Estimating the Cost of Adjunct Justice: A Case Study in University Business Ethics

American universities rely upon a large workforce of adjunct faculty—contractinfo-icon workers who receive low pay, no benefits, and no job securityinfo-icon. Many news sources, magazines, and activists claim that adjuncts are exploited and should receive better pay and treatment. This paper never affirms nor denies that adjuncts are exploited. Instead, we show that any attempt to provide a significantly better deal faces unpleasant constraintsinfo-icon and trade-offsinfo-icon. “Adjunct justiceinfo-icon” would costinfo-icon universities somewhere between an additional $15–50 billion per year. At most, universities can provide justice for a minority of adjuncts at the expense of the majorityinfo-icon, as well as at the expense of poor students. Universities may indeed be exploiting adjuncts, but they cannot rectify this mistake without significant moral costs.

Author
Co-Author: 
Philip Magness
Subject Area: 
Published in: Journal of Business Ethics
2016

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