Friday, April 17, 2015

Adjuncts, Wages, and Poverty

I've read a few articles lately about adjunct salaries.

Some have quoted adjuncts at various universities who talk about how they earn a poverty wage, how they're on food stamps, how they're considered expendable, etc.

Some of the quotes have been pretty misleading.  I won't even try to delve into the bigger-picture issues here about who should -- or shouldn't -- be teaching at universities, but I will say this:  I teach six courses a year (two per term, including summers), so I'm familiar with some of the general issues and arguments that are swirling around about this.

In exchange for teaching these courses, I receive what I consider to be a fair supplement to my annual household income.

By itself, it would qualify me as poor.  By itself, it would leave me without health insurance.

But I never understood full-time wage and benefits to be part of the deal when I agreed to a part-time job.  As it happens, the supplement that teaching gives me helps put me over the hurdle I need to clear each month to get by -- truly, it's a wonderful thing, and I'm quite grateful to have received the opportunity to do it.  

Some of the articles I've seen have included quotes that implied that a courseload like this (2 per term) is a full-time job.  It isn't.  It's demanding, it's important, it's taken seriously...but it's not full-time.

Other models may be far better than the one currently in place.  In a perfect world, universities would find ways to hire more adjuncts as full-time teachers -- pay them a *real* wage, and let them *really* teach.  Hire and retain only the best teachers.  While you're at it, keep fewer six-figure administrators with amorphous job descriptions on staff.

Maybe we'll eventually get there.

In the meantime, anyone who wants to basically write his or her ticket as a full-time adjunct can do so by affiliating himself/herself with several schools, really teaching full-time, and really pulling down a wage that will allow this lifestyle, for all its pros and cons.

I realize how frantic and hectic that would be, as well as the quandary it would still leave people in, benefits-wise.   But I also realize there's another, albeit possibly equally unpalatable option to take -- they could always get a day job. 


C R Krieger said...

Wait, it's a full time gig if you are Professor E Warren.

I'm just saying.

Regards  —  Cliff

The New Englander said...

ha! Hey, then you can even be the "intellectual inspiration" for the very movement designed to