Tuesday, February 10, 2015

An Adjuncts Union Has Gone Fucking Crazy. Good! From WashPo.

Look at me?
Standing up!
It’s been true for a long time now that academia — or at least the part of it that teaches students — relies heavily on the labor of adjunct faculty. As the number of tenured professors has fallen, universities have filled more than half of their schedules with teachers who work on contract. And no wonder: They’ll work for less than half what a full-time professor makes, at a median wage of just $2,700 per course, with scant benefits, if any.

Now, a union that’s been rapidly organizing adjuncts around the country thinks that number should quintuple. Last night, on a conference call with organizers across the country, the SEIU decided to extend the franchise with a similar aspirational benchmark: A “new minimum compensation standard” of $15,000. Per course. Including benefits.


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7 comments:

  1. The first sentence of that article is scary. Do we now need to specify "the part of it that teaches students" when discussing academia? I long for the days when that was academia.

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  2. Well, it's worth a try. It would be amusing, at the very least, to see tenure-line faculty making the argument that their wages need to be brought in line with "the kind of upper-middle-class salary [the union] think[s] people with advanced degrees should be able to expect."

    The comments on the article are, for the most part, surprisingly reasonable. Maybe people are finally beginning to realize that, wherever their tuition dollars are going, it's not to faculty salaries? Or maybe the crazies just aren't up yet.

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  3. Let's pretend that the union is able to achieve $15,000 per course. Wouldn't that cause tenured or tenure track faculty to demand a pay increase so that there is a differentiation in pay between these newly rich adjuncts and the more prestigious tenured faculty? Frankly, I'd be happy to quit my current job and apply for a job where I teach 3/3 with no research responsibilities and make $90,000 per year. I'm curious to know how this (or a more reasonable increase in adjunct's pay) could not work out well for tenure-line faculty too. I don't see why this has to be a zero-sum game between adjuncts and full-time faculty.

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    1. That's what I was thinking, too, though I might not have phrased it as well as I might have. I will say that, when and if my university finally gets around to adjusting tenure-track salaries to better align with the local cost of living, I'm not looking forward to some of the responses full time non-tenure-track faculty (who earn 30% or more less) will get if we argue for comparable or slightly higher wages (to make up for the need to save for earlier retirement and/or a year or more of under/unemployment should our contracts not be renewed).

      But even bringing adjunct wages up to a level where they're equal to pro-rated full-time wages (including benefits, either as part of the package, or enough money to allow adjunct to buy medical insurance and save for retirement on their own) would be a major improvement, if only because it would eliminate any incentive to hir adjuncts rather than create full-time lines (or, in the case of full-time contingents, hire contingents rather than create tenure lines).

      So, yes, any pay raise has the potential to help us all, and an adjunct pay raise is more likely to help more faculty than a raise for tenured faculty.

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    2. I suspect this will only drive up the number of students in each class, and convert from face to face to more online. Of course, I think that's the direction we're going in anyway, but this would speed the process up by giving universities an incentive to cap the number of "classes" it offers at all and reduce overall pay even as it is forced to raise individual pay.

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