The Fair Treatment of Adjunct Instructors

How much are our part-time faculty worth? According to our City Colleges contracts, a typical compensation for a single 3-credit course is about $1600. For an instructor that teaches four classes per semester, this comes out to about $9,600  $12,800 per year, not including summer semesters. Adding a few more classes at other institutions and during the summer still brings the annual income deep below the poverty line. And as we know, these contracts do not include health insurance.

Other area community colleges pay more. When I adjuncted at Oakton community college, I was being paid around $1450 for each Harold Washington class, and around $2400 for each Oakton class.

This May Day, adjuncts around the country are demanding that a minimum fair payment per three-credit semester course must be set at $5,000. As the linked article states, “They are paid poverty wages, earning and average of $2,700 per three-credit semester course.”

$2,700 is the average, it is an impoverished wage, and it is far more than what our adjuncts are paid. Granted, our administrators are likely taking the stance that a community college instructor should not be paid at the same level as a 4-year college or university. That is at the very least what they are expressing when the wages are set as they are. But that $2,700 is still too low, and it is far above our instructors’ salaries. Furthermore, we must also consider that the $2,700 average is pulled from colleges and universities from communities with a much lower cost of living than is available in the city or near suburbs of Chicago. Fair salaries ought to reflect those costs of living.

Our administrators have stated repeatedly that they want to provide a quality education, to prepare our students for quality jobs and transferring to 4-year institutions. But how do we expect to do that when the bulk of our educators are being paid such low wages? How do we expect our faculty to provide a quality education to 170+ students per semester when they are also juggling supporting jobs and stressed out over burdening student loans and basic bills?

President Laackman has stated that he believes in a supply and demand economics when it comes to setting wages for our adjuncts. To paraphrase something he stated during a chairs meeting last fall, ‘if we don’t have a problem finding qualified adjuncts, then we have no need to increase an adjunct’s compensation.’ There is some sense in a supply and demand economics when it comes to the purchasing of goods and services. But does an economic stance transfer to the fair treatment of our faculty, or providing a quality education? I believe many of us would be interested in some statement from our administrators that address this apparent injustice.

6 thoughts on “The Fair Treatment of Adjunct Instructors

  1. If not to pay our instructors, where exactly does the money raised by an institution go?

  2. Adjuncts could close the school if they went on strike for better pay and benefits. Especially if 1600 didn’t fill those classes but subbed. 1600 makes a lot of money to sub a class which would cause a financial hardship to district. Unfortunately, the adjuncts have weak leadership and will probably settle for less money in the new contract. Makes it very difficult to keep quality part-timers.

    Kamran, I don’t understand your math. If an adjunct makes the pittance of 1600 and teaches 4 classes and teaches 2 semesters wouldn’t it be 12,800 dollars? Still, an embarrassing rate of pay.

    • I don’t understand my math either. I initially was thinking three classes per semester, which was the previous maximum, then remembered that was increased to four a couple years ago. Thanks for the correction. As you imply, my point still stands.

  3. Another question: do we full-time faculty do enough to voice the concerns of our part-time colleagues? Frequently on this blog, we see posts addressing issues related to our own union. But when do we see the adjuncts’ dilemma discussed? A HWC faculty member sent the article linked to below on the injustice dealt to adjunct instructors, and how full-time faculty are often all too forgetful and silent on the issue.

    “Academia’s Indentured Servants.”

  4. What do adjuncts deserve? Bottom lining us is the same as forcing into everything that is contrary and in direct conflict with our higher academic educations. We were and are transformed and transform. If the soul of the teacher is not valued, the bottom line is nothing more than a high class form of dehumanization that can only lead to a camouflaged style of slavery dressed in masquerades of dignity. Personal integrity and the continuing evolution and involvement of character are the processes of learning, teaching and living. By caring, sharing and giving freely and without fear of being encroached upon by men and women with good intentions, we could with a little effort, resolve our dichotomous battles against economic value and personal values. Focusing only on one or the other is always doomed to backfire. And, I honestly believe that money and the active pursuit of what is essentially valued for becoming humanely human through education, experience, critically developed and encouraged works of creativity analysis, and developing students’ talents and skills are intrinsically necessary for emotional understanding and compassion. When shaped by the heart of wisdom and the mind, that as Emily Dickinson writes of the soul, “is left ajar” to possibilities, then we begin again to find body and soul working together for harmony, balance and reason–for human possibilities and potentialities, for equal and respectable rights that promote civility and even thanks for appreciating life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Hope becomes true when the goals and dreams for our lives and each others’ lives become dynamic living through the freedom that is innate within real ethical character.

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