Over at the Adjunct Project there is an endlessly fascinating data sheet about what it is like to be an Adjunct across the United States right now. If the statistics they are citing are absolutely true, we are looking at about 70% of all teaching positions right now in this nation are filled with Adjuncts. Adjunct instructors often work class to class and term to term for a set wage that from my experience ranges from 400 dollars for a 5 week term, to 800 for a 16 week term of which the instructor only teaches for 8 of those weeks while instructors are swapped out, to about 3200 per term per class regardless of the class size, that usually is well over the maximum class size set by the university. If the average class is something on the order of 24 students, and the pay is 400 for the whole term, for five weeks, the instructor is paid an average of 16.67 dollars per student for the whole term. Students will consume much more than 17 dollars in resources from any instructor over a five week period.
I have taught at for profit colleges, not for profit colleges, and community colleges over my time being an adjunct. By far the community college system here pays much better so I tend to make them my primary, and then fill in what is missing in terms of salary by working at for profit or not for profit online only.
I am also fortunate in that I can do this and not have to worry about medical or dental because of my spouse’s job. For me the real issue is trying to figure out where all I have a 401K that I contribute to, and how to manage them across institutions. The other issue is trying to do my own research, my own business, and other things that keep me busy, knowing that the bills need to be paid, so I have to teach at on average three colleges a term to help support our life style.
The Adjunct Project brings about some really interesting information in their data sheet about pay across the board. From my own experience I have found that online, not for profit or for profit colleges pay the least, while State run or State supported colleges often pay the best. The data from the Adjunct project basically supports that finding on my own part. I’ll be tearing apart the data later on this week as part of my own interest in how pay ranges from state to state, and how for profit, not for profit, or state colleges range in pay against what students pay in tuition.
I will state though before I start this project that I am a happy Adjunct.
I will also state though before I start this project that we trust the education of our college students to Adjuncts that are emotionally and mentally disengaged from the educational organization. Since we are part time, we don’t have to play with politics, we don’t have to deal with offices, or phones, or other accoutrements of position. We can be completely disengaged from the organization; we don’t have to care about the college or the quality of its instruction. All we have to worry about is the tyranny of what the students think of us, and keep on praying that we remain popular with them. We also need to worry about the tyranny of politics to a limited extent, as we don’t play in the organization; we also are at the mercy of the organization. That assumption from the Adjunct Project is valid given my own experience.
The interesting part is what is driving this is a few ideas that are coming out of the tenured track faculty. In some ways this is self-serving to them – if Adjuncts can be paid so little for teaching, why are tenured faculty being paid so much? This is an argument for further pay decreases or holding pay raises in place until sometime 20 years down the road adjunct pay maybe catches up with full time tenured faculty pay. It is in tenured faculties interest to ensure that pay is somewhat equitable, because they are increasingly feeling the heat from fewer full time to more and more part time. It becomes harder to justify a high pay scale for tenured faculty when 70% of the university is working without benefits, without a safety net, without offices, phones, or copiers. Comptrollers are not missing this message, and tenured professors are more and more of an endangered species because of it.
What is not mentioned though in any of the articles over on the Adjunct Project, Copy Paste, The Chronicle, or New Faculty Majority is that there is a level of disengagement between Adjuncts and the Institution.
As an Adjunct I don’t have to care about your school, your students, your “educational objectives”, your employees (if I even engage with them on a regular basis), you mission, vision, or other non-sense that makes a University a home away from home for thousands of students. Or even begins to prepare them for the jobs they are praying to get. I don’t have to care about anything other than making students happy. Some Adjuncts I have known never give anything lower than a B, some Adjuncts are so removed from the institution that they show up in their online classes once a week to set up each week and call it “facilitated learning”. In other words don’t bug me, I am in once a week to make sure things are going good, in the meantime make sure you are teaching yourself or the class is teaching itself. Why care for 17 dollars per student per term?
If there is a crisis, and there is, Higher Education is about as dysfunctional at this point as anything else because of multiple reasons (insert educational heresy here), the real point to all this is that no amount of organizing, no amount of pay, and no amount of anything else is going to make me care about your college other than making students happy. I don’t care about your institution because even if unionized, I will remain disposable, I still won’t get an office or if I do I will be sharing it with two or three other adjuncts. I will get the worst possible school supplied computer, and be at the tail end of any kind of perk. That will always show through because even if I am paid 7000 per class, even if I get all the other things they want, I am still an adjunct, and still at the mercy of the students and at the mercy of the institution.
The goal of this should add, get me to care about your company, your college, make me feel welcome, warm and fuzzy. Make me a part of the team, part time never is going to be “part of the team”, living term to term, semester to semester is not going to make me care about your institution, for as long as I remain disposable, the converse holds true, I need you only so much as I need a paycheck, and most adjuncts are so used to this game that they always have three or four places they work to ensure they can still pay the bills.
Academic term, Adjunct, Education, For-profit school, Higher education, Student, Tenure (academic), United States