Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What would you do? Another Early Thirsty. (With Clarification.)

You have to have a certain number of courses each term. You had the exact number of courses after the college powers went through the process of cancelling low enrollment courses. One class was on the small side, but the others were full, more than full. You prepared the syllabi, prepared the courses.

Then, two hours before your small class was to start, and 30 minutes before you were to go teach large lecture course, you receive an email notifying you that small course was cancelled.

No warning. Now, you must scramble to find another course or your pay will be cut. Due to the economy, you haven't had a raise in 5 years. A pay cut would be dire. No union representation.

Q: What would you do?

Extra info: 

I am Full-time.  We have to have a certain amount of classes or we are not paid full salary. I teach in a specialized field, and so, I cannot easily steal a class from an adjunct. There is no such opportunity. Indeed, I do not receive course release time for any extra-curricular work with students, which I do as part of my job description.
Perhaps,  my question is :  what does one do about an administration that feels it is okay to cancel a course 2 hours before its start time, and not to discuss this with the faculty member, but just sends them an E-mail? What if I had not been in my office but already in class or on my way?


  1. I don't understand. Are you guaranteed a certain number of classes? Why not just take the extra time off? They cut your pay if your class doesn't make? Why not just get another class from an adjunct?

  2. I don't know how they can not pay you. Doesn't your contract stipulate a yearly salary? When that's happened to me, the chair or Dean has just always found me another class, usually, like Frisky says, from a part-timer, or occasionally, from a junior faculty member who can do some other duties to fulfill his/her contract.

  3. A few people have emailed me asking the original poster to please provide more details about your contract.

    One writer wrote, "This HAS to be an adjunct, right? The story doesn't make sense any other way."

    Help with clarification, please.


  4. It also matters WHO cancelled this course. If it wasn't your department chair, then you should get them to go to bat for you.

  5. As far as I know, adjuncts are at the mercy of enrollment. Which SUCKS.

    I would go in, say you need another class or you plan to walk away from the others. Though I realize that that doesn't solve the "dire pay cut" problem, if they call your bluff.


  6. You can't do anything except find another job. You're screwed.

    Yeah, you can go to the people responsible and complain, and blink at them with teary eyes, but they don't give a shit. This is about numbers, and policy, and they don't care about you. And you have no recourse against them.

    So what you can do is try to make sure you are set for classes that always make, and see if you can refuse classes that are likely to be tanked. If it's possible you can also set up the class likely to be cut as an internet class, in which case 7,000 people will try to sign up for it. When I want to make money over the summer, I always teach internet courses, because the face-to-face courses often are cut at the last minute. The internet courses--always full.

  7. Get a union in there posthaste! I'm sure the AFT would be happy to organize you, and you need it!

  8. At my college, the policy is that we have to make it up by taking on an extra course in the following term, or teach a summer course. We still get paid our full salary, but are contractually obligated to make it up a.s.a.p.

  9. "...what does one do about an administration that feels it is okay..."

    The only two answers are, take it, or get out. I feel for OP here, I really really do, but I also know I'm incredibly lucky to have a supportive administration and contracts and other goodies. It's easy to say "take it or leave" and that doesn't at all reflect the utter suckitude or the situation. I'm sorry, OP.

  10. For future reference you could see if not just you, but all instructors could negotiate an "X number of students = a full time load" agreement. So if you have one huge but one small course it will still average out to a full-time total number of students.

    However, in order to negotiate that deal you would need some clout, in the form of a union, or an administration that wasn't bent on screwing every last dime they can out of the school and don't care who they screw along the way. Your administration is scum. So is whatladder's. These stories are appalling.

  11. @Harpy

    I'd like to know which union you've been associated with.

    I was a member of the UFT/AFT while teaching public school and now UUP as a college adjunct.

    For all of the right wing agitation about the Cadillac contracts teachers get ... I haven't seen them.

    In my university work, our classes can and to get cut due to enrollment. No warning, no compensation.

    In fact, our pay is compressed into 10 weeks in a 14 week semester so that they can wait a couple of weeks after the term has started to see how many withdrawals there are to prorate pay down (for a class that continues; pay based on 5 student increments) or simply cancel it outright. So, each semester we work a full month before seeing a penny.
    And, technically, if 24 students are enrolled, I don't get paid for teaching four of them.

    We did win a "major" victory in that the university now sends us a letter a few weeks before the term announcing that we have been appointed to this or that class -- which may be cancelled due to lack of registration.
    Yup, we are supposed to feel somehow protected that at least now we get a note telling us each semester that the work we were assigned can be cancelled up to two weeks into the term.

    But I have to concede that, even with this system I am lucky.
    I have been with this program 5+ years and have never had a class cancelled. I've seen pay drop a step down the scale pretty regularly, but I have taught every class I've been assigned.

    And, because it is a public program, we are included in the state benefits package. (Though the governor has been making waves about cutting back on benefits especially for part-time workers.

    As others have pointed out, this is the nature of the beast.
    Unfortunately the only way to affect true change would be for a national en masse adjunct strike which would, quite literally, bring US higher education to a standstill.

    Like that would ever happen ...

    1. @Aware, there is little a union (any union) can do to protect contingent workers when enrollments dip. But in this case the person is FULL-TIME and somehow responsible for solving an administrative problem on her own. This would never happen under a contract, in part because faculty contracts rarely state the exact workload.

      In the world of suckdom, i.e. adjuncting, if you get any bennies then you are in amazingly good shape compared to most residents. But I do recognize that it is still suckdom. I would definitely walk with you if there was a national strike (a brilliant idea...)

  12. I'm not sure what the solution is, either. I'm full-time contingent, but I'm pretty sure that it would be my department scheduler's problem to find me another class (which, yes, would probably be stolen from an adjunct). That might result in an awful schedule, but I'd have a full load. Of course, I teach one of the classes with the largest number of sections in the university (a required writing course). And I'm qualified to teach several other core courses as well.

    In the long run, I'd say that you might want to branch out into a related field that figures in your institution's core curriculum (and/or, as Stella suggests, figure out how to teach what you teach now online). In the short run, I think I'd do a bit of asking for help from my chair, etc., then treat the situation as an opportunity to develop other income streams. It sounds like you might need them.

    Realizing that contingent really does mean contingent on a whole lot of things, many of them out of your control, can be a rude awakening, I know. I'm sorry. But sometimes it's ultimately for the best to realize just how the situation actually works.


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