The Deployment of Disciplinary Power in The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education has a large readership of mostly professors and administrators, and its content is focused mainly on issues affecting institutions:

  • State budget cuts
  • Scandals involving athletic departments and university presidents
  • Ethical issues in research using human subjects
  • Affirmative action and diversity
  • Recruitment of students from poor backgrounds
  • Lawsuits made against institutions for discrimination and sexual harassment

This centering on institutions reflects both the institutional interests' being served and the audience's, which, as I have stated, is mostly made up of administrators and tenured faculty.

Career Network

This is a section of the Chronicle in which institutions advertise job openings. In addition to job advertisements, it contains:

  • Articles by individual academics—-sometimes anonymous, sometimes not—-on matters such as departmental politics, balancing career and personal life, and academic labor. The audience for this section is slightly different, as many who read it are graduate students and adjuncts not in tenure-track positions.
  • A tone that ranges from resigned to the current state of academic labor, to libertarian individualism (i.e., “you made this choice; you knew what you were getting into when you got a Ph.D.; this is what you get”), to “I'm an adjunct by choice, and I am fulfilled by it.”

“The Adjunct Track” by Jill Carroll

In this column, Carroll, an adjunct professor, offers advice on teaching, for example, on cultivating a professional classroom persona, and commentary on the state of academic labor that exemplifies the highly individualist stance devoid of institutional critique. Carroll owns a consulting service called Adjunct Solutions, and through this service and her columns, she tells adjunct faculty how to “hold office hours without an office,” advises them not to “put their eggs in one basket,” in other words, to work for several different colleges at once, and explains how adjuncts can form alliances with tenured faculty, even though tenured faculty can sometimes be dismissive toward adjuncts.

The attitude expressed in the Chronicle toward adjunct faculty, even in articles by other authors, is geared toward giving adjuncts strategies for how to survive in higher education, strategies that put all the onus on the individual to deal with problems such as getting the most positive teaching evaluations in order to keep a job and coping with not getting rehired for the next semester.

In sum, the Chronicle is a genre that upholds the status quo, with its emphasis on bootstrap rhetoric, adjunct “success” stories in the academy, and a lack of institutional critique or serious calls or plans for institutional reform. This genre supports normalization and hierarchy without providing a space for resistance, depending on the way it is read. Bakhtin claims,“Unless one accounts for the speaker's attitude toward the other and his utterances (existing or anticipated), one can understand neither the genre nor the style of speech” (Bakhtin, 1986, p. 97-98, emphasis in original). The institution has an interest in keeping academic labor cheap and an attitude of power over the other, in this case the adjunct.

As a result, and assisted by the Chronicle's discourse, adjuncts are made to feel responsible for why they occupy their rank in the hierarchy. To an extent, they identify with the discursive category “adjunct,” which suggests Foucault's normalization at work (Sawicki, 1991, p. 85). Invisible Adjunct illustrates what happens when the one who has been othered talks back to the institution.