I was looking at a department website today, trying to find out someone's job title, when I noticed something weird.
This department is at a top-tier school with a lot of money, but they have more adjunct faculty than regular faculty.
(I know, that's not necessarily weird. Wait for it....)
What seemed weird to me is that this department listed senior faculty from distant top-tier universities (think: opposite sides of the country) as adjunct faculty in their department.
Not visiting lecturers. Not honorary members. Adjunct faculty.
Now, I don' t know what it's like where you are, but at my school the adjunct faculty have lab space. They don't get start-up, they pay their own salary from grants, and they can't be a primary graduate student adviser. But they are expected to do almost everything else the regular faculty do, including hiring postdocs and technicians, serving on committees, and teaching.
This got me thinking about a couple of Big Shots I know who each have two labs. I may have written some about this in the past, but it still bugs me. In both cases, these guys (I can't think of any women who do this, can you?) supposedly spend half the week at each lab. The labs are in separate cities, and in reality they aren't at either one very much at all. These guys are twice as much terrible adviser as your average #$%@ PI.
So now I'm wondering if all these "adjunct" Big Shots have double lab lives, too? Lately I'm seeing more of this not just cross-country but internationally, too. You know the types who have an appointment in the US and one in Singapore or India, and they spend the summer overseas (or not even).
It just burns me up because I have a hard time understanding why less than half of a Big Shot is so much more appealing than a full-time, super-energetic junior faculty member. I know plenty of postdocs would be thrilled to have even an adjunct (read: no startup, soft-money) faculty position in this department.
And yet, it just makes me ill since I have to assume that it could be all about appearances: by listing all these Big Shot names, they're trying to make themselves look bigger and even more top-tier than they already are?
Still, something seems fishy about this practice. I suspect that, among other things, it means a less than ideal situation for the students taking classes in that department.