Adjunct News

Taylor Fontes

Making the Case for Adjuncts

Posted on: January 12th, 2013 by Taylor Fontes No Comments

The “plight of adjuncts” has become a ubiquitous term in academic discourse.  However, adjunct advocates are concerned and frustrated that the inequities between adjunct and tenured faculty have not gained wider attention.  Advocacy groups and organizations such as the New Faculty Majority are working on ways to publicize the issue and reform the exploitive nature of adjunct labor policies.

There was a time where adjuncts were a minority, constituting less than 25% of faculty at most universities.  Originally they were comprised of professionals who held full time positions in their field and taught a course on the side in order to bring their expertise to the classroom, providing a different instructional perspective for students.  They relied on the university neither for salary nor benefits.  Nowadays, adjuncts make up the majority of faculty – an average of 75% – and teaching is their single means of making a living.  Because of lack of job security and low salaries, many adjuncts work at multiple institutions to make ends meet.

The trend toward expanding a contingent workforce is result of decreasing federal and state funding to universities, divestment of resources from instruction and a reallocation of such resources to “student services” which administrators use in order to attract and retain students.  Universities have adopted a business model whereby they must compete for their customers, i.e. students, whose goal is no longer learning valuable skills but landing a high paying job.

Research has shown that overreliance on adjunct faculty negatively affects student outcomes.  Adjuncts are often hired at the last minute, which leaves them little time to prepare their courses; they often do not have their own offices; they lack instructional and staff support and access to professional development.  In other words, poor working conditions mean poor learning conditions.

Among the strategies to broaden the scope of awareness of adjunct issues, The New Faculty Majority is enlisting students to champion the cause for reform.  Students can serve as a powerful liaison between administrators and faculty, as they are critical to viability of the institution and might be the most powerful catalyst for change.

To read the article by Colleen Flaherty, go to:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/01/09/adjunct-leaders-consider-strategies-force-change

Taylor Fontes

Adjunct Project Reveals Wide Range in Pay

Posted on: January 4th, 2013 by Taylor Fontes No Comments

Comprehensive data on the salaries, benefits and working conditions of adjuncts nationwide has been difficult to come by.  Few universities have undertaken the task of collecting and reporting such data. However, last February, a writing instructor in Georgia created a spreadsheet, which he made publicly available to adjuncts who wished to volunteer certain information about their own positions.  Since then over 2,000 adjuncts have contributed information which has resulted in a better picture of adjunct working conditions across and within disciplines, universities and regions.

The not-surprising findings thus far reveal that there are significant variations.  There is evidence from the participants who provided information that those who reported belonging to a union fare much better than their non-unionized counterparts.  Nevertheless, unionization remains low among adjuncts according to this data suggesting that unions have more organizing work to do.  The originator of the spreadsheet along with The Chronicle are expanding the database – titled the “Adjunct Project” – in order to capture more comprehensive, representative data on adjuncts and to make it easier for adjuncts to contribute. The database can be accessed through the website http://www.adjunct.chronicle.com.

To read the full article by Audrey Williams June and Jonah Newman go to:

http://chronicle.com/article/Adjunct-Project-Shows-Wide/136439/

Taylor Fontes

Michigan Union’s Report Challenges Assumptions About Adjuncts’ Pay

Posted on: December 12th, 2012 by Taylor Fontes No Comments

The Lecturer’s Employee Organization, the union representing non-tenure track faculty at the University of Michigan’s three campuses, has just published a report that claims that adjunct salaries would have to be raised by and average of 40% in order to be equitable to that of tenure-track faculty salaries.  The author, a lecturer and research scientist in the Ann Arbor campus’s department of sociology, disputes many of the assumptions for why adjunct salaries are so fall below that of full-timers.  His findings indicate that in many cases the quality of instruction by adjuncts is actually higher than that of full-timers based both on student evaluations and the fact adjuncts spend more time teaching while their tenured counterparts spend more time doing research.  The amount of funds needed to close the salary gap is just over 1% of the general-fund budget for all three campuses for 2010-2011.  While they could generate the funds by raising tuition, the report argues that the university should include raising the funds as a key focus of their capital campaign for next year.

To read the full article by Peter Schmidt go to:

http://chronicle.com/article/Michigan-Unions-Report/136115/?key=SmNxJ1A%2FNilHbSoxMTdDYm1XPCFvMxhxMn4aYypwbl9cGQ==

To access the report go to:

http://www.leounion.org/news/302-report-examines-lecturer-prof-pay-gap-at-um