Can Adjunct Professors Afford Pipe Dreams: The Reality of $15,000/course with benefits

Adjunct professors have a lot to be discouraged about. Lousy pay. Too many classes. Little to no job security. Abandonment of our academic hopes and dreams, including the research projects so many of us put years (and thousands of borrowed dollars into). Perhaps we’ve buried the hopes of having families, vacations, and doing other things that we love. Yes. It’s a long list.

I think the corporatization of academia hopes that we are discouraged.They need us discouraged so that they can continue to exploit our expertise (yes, we have areas of expertise) and our labor. I’m starting to think that they want us to abandon the part of the academic job we trained for that produces new knowledge. Think about it. There’s enough corporate money out there funding research at universities so that corporations can peddle their sometimes dangerous wares without critique. Many of the people doing STEM related work are research assistants with doctorates who aren’t able to work on their own projects.

Do you wonder why the humanities constantly face cuts in funding? Yes, they’re allegedly “not money makers.” But it is in the humanities that we debate societal inequalities over time and in the present. It is in the humanities where we explicitly examine systems of racism, sexism, class inequity, etc. The very same inequities that affect adjunct lives daily. I suspect the “powers that be” in a corporate university no longer want to hear about any of this.

This raises a question for me. Is this grim state what we really want? Is this what we want to settle for?

I don’t think it is. That’s why we grumble about it when we get a chance. We grumble about this to anyone who is willing to listen to us for a hot minute. We want full lives. We want wages that work, we want to work less hard, we want time off. We want to go back to the projects that catapulted us out of bed when we were doctoral students. WE HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY!

Some of you say that earning $15,000/course, inclusive of benefits is a pipe dream. But I have a question for you: can we afford the discouragement we’re living under? Can we really afford not to dream? But here’s the catch, we can’t only dream – we have to set up a plan to get what we really want.

I think that $15,000/course, including benefits pushes the knowledge industrial complex to consider whether hiring hundreds of adjunct professors is the best way of handling undergraduate education while Presidents and loads of administrators make big bucks. Yes, instead of this, they should be creating new lines for new faculty. New lines for teaching and for research. This is cheaper than $15,000/course.

Again, can we afford to carry on as we are now? What are you willing to do to seriously change the reality of adjunct professors? Join me and your peers in this set of conversations. I am not going to be the one with all of the answers or proposals. I provide the forum about how to make this happen. I won’t be silent. I clearly have lots of thoughts about this. But you do too. You have thoughts about how to move faculty forward.

I hope to hear from you.


$15,000 per course, Including Benefits for Adjuncts

Imagine seeing this headline . . . or that this is your paycheck! What would that mean for your daily life to earn this much per course? What would it mean for what courses you teach and how many you teach? What would it mean for how many students you had per semester? How would that seriously adjust your standard of living?

I could tell you the same thing that we always hear about rising tuition costs, rising College/University President salaries, a boom in administrators, and cutting full-time faculty and hiring us instead.

I could also tell you how students are getting short-changed in this system.

But this isn’t the only problem we face. If so many of us actually hold Doctoral degrees, and we’re teaching multiple classes for little or nothing, what does this mean for the production of knowledge? We know the story on the tenure track side: a small number of people are expected to create loads of new scholarship, new independent scholarship to support our fields. On top of that, more universities turn to corporations to fund research, so that scholarship is becoming less independent. It seems that the wealthy are dictating the kids of scholarship academia produces so that it supports their ends. Think this is nuts: there have been increasing numbers and more urgent retractions from the scientific magazine JAMA, for example.

When was the last time you managed to write an academic article? Have you been able to write at all? Have you been able to do what is said to be necessary to snag that tenure track job? Did you really like your dissertation research? Are you upset that you haven’t been able to do more with it? Do you wonder why?

Did you realize that there is a ban on researching gun violence in the United States if it’s funded by the U.S. government? What about the utility of marijuana? I could go on and on.

But I may be wrong.

So I have an idea: I would love to talk to you, Adjunct Professors, about this proposal. I want to know what it would mean for your life. I want to know what it would mean for your ability to do what you wanted to go to graduate school to examine in the first place. Please participate in these conference calls. We need your voice!

Making Real Changes in Adjunct Professor Lives

I’ve had time to think over the weekend, and I would like to incorporate you into the discussion. The public higher education facility I work for is currently “bargaining” with the Union for higher wages for both the full-time Professors and the Adjunct Faculty. We haven’t had a raise in years, the state has budgeted money for our wages, and now management is hemming and hawing about passing that money on to us.

I want my raise, but do you know what would really be amazing: if one course paid me $10,000. Think about it: 3 courses and one would earn much more money. But this is about more than the money. There’s less accountability for the curriculum, etc., if you have a massive contingent faculty community because we’re too busy flitting between campuses and grading for massive classes to contribute to any one place.

This needs to be the standard for colleges and universities nation-wide! $10,000 per course. (1) it proves that the program really needed the person (2) If we choose to withstand it, it would go a long way towards quality of life.

Join me at the beginning of this campaign. More information here.