Adjunct Professors Face Increasing Challenges

Teacher Clip Art 3665Many students may expect their professors to make a living wage.

However, not all professors have a steady, one-job income, as there have been some trends that have risen in which more and more adjunct (sometimes referred to as “part time,” as differing universities define it differently) professors are having to work multiple jobs.

This especially applies if they have been unable to find full-time work in their field in a tenure-track position. Instead, they end up teaching part time, with no guarantee of a university hiring them back for the following semester, according to Barb Hess, the California University APSCUF chapter president.

APSCUF is the union for Pennsylvania state universities, including California University. It stands for Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.

According to a 2009 article entitled “Who are the Part Time Faculty?” published by the American Association of University Professors, adjunct professors now make up approximately 48 percent of their respective college faculties, compared to just 30 percent in 1975.

While this may not seem significant, comparisons of average salaries show a more significant difference between the full time and adjunct faculty.

The average base salary for a full time tenure-track professor, according to the above article, was $65,407. In contrast, adjunct faculty members received $11,160.

For the latter, this shows the need for these inviduals to work more than one job.

Although colleges can use their adjunct faculties differently, at state colleges, they are allowed and encouraged to join the full time professors union, according to Barb Hess, president of APSCUF, California University’s professors union.

“What colleges have been trying to do in recent years to cut cost and not pay faculty as much,” Hess said, who also teaches math at Cal.

Hess said that although they may be trying eliminate some of their costs, it is not fair to a professor who may not be a part of their respective union.

According to Hess, adjuncts at California University have the option to join the faculty union but are not required to.

“We [the union] have been trying to prevent this practice of cost-cutting,” Hess said.

Hess also said that the union stops the university from only hiring adjunct faculty to teach classes.

To join the APSCUF union, faculty need to fill out a form stating the acceptance for the union dues to be drawn from the person’s paycheck.

Although adjunct professors have the option to join APSCUF, some choose not to. A California University adjunct who is not part of APSCUF spoke about this issue.

John Float, an adjunct professor of math, works many teaching jobs to get by.

He teaches at California University’s main campus, CCAC Boyce campus in Monroeville, as well as at University of Pittsburgh, Greensburg campus. He is also enrolled in classes for his doctorate of education at the latter.

“Mondays are the only day that I drive to all three campuses,” he said. “However, last fall I drove to all three schools four days a week.”

Float said when he travels to all three campuses, he will put on more than 100 miles on his car, an older Honda Civic.

During that semester, he worked approximately about twice the time that full-time professors teach. He would begin teaching at 8 a.m. and finish teaching his night class at 9:45 p.m. that same night, according to Float.

He then finishes any grading for classes before he begins work on his doctor of education degree, which can vary from day to day.

“Sleep has been a luxury item for a while,” Float said. “I only get around five to six hours at most.”

Float also explained that he is grateful for where he is at, as he can teach and learn during the day and night. He is not married and has no children, so he does not “need to be home,” he said.

He gets paid approximately $1,500 per credit for the semester. Since he currently teaches one 3-credit class at Cal, his pay for that class would be approximately $4500 for the semester before taxes were taken out. He is able to make ends meet because he teaches more than tenure-track faculty teach, and does not live a luxurious lifestyle, according to Float.

Some adjuncts experience this, even if they are part of the union, but not necessarily because they have to.

While Float is able to find work, not all adjunct professors are able to find consistent work. Another California University adjunct spoke about this issue.

“Adjuncts do all of the things in college that tenure-track faculty do,” said Jody Spedaliere, an adjunct English professor at Cal. “We present at conferences, publish, and provide services to the university.”

He has been employed on and off by California University since 2004. He has published scholarly material and completed his PhD, similar to other faculty who are in tenure-track positions.

He used to teach several English courses when he first joined California University, according to Spedaliere. However, due to changing demand for higher education, “it did not work out that way,” Spedaliere said in an interview last spring.

“I wish it would have worked out differently,” Spedaliere said. He said that online teaching has helped him find some work.

The above mentioned “change in demand” can be attributed to a change in English course requirements by California University, according to Margo Wilson, chairperson of California University’s English department.

To major in English, ENG 102 has been a required course for any English field of study. It was also required by academic departments outside the English department, such as the business department.

Wilson said that some departments felt that ENG 102 was not necessary for their students. ENG 102 also has a cap of 25 students per section, while some similar 100-level English classes have a cap of 35 or more students. By allowing students to take other 100-level classes rather than ENG 102, the university found that it could save money, according to Wilson. She gave the example of courses like Woman as Hero and Introduction to Fiction.

“Around late 2009 into 2010, [former Penn. governor Tom] Corbett cut the PASSHE schools’ budget by 18 percent,” Wilson said. “It hit us hard, and [former California University president] Armenti allowed the Composition change to occur.”

According to Wilson, the policy of ENG 102 being required before other 100-level electives could be taken has not been restored as of academic year 2014-15.

According to PASSHE, there were 1790 adjuncts employed by the 14 PASSHE schools statewide. Of those, there were 170 adjuncts working at California University this past academic year according to California University human resources.

Some adjuncts leave the part-time teaching business because of the hours. A former adjunct at Duquesne University spoke about the issue.

“I currently work for an IT business full-time as a consultant,” Jeff Schurman said. Schurman, 56, used to teach a graduate level course for Duquesne’s school of business for three semesters.

He gave it up for consulting job. It had better pay than what he was doing before, according to Schurman.

“The hours were just very long,” he said. “I couldn’t say no to this new work-from-home position.”

He also could relate with driving long distances just to teach a class, as Float from California University does.

“I drove roughly an hour into the city during rush hour,” Schurman said. He did this a few nights per week.

Schurman said it gave him experience teaching, but the non-traditional hours aren’t for everyone. In addition to teaching the course he would work another job for a total of over 60 hours per week.

He also does not possess a doctorate, and he would not be qualified for full-time teaching if he wanted to enter professorship at Duquesne.

An advocate for a professors’ union does not see this trend changing any time soon.

David Kociemba, a volunteer college union advocate, said that some outside union entities are helping adjunct professors organize unions.

“In Pittsburgh, there is the United Steel Workers helping Duquesne organize unions for their adjuncts,” Kociemba said, who does voluntary relational work for American Association of University Professors. “There has also been strong union growth in academia in the Boston area as well.” He is also an adjunct himself at Emerson College in Massachusetts.

Approximately 70 percent of the adjunct professors at schools in the District of Columbia are now part of a union or association to protect their wages and benefits, according to Kociemba.

He said there have been administrative trends developing behind this issue that numbers and statistics will not explain.

“In the past, professors would be required to write a book chapter or two for their university duties, but not much else extensively,” he said.

He said those requirements have changed into a demand to publish full length books in addition to other scholarly research they are required to do. He added some step into an adjunct role instead because they are unable to get their book published, or because they have family commitments and are not able to find the time to write a book.

James Monks, the author of the AAUP article “Who are the Part Time Faculty?” that was introduced at the beginning of this article, explained why he took the time to write that article.

“As a fellow professor and former adjunct myself, I do not think it’s fair to pay them those low numbers,” Monks said. “I wrote that article and found those numbers because I wanted to know who they [adjunct professors] are and where they are coming from.”

Monks said he thought that the growth of online higher education may spark demand for hiring more adjunct professors, but he could not predict that with certainty.

Although adjuncts face a host of challenges, students are not always aware of the realities facing their professors.

“I figured they make a living wage, but the national average salary is really surprising,” said Eric Griffith, a California University English student. “I try to keep up with things going on in the world, but that national average is almost unbelievably low.”

Griffith said that it seems graduate school is a “poor investment” if one is unable to find a full-time position.

“It is really unfair, and I can say I have never had a conversation about that with one of my friends,” he said.

Griffith said he thinks that colleges should better provide for adjuncts if the numbers really are that low.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” he said.
Story by Zachary Filtz for Pennsylvania Bridges