Saturday, June 30, 2012

What is equity for adjuncts? Will it ever become a reality?

New Faculty Majority Treasurer & (founding) board member William Lipkin asks, explaining, 

I am currently 'celebrating' my 50th years of adjuncting. Why would I subject myself to such exploitation for such a long period of time? Well for the first 35 years I had a 'real' job in the private sector, not teaching, which allowed me to raise 2 sons and give me and my wife a good lifestyle. During that period I taught a couple of courses a semester at night or on Saturday and had very little interest in pay, benefits, support, governance, etc.?

Once I realized my real passion was in teaching I left my other job and became a professional adjunct, or as we call ourselves in New Jersey - 'Roads Scholars' - traveling the state between schools in order to earn a living.

Then came the wake up call!

How dare these schools pay us such low wages to do much of the same work that full time faculty do. It did not take me long to find out why they do it. 


As the economy weakens they do it more and more, and we seem willing to allow them to get away with it. We call for equity. But what does equity mean for many adjuncts. Higher pay according to the administration. Many of us are willing to do more than  just teach, and many of us already do many of the things that full time faculty do but do not get paid for it.

It bugs me when the administration of a College tells us that we are making over $50.00 an hour and do not need to have office hours or advise students. First of all if we earn $2100.00 for a 3 credit course it does appear to come to about $50.00. But that is instructional time only, time in the classroom teaching.

What about prep work, reading term papers and assignments and commenting on them, grading essay exams, answering student emails, coming in before class and staying after class, offering extra help and work to students, writing letters of recommendation, and the many other things we do?

I actually kept a time log one semester and found that I was actually making about $18.00 per hour for the work I did (after 7 years of College and a few degrees and certificates), and did not enjoy any health benefits from the College. The average full time faculty member, based on the required load, office hours, advising and prep, based on 30 weeks @ 40 hours per week, makes about $63.00 per hour or 3 1/2 times what I do, plus gets full health care coverage.


Yes I want equity. To me that means higher pay (not necessarily equal with the full time faculty), an office, a place on all faculty committees, partial health care coverages, a seat at departmental meetings, recognition, respect, respect and respect. That is what equity is to me. Yes, it can be achieved but only in baby steps. 

Much has been done to make our plight more public, especially through the efforts of NFM and CFHE. There is a long, hard road before us. I probably will not see the top of the mountain, but I spend every waking moment trying to make it possible for others. As a good friend keeps telling me - 'none of us are as strong as ALL of us'. We must work together and then maybe equity will be the 'new normal.'


  1. Bill, thanks so much for this. I'm so with you, and I'm sure many others are too. We just can't let others decide, for us or for higher ed, what's "normal." They had their shot at it, and it's just outrageous what they regard as "normal."

  2. I was surprised to see your name attached to this blog, and not mine, Bill. :) Our stories are much the same; however, there is one small difference. My career was in IT, and after teaching IT courses for a few years, I finished another Master's and switched to English comp. Comp teachers rarely make $18/hour. Often, it's more like $5/hour.


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