#Dispatches: COVID Impacts by Career Level, Part II ~ NTT/Adjuncts/VAP

#Dispatches From the Frontlines Monday series crowdsources questions to get a broad indication of how our readers are coping with various challenges.

The question right now: How has COVID impacted your career? Due to the massive number of responses, I will be dividing responses by career level.

Last week I began with Assistant Professors. Today I share responses by NTT/Adjuncts/VAP. Next week I’ll feature Grad students and postdocs, and then tenured faculty/administrators will follow.

Bolding added for emphasis. I want to draw your attention to the fact that only cis-gender white men report the pandemic having no negative impact on them financially.

New #Dispatches Question will be opened for responses in a few weeks’ time.

NOTE: Please remember that we invite respondents to list their own identifying details. We mostly do not edit these. Respondents share what THEY feel is significant about their identity.

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I was actively looking for the past two years for a TT position after a two year postdoc. I am in a STEM field, where 2020 was promising to be a good year – until March. I currently have a staff scientist position which I was considering to leave for another postdoc – now with the current job market outlooks/economy, I will switch to get the portfolio for a data scientist and try my luck in industry. It doesn’t seem to be a good idea to wait any longer to get a position in academia. [Staff Scientist, Stem, 32, female, caucasian, not married]

~~

There is no long term – the immediate is all there is. Graduated in December and moved cross country so we could be close to partner’s family in wake of tragic death of a parent. Partner is helping with family business triage. Managed to get a Visiting instructor position at the local college and was planning to go on the market full force this summer/fall pre pandemic. Now, my current institution has announced an upcoming budged deficit in the double digit millions, and the emails we are getting from administration are not inspiring a lot of confidence in those of us on the NTT. Started searching, miracle of miracles found three very late active TT searches and threw job materials together in about 10 days. So the planning is three-pronged-  1) Waiting to hear back, practicing interview strategies. 2) strengthening job documents for hoped-for searches in the fall (unlikely) and planning for fall courses in my current position that might not exist and 3) googling “how to turn CV into resume” and other alt ac resources. [NTT, Social Sciences, White female, 26, married, cis]

~~

I had already been looking outside of academia for jobs and had just decided (for real this time) that I wasn’t going to get sucked into another adjunct position in hopes of a magical TT job when…this happened. All the jobs I was applying to evaporated, and new listings have been sparse. I’ve been trying to pick up new skills (you know, with all that free quarantine time I have) but between working from home and finishing up my current adjunct job I’m exhausted. On the flip side, working from home has eliminated a huge amount of anxiety around getting to places on time, traveling, switching work environments, etc. I’m thinking I’ll pursue more remote jobs after this. Silver lining? [Ac-adjacent employee and adjunct faculty, Humanities, 35 y/o white single female]

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I have been diligently trying to secure either an academic or museum position (I am an art historian) for seven years now and hobbling along with pieced-together adjunct positions and a mostly unsuccessful freelance grant-writing business I do not have enough time to make profitable. Finally, after years of searching and being frightened about money and health insurance (I have benefits now through my state university lectureship and do not want to lose it) I had more interviews this AY than ever before and 4 final round interviews. My partner had a good offer from a state university, and I had teaching, non-profit, and museum gigs lined-up in the same city. We were preparing to move from our smallish town (coastal CA) to a large city (also in CA) in June. Then the virus came, her job offer was rescinded as the position was canceled (she is a studio artist), she lost her teaching job (still has a low-paid remote customer service job, thank god), and my opportunities faded as museums are closed and the universities’ plans for next year are uncertain. I am now praying I get rehired by the state school where I am happily teaching now so we won’t lose our health insurance — or one of the 3 searches I am still in that have not been canceled can be successful. And I am still applying for whatever jobs that work for me appear. Since 2012 I have applied to over 400 academic and museum positions nationwide. I have already seriously considered other paths, including the single-subject credential, the non-profit/lobbying sector, or even a JD — but I already have 2 MAs and a PhD, 15 years of teaching experience, 5 years of museum experience (all in adjunct positions, internships, and fellowships), and a terrifyingly high student loan balance. I have never had a job I enjoyed more than teaching/research/academic work. My parents are retired professors (state college) and I grew up around public higher-ed — I know what I am getting myself into (in a TT position, if I ever get one). But I have not made more than $30k/year for more than ten years. I desperately need more income, but hope I can at least maintain what I am getting now plus my benefits. I am prepared to be as flexible as I need to be in order to adapt and survive, however.[NTT, Arts/Music/Theater, Straight white male, 45, domestic partner, previously married, no children, six-figure student loan debt]

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No immediate financial consequences, and I have a job for the next academic year. Very concerned about career prospects beyond that. [NTT, Social Sciences, White, cisgender female, age 34, in long-term heterosexual relationship.]

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It’s devastated me financially. All searches I was a part of were frozen or cancelled (including for fellowships and post docs). I’m working a survival job way outside of my field to make ends meet and I’m scared that will negatively impact my ability to get a job in the future (even for alt-ac positions). I am lucky my partner has stable employment, but that only lasts a few more months and then we are going to have to live off of savings and my survival job if nothing comes along. [On the market, Humanities, 28/white/cisgender hetero woman/engaged]

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I have lost all my work. I usually teach 8-10 courses a year, but after the end of the spring semester my summer and autumn courses are all cancelled. Until US borders with Europe reopen that likely won’t change. If I wasn’t lucky enough that my husband works for a big corporation I would be looking at homelessness right now.  [NTT, Humanities, Age 40, white, married, adjunct since 2008, work in Study Abroad institutions in Europe]

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I’ve been fortunate to keep my job without it affecting me financially. If anything, I’ve been saving money by not going out.  [NTT, Humanities, Male, late 30s, not married, heterosexual]

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I am now unemployed, as my one-year position ended and positions for my interviews & pending applications were cancelled. [NTT, Humanities, 35, white, cis female, straight, single]

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I’m not on a contract, as in a contract is issued every year, but I am on a contract as in I may not be renewed if the administration chooses that. I am currently on the schedule for the fall semester but I have no idea how that will look if enrollments aren’t as expected. My chair has assured me that I will be treated like all other faculty, but I am not confident in these words due to my status. It seems that if a department had to make cuts, then they would not want to cut TT folks since those are thought to be the prized faculty. I say thought to be because I know that in some cases, like my own case, NTT faculty are real workhorses of a department providing the bulk of undergraduate instruction and service. So, I remain skeptical about the longevity of my position. If my position does get eliminated, then there is no where else for me to work in my current town because it is a large college town. My partner works in my same department as the target, TT hire and we know his position is likely not going to be affected. However, this leaves us in an interesting place as a couple because we won’t really like our reduction in income should one position get eliminated. So, we would have no option that to just look for positions elsewhere due to that income reduction without the possibility of finding other decent work in our current town.

We didn’t really anticipate having to deal with this issue because both of us seemed like we were in relatively safe positions prior to the pandemic. Our department didn’t have significant budget concerns and our student numbers were increasing.[NTT, Social Sciences, White cisgender woman with a terminal degree and a full-time, NTT spousal hire. Weirdly in a leadership position directing an undergraduate program though NTT.]

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You’re having to figure out living for around $30,000 combined in case I have to give my resignation at my job. We would be at 60 if both of us were totally employed in our current positions. My university has gone back and forth about face-to-face, and I am high risk. I will not return to the classroom if it is face to face. Medical bills are too much for what I am paid, and that is assuming a positive prognosis. Is a heavily conservative area, is unlikely that students will wear mask of their own accord.[Non Tenure Track Lecturer, Communication, Cis, Married, white underemployed woman]

~~

Proliferation of adjunct jobs. Low wages for TT. Find work outside academia. Forget private school. Age discrimination is real. It is not you. [NTT, Arts/Music/Theater, 55; female; trad male discipline]

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Fortunately, COVID has had no effect on my finances so far. I taught an overload every semester last year as well as a winter and summer course. From that, I made close to $20K on top of my usual base salary. I fully recognize that this makes me incredibly privileged (and it’s fortuitous, because I usually don’t teach overloads but accepted the extra teaching months before the pandemic). My university will have furloughs this academic year and there’s no guarantee that my job will be safe after Spring 2021, so I’m putting all of the extra money into my emergency savings fund.  [NTT, Social Sciences, I am a white man in my mid-30s who identifies as gay. I am in a full-time NTT line at a Research 1 university.]

~~

I have freelanced and worked adjunct consistently for the past four years. I landed a full-time visiting position in my field this past year. Due to COVID, my university has eliminated ALL visiting faculty with a possible offer of adjunct work, as a ‘replacement’.  The university is still in discussion with the teachers union to determine the full-time faculty cuts for the Fall semester. It is necessary to make 25% cuts in all departments, and therefore, likely my husband (in his 1st year of tenure track job) will also be reduced to adjunct.  Due to COVID, there are no jobs in our field as freelancers to make up the difference in pay. If we both work full time for adjunct pay without benefits, we will likely need to move in with our parents by the end of the year. COVID and the lack of financial support for higher education from both the federal and state governments, has not only eliminated our jobs, but killed any chance at paying off student debt, starting retirement savings, and perhaps eradicated our future career track in both performance and education.[Visiting Assistant Professor, Arts/Music/Theater, mid 30’s, white, female, married within my profession, 4 years on the job market post grad school]

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About Karen Kelsky

I am a former tenured professor at two institutions--University of Oregon and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I have trained numerous Ph.D. students, now gainfully employed in academia, and handled a number of successful tenure cases as Department Head. I've created this business, The Professor Is In, to guide graduate students and junior faculty through grad school, the job search, and tenure. I am the advisor they should already have, but probably don't.

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