Eileen Schell said, though working conditions for adjunct faculty are not ideal, colleges and universities rely and benefit heavily off their labor.
“As higher education became more democratic, non tenure-track faculty were used to cover lower division courses,” said Schell, chair of the Writing Program and of the Senate Agenda Committee at Syracuse University. “With universities and colleges expanding, the hiring of non tenure-track faculty has since become a strategy.”
Eileen gave the keynote speech as part of Campus Equity Week Thursday night, addressing a large audience of CSU students and faculty, both adjunct and tenure-track.
In the speech titled, “The New Faculty Majority: The Emperor has no Clothes,” she said it was important that adjunct faculty were recognized for their hard work and dedication.
According to the 2010 CSU Fact Book, 17 percent of the university’s 6,140 employees are tenure-track, making up 1,033 faculty members. Only 3 percent, or 182 faculty members, are listed as temporary faculty.
With various budget cuts in higher education, Schell said the number of faculty was being reduced to keep up with the expenses of research and administration, which in turn lead to student fee increases.
“A solution to this could be budget transparency,” she said. “This enables appropriate wage benefits without increasing student fees.”
Jeremy Proctor, an adjunct faculty member in his fourth year in the English Department, said he earns $4,000 per course or about $32,000 a year. A tenure-track faculty earns anywhere from $90,000 to $130,000.
“The longer you are here, the more frustrating it gets. At some point, budgetary downturn meant we were paid by semester (instead of) annually,” Proctor said.
Despite the discrepancies, Proctor said the students he teaches, and his love for teaching motivates him.
“I know you have heard a lot of negatives tonight, but there are a lot of positives that go with the job,” he said.
Sue Doe, who was an adjunct faculty for about 25 years, became a tenure-track faculty in 2007.
Doe said the issue is one she pays close attention to because of her personal history as a non tenure-track faculty, and also because it is her research interest.
“With non-tenure track being insecure, tenure-track line is gone because there is no one to occupy those positions,” said Doe, an assistant professor from the English Department.
With most adjunct faculty doing the teaching in classrooms and tenure-track faculty involved in research, Schell said it was important that parents and students were aware of these working conditions.
“Students and parents are secret weapons because, after they learn about this issue, they start to see the connections between adjunct faculty and their higher education experience,” she said.
Diversity Beat Reporter Abel Oshevire can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.