Saturday, August 16, 2008

Experience in Academics: Personal Note

In October 2008, I would complete thirteen years as an academic. I joined in October 1995 as an adjunct faculty and got my tenure in February 2002. But as I was serving as an adjunct faculty from November 2000 without a single day's break in service, my service was counted from 2000 onwards.

In India, there are three types of adjunct faculty, guest faculty, ad-hoc faculty and faculty on leave vacancy. Sometimes, guest faculty and ad-hoc faculty are also used synonymously in Indian conditions. I first served as ad-hoc faculty but my designation was 'Part Time Lecturer in English', where obviously I did 'full-time' work. This lasted from October 1995 to May 1996. Then I served as faculty on leave vacancy, where one was selected through the same Selection Committee that selected faculty on full time tenure but one was offered the adjunct position because no full time positions were available. I served on this position from September 1996 till 2002. Interestingly, though I always had the job but I was without job about three times in these six years for periods which were around ten to fifteen days.

This is normal practice in most Indian institutions that I have known and anyone who has spent some time in the Indian academia would be aware of such realities. In India, in the administrative jargon, it is known as 'a forced break'. You work as a faculty on leave vacancy, when you are kept on an adjunct position because a full time tenured professor is on leave and they need someone to fill up the position. So, suppose, you work against someone's position from August 2008 till September 2009, when the person is supposed to rejoin. But during that period, someone else has proceeded on leave from June 2009 and so the institution can easily absorb the same person against the new position that has fallen vacant or else keep someone who is better, if the present incumbent weren't performing well. But if the present incumbent weren't performing well, s/he could always be thrown out.

Now, when this person's term ends in September 2009 and the teaching session has already begun but the interviews for the new position are scheduled to be held on October 8th, 2009. The new position would be available till December 2010. Meanwhile, the earlier person who was on full time tenure has joined on October 1, 2008. So, this gentleman who was working originally from August 2008 gets an eight day break in service and obviously no salary for that period. But it isn't really the loss of salary that is important. The more important loss for this person is the break in service, including service conditions, leave that is due to him/her and loss of annual increments in salary.

This was a good example of what is known as a 'forced break'. It is a perfect administrative mechanism against which you cannot expect the adjunct faculty to protest because if the faculty protests, the institution can always hold out the stick of replacing him/her with another person.

So, there is a pretty long journey that one traverses from adjunct faculty to full time tenured faculty in India. These are important issues relating to the profession and I have not seen any thought being given to them. If senior tenured faculty gave thought to these practices, they would be able to find more committed adjunct faculty and really help the profession grow more.