that GWU should invest in people, and should tighten its belt, therefore, by not “[setting out] as many buffets.”
I taught more than 65 courses in the George Washington University English Department, the vast majority of them as an adjunct “professorial lecturer” earning less than $3,000 per section. A goodly gang of folks taught alongside me, in a part-time capacity. We supported each other professionally and personally, and we, as a group, often engaged in service activities—reading series management, literary magazine advising, public office hours, and so forth—that built durable community among hopeful young writers. GWU shames itself by laying off such a vital part of its creative writing program. The very same laid-off instructors are probably reflecting upon the fact that the university does not seem to care much about their plight, and hopefully, these abandoned teachers will not look back as they depart, and not do the university any favors in the future.
complaint week 2015 editorial schedule
October 26: The Democrat Machine
October 27: Artists and Writers Who Say “My Work”
October 28: GWU Fires Adjunct Creative Writing Faculty
October 29: Washington, D.C. Manchester City Bros
October 30: People Who Don’tListen to Music