Friday, August 30, 2013

RYS Flashback. 4 Years Ago Today.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Balls? Balls! One Proffie's Terrible Paycheck Realization.

At the state uni where I teach, part-timers and work study student get paychecks in distinctive colored envelopes. I don't know when or why this started this way, but they get generated in some massive office somewhere and distributed through campus mail. It's an imperfect system, of course, and in the three years I've been a part-timer here, I've gotten the wrong envelope a couple of times. I see the wrong name, stick it back in the mail, and wait for mine to come back around to me.

Well this semester I have a student with the same last name, someone who I actually see once a week or so at one of our fitness rooms. I won't tell you what our real names are, but let's say her name is Cindy Monahan, and my name is Celia Monahan. As a Fitness Room "assistant," Cindy sits behind a counter, plays Sudoku and Farm Town on the computer, hands out those giant fitness balls to the braver exercisers, scoops up towels occasionally. Mostly she seems to talk on her phone and watch one of the giant TVs hanging from the ceiling.

I teach 2 classes a semester here because there's a huge pool of available PhDs and many of them have a lot more seniority than I do. Of course full timers here teach 2-2, just like me, but that's another story.

So I get my first semester paycheck, and I open it up and the first thing I see is the SS# is wrong. And of course I see the first name is Cindy and not Celia. I've got my student's paycheck. Not a big deal, right?

Anyway, on a hunch I take her paycheck to class and ask her if she maybe got mine by mistake. She pulls the envelope out of her backpack and walks up to the front of the room. I see it's torn open and when we switch envelopes she says (too loudly), "Dr.'s so weird. I make almost the same amount as you!"

I look at hers, which she's holding up: $510.00 gross for the first two weeks, $12.75 an hour! I look down at mine: two classes at $2100 a class over 8 pay periods = $525 gross.

I make $7.50 more a week than my student, who spends 20 hours a week handing out BALLS! She spends her time with her feet up in a fitness room (with free fruit juice, Internet, cable, phone, and extremely limited duties). And meanwhile I'm prepping and reading and grading and lecturing, and I have a kid and a student loan, and a Ph.D.

Do you think the college would have a problem with me applying for that fitness room job next year?


  1. I would definitely do it at some point. If your part-time teaching is just for money and not long term promotion - and I fear it isn't - then working smart makes sense.

    I think those gym jobs look like fun, except for maybe picking up the towels!

  2. Awkward!

    I'm with Hiram. I'd definitely apply for the gym job (or any similarly-paying ones available, on-campus or off), then quit the adjunct one and tell your department chair exactly why.

    Maybe if the students aren't outraged at what adjuncts are paid, they'd be outraged if Ph.D.s took all their favorite part-time jobs (barista, bartender, etc., etc.)? We do, after all, have some relevant skills and abilities (e.g. maturity, work ethic).

    Actually, from what I'm hearing, college students were, in fact, having trouble finding work in some of the traditional fields (retail, fast food) last summer because employers, at least in year-round businesses, no longer want to/have to hire for the summer only.

  3. Replies
    1. Indeed. I was wondering about that. My institution actually requires it for new employees (part of a paperless environmental/cost-saving initiative).

  4. Given the increasingly insulting manner that our administration deals with faculty, I have sometimes dreamed of going to the relevant VP and offer them a trade: I leave my department, they get to freeze a position, and in return I get a permanent place as a groundskeeper. My salary would drop about 20%, but at times that seems worth not having to deal with snowflakes and the little Satans in the admin.

    1. Just make sure the groundskeeper job comes with a good disability and retirement plan. Barring dementia, it really is possible to hold down a proffie's job (assuming one is guaranteed said job by tenure) at a much later age than it is possible to hold down a job requiring hard physical labor. Different people will have different cut-offs for both, but the cutoff for the teaching job will invariably be higher/older.

  5. I did it. I have a full-time university support staff position during the day and I lecture in the evening. Steady income, no begging for work from semester to semester, no travelling to 3, 4 different campuses each week, health and dental, pension plan.

  6. That's shitty!

    I actually asked about working at our fitness center over summer and winter breaks because our students do even less than yours: they open the door and plunk their butts in the seat and do not move. We have no towels or balls to hand out (alas!). Anyway, at $9/hour, I figured I could earn some pocket money over break and just sit and read or prep or do syllabi after my workout. When I inquired, I was told it was a Work-Study position, so I had to be enrolled as a student to qualify.

  7. But she has to hand out those balls, dirty and smelly and contaminated with who-knows-what other bodily fluids. I can wear examination gloves (appropriately) when I do my marking!