Through a social media campaign, February 25th was designated as National Adjunct Walkout Day in protest to the working conditions for adjuncts at colleges and universities across the country.
As students pay large amounts of tuition to attend college, 76.4% of their professors are really part-time temporary employees, many of whom lack health benefits and have little voice in the decision making in their programs. And although there are many adjuncts who work at colleges as additional part-time work or as something to do during retirement, many adjuncts need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet and dream of a full-time position. I happen to be one of them.
When people ask me what I do, I take a deep breath. What DO I do? Well, I work at Hunter College. I teach in the fall, winter, spring, and summer semesters. I’ve been working at Hunter for nine years, so I have moved up on the salary scale from $62/hr to $73.50/hr… sound like a lot right? Not when you realize that I make less than $30,000 year and that’s before taxes. Also, not so much to live off of as a single woman with a dog living in Manhattan.
So, what’s a girl to do? Well, I have six jobs… yes, I said six. In addition to teaching a full adjunct course load at Hunter, I supervise student teachers at a Teachers College, tutor, and am a graduate research assistant on three projects, each with about a $3,000 allotment for a semester’s worth of work. Even with all of those jobs, I still make less than half of what I would be making if I was still a New York City public elementary school teacher.
Oh, did I forget to mention that I am doing this all while getting a PhD? That’s right, if I have any hope of getting out of having to work multiple part-time jobs, I need to fight out for the dwindling full-time tenure track faculty positions… and those are hard to come by. According the American Association of University Professors, from 1975-2011, the amount of tenured professors has declined considerably (12%) as has full time tenure track professors (9%) as the amount of part-time faculty has increased at an even higher pace (16.4%).
PhD granting institutions have cut their programs considerably to be more in line with the amount of positions available. Dr. Anthony Picciano, Executive Officer of the Urban Education program at the CUNY Graduate Center, explains that across all disciplines, there are not enough positions for the amount of doctoral students graduating from universities across the country. This leaves many of them to go back to their previous profession, for which they didn’t need a doctorate, or to financially suffer as an adjunct in hopes that a tenure line position will eventually open up.
So, although I applaud the effort of the National Adjunct Walkout Day to bring attention for better pay and working conditions, there is a more important point to be made. Colleges need to be hiring more full-time faculty, rather than exploiting temporary hourly-paid workers to teach the majority of their classes. Tenure-track and instructor positions need to be made available to those dedicated to teaching in higher education. I shouldn’t have to worry every semester if I’m going to get enough research assistant jobs or tutoring gigs to pay my rent nor should I have to worry that after getting a doctorate, I will still be being paid by the hour.
The average salary for men’s college basketball coaches in the NCAA Tournament is $1.5 million, (yes million) a year. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m a big college basketball fan and know those coaches work hard for their salary, but so the academic faculty. It would be nice if colleges invested even a fraction of the same passion, dedication, and money into their academic faculty as they do to their basketball teams. More full-time faculty would help with college graduation rates — an issue President Obama seems to be talking so much about these days.