On uncompensated labor for adjunct faculty

I just received a request to be a critical peer reviewer for a book, for a lit crit journal. I was a little startled, because I don’t generally get such requests, but my inclination is generally to say yes when possible, when asked to do literary service things for the community.

This is a South Asian & food-related text, so I can see why the editors found me for it, and it has generally been part of professorial professional duties to serve as peer reviewers for such things. (I’ve served as a reviewer for a SF journal briefly in the past.) And yet.

And yet, I am not tenure-track, and my salary is not commensurate with the tenure-track folks, and I think it is perhaps inappropriate for journals to be asking for such uncompensated labor from adjunct faculty. I’m not sure if I’m totally off-base here, though. Thoughts from the academics in the room?

I’m probably going to be saying no regardless, because really, I don’t have time to read and review this book.

What I’m asking is part of a larger question about the adjunctification of the academy (now up to around 70% of American faculty members, if I’m remembering right), and what professional duties can be reasonably expected from adjunct faculty, and what the consequences will be for academic publishing if we adjuncts start saying no to such requests.

(Caveat all this with the fact that I’m in a very good adjunct position, as such things go — full-time, long-term renewable contract, with benefits. But that’s certainly not the case for most.)

One thought on “On uncompensated labor for adjunct faculty”

  1. From a partial academic: I find the emphasis on duty odd — if duty were so strong, one might expect reviewers to be prompt, and notoriously they are not. Other motivations might include the prestige of the request (since the pool of good potential reviewers is small), the engagement with the new research, and social niceties with the editors of the particular journal. Maybe those reasons are enough for you, maybe not, but I see neither inappropriateness nor obligation in the request.

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