Power Adjuncting

I mentioned before that in addition to teaching one course I’m working this
summer in a mentoring role for first-term online instructors at old U. I’m
assigned to two of them, an instructor of psychology and an instructor of
economics. This involves email interchanges, sharing certain announcements and
teaching documents, occasional phone conversation, and three formative
evaluations throughout the term. In a recent phone conversation with the
instructor of economics, he told me about a colleague from his M.A. program who
has been power-adjuncting for a couple of years. The power adjunct, so I’m
told, taught 16 online courses per term for who knows how many unwitting
universities en route to earning close to $300,000 in one year. That would make
this person’s FTE, oh, between 11 and 12? Obviously, this involves torturous
paces and is more possible where courses are flatly transactional, even where
assessment follows a reductive circuit from the textbook to multiple-choice
examination. Not the most sustainable career choice, but at 300K, a hyperactive part10-timer
could work for only a couple of years before retiring comfortably (while
teaching only two or three courses per term for groceries).

Yes, it is scandalous. Equally scandalous are the "university" systems
that make the conditions for bloat-load teaching possible. There is more lore to
this effect: stories of some low-lying part-timer in California who, with ties
to just four different institutions, teaches online and earns six figures doing
it (not 300k, but more like 100k). Something about it intrigues me, makes me wonder at the possibilities. No, no, not that I’d ever want to try it (300k…), but I’m anxiously waiting for
someone else to write a monograph comparable to Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed, only this time taking the exposé to the
credit-hour-farmers who heft the virtual load, like day-workers at online Labor Ready, but
instead of getting exploited, they get rich (well, okay, exploited and