The 2016 State of the Adjunct Nation

Good Adjuncts,

Sorry I’ve been away so much; between the direct union activism of the last year and the deaths of both my mother and stepmother, I’ve only been able to put up a smattering of stuff.

I’m back, and I’m here to tell you the state of the adjunct nation is still unsound.

Granted, there have been positive changes afoot in the past year.

Outside of the limited smatterings of “Campus Equity Week” events, the call for, and on many campuses, the realization of a National Adjunct Day of Action marked the first significant effort at a mass labor action dedicated to the cause of Adjuncts.

Additionally, in many states, the improved economy meant increased tax revenues and in turn and uptick in wages and jobs for some adjuncts in some states. In California, a concerted effort to push the Governor and Legislature to address adjunct issues resulted in the designation of 62.5 million dollars towards the “conversion of part-time to full-time positions”. Also in California, an adjunct job security bill giving rehire rights to adjuncts in good standing received serious consideration before being killed in appropriations. In addition, some local districts crafted or increased funding for adjunct office hours and professional development.

Arguably, it was a move in the right direction, and yet…

Adjuncts still account for 75% of Community College and Higher Ed instructors, most have little or no job security, have to pay out of pocket for Obamacare, and make around 50% of what Full-time instructors make for teaching the same number of hours.

In fact, most adjuncts that did see pay increases usually received the same percentage increase as their full-time colleagues, which in fact did not bring the wages closer together, but saw them grow farther apart.

There has been no significant national movement on student loan debt forgiveness for adjuncts, and still significant numbers of adjuncts, in spite of their advanced degrees, years of teaching experience, solid evaluations, and professionalism, live on food stamps, receive government assistance, or are in fact homeless. To make ends meet, many adjuncts are teaching more classes than they should, traveling to multiple campuses in multiple districts, which adversely affects their teaching and makes it harder for students to access them.

According to the Labor Department’s December 2015 jobs report the average US wage was $24.57 an hour. For an adjunct, such as myself, who is only paid for their hours in class, with some token payment given office hours, I get paid for about one hour for every five that I actually work, which means my average of 73.00/hr (and I am paid at the top highest step I can reach in two relatively well-paying districts) is actually around $14.60/hr. I seriously doubt that any adjunct who truly puts the time into their classes that they should actually makes $24.57/hr for the work they actually do, even though they have a higher degree of educational attainment than 90% of the adult working population.

In fact, as I am presently between semesters, I am presently unemployed, as I am every Mid-December through late January or early February, because the Community Colleges I work at don’t want to give me, or any other adjunct for that matter, an actual contract guaranteeing my rehire rights, in spite of 10+ years of consecutively strong evaluations because then they would 1) have to provide me the same benefits as my full-time colleagues, and 2) the same proportional salary.

Meanwhile, the salaries of these institutions’ Chancellors, Presidents, and Vice Presidents are rising at higher rates, coupled with “longevity bonuses” that adjuncts will never see.

Yet, above and beyond all this, in California at least, there was hope that through a concerted effort by a number of different groups, from the main teachers unions in the state, to adjunct advocacy groups, that the governors’ budget this year would designate some specific monies to address adjunctification. What the budget does offer is a .46 COLA for Community Colleges in general along with 2% growth money tied to enrollment, and 200 million dollars for Career Technical education.

Any specific monies for increasing full-time hires, or paid adjunct office hours, or adjunct pay equity?

If you guessed zero, you’d be right.

Now for those of you out there that are inclined to think, “Hey, there’s COLA and growth money, so the inequities of the adjunct situation can still be addressed,” you need to understand what’s more likely to happen, as it has for the past several decades.

The COLA is relatively small, and so this is more than likely going to mean small salary increases across the board for adjuncts and full-timers alike, and unless you’re in a very progressive district with a very progressive full-time membership, the salary increase will be across, the board, meaning no closing of the adjunct/full-time pay equity gap. “Growth money” can be spent any number of ways by a district, and generally speaking, adjunct pay equity ranks low on the list.

To add to the fun, Governor Brown is not going to push for an extension of Proposition 30. There’s no word yet on whether he will oppose the effort of others to get this extension.

So, at least in California the State of the Adjunct Nation is unsound.

What can we do?

Well for one, we can’t take this lying down.

Each adjunct who actually gives a damn about addressing adjunctification needs to write his/her own letter—no more form letters. In addition, these letters need to speak to your personal situation as an adjunct and how being an adjunct and the whole aspect of adjunctification hurts you, your family, your students, and your community.

Brown’s budget also tends to stick it to the poor and is a bit weak on the social justice side, so it’s important that you work together with other student and progressive groups to make your local legislators and ultimately governor Brown know that moving California Forward means helping people out of poverty, not making California safe for 1%ers.

Sign and support voter initiatives calling for an extension of Prop 30, and let your local legislator know that your support for him or her is dependent upon their support for a Prop 30 extension.

And by the way, the National Adjunct Day of Action this year is Wednesday, February 24th. Start talking among your fellow adjuncts or teacher’s union about actions to take.

Or do nothing, because the crap sandwich you’re already eating tastes so good, and maybe in the future you can do without the bread.

Sincerely,

Geoff Johnson
A “Good” Adjunct

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Pay Parity–Start Talking About Your Salaries

Hello Good Adjuncts,

Sorry I’ve been gone for over three months from the site.  Like the rest of you, I’ve been a bit busy, but I’ve tried to address the adjunct issue these past few months more directly through union and political involvement. 

This brings me to the thing that I think we, as adjuncts, can do to begin being effecting change immediately.

Start publically and factually talking about our salaries

This past Spring, a retired but returned former full-time colleague of mine began talking salaries, and told me, that in spite of his longstanding sympathy for adjuncts, he hadn’t really gotten the message of how our salaries are, to be polite, “deficient”, until he started getting paid in adjunct wages.

You see, my colleague, who retired from San Diego Mesa College as head of the English Department in 2003, was making $86,000/year in his final year.  He then went on for a number of years being paid “pro rata”, which meant he would teach two classes paid on a graduated scale proportionate to what he had made as a full-timer.  However, “pro rata” status doesn’t continue forever, and so eventually he saw his pay reduced to the standard adjunct rate for a person of his experience and educational attainment.  He saw his wages cut to almost a third of what he was making.

As an adjunct at San Diego Mesa College, I now make $67.10 an hour.  Because I have taught three classes a semester for over ten years, I am at the top of the pay scale for people with a MA and 60 Postgraduate units.  This coming academic year, I will teach six three-unit (3hr/wk) classes which run 16 weeks.  If one multiplies $67.10 X 6 X 3 X 16, this will come to $19,324.80.  If I were to teach a full-time load of ten three-unit classes, my pay for the year would be $32208.00. 

For a person of my experience and educational attainment, were I actually working as a full-time contracted employee, I would make, (being on Step M of Schedule A),  $6,290.00 a month on a ten-month contract for an annual total of  $62,900.00, excluding Health Insurance, which thanks to my union, I also receive.

In other words, I make approximately 51.3 % of what my comparable full-time colleague makes.  In fact, if I had  really started as a full-timer, I would have actually accumulated an additional 144 units putting me at Step X, which means I would receive $8,477.00/month for an annual salary of $84,770.00.  In fact, I really am getting paid 37.9 % of what my comparable full-time colleague makes.

As an adjunct at Southwestern Community College, I am paid better on an hourly basis, but receive no benefits with lesser job security.    At Southwestern I am paid $75.70/hr.   I teach two four-unit classes  per semester for 8 hours a week for two 18.5 week semesters.  My annual salary from Southwestern next year will be $75.70 X 8 X 2 X 18.5, which comes to $22,407.00.  If I worked I to work a full-time load at this rate, I would make 42,013.50 annually.  The actual salary for a full-time contracted employee with comparable experience and educational attainment (Step 12 Class IV) would be $82, 405/yr., not including HW and welfare benefits.  Adjuncts, if they receive any HW benefits from any other place of work, receive no benefits, and in fact, will only receive percentage pay on any health plan (i.e. 20% pay for a 20% load).  Excluding benefits and just going by salary, Southwestern College pays me 51.2% of the salary a comparable full-time colleague makes.

Now granted, I do not have outside committee work like my full-time colleagues, but I have sat on academic committees, participated on an academic senate as an adjunct rep for five years, and participate in department meetings (unlike some of my full-time colleagues).  I easily exceed 40 hours of work a semester on professional development, none of which I am compensated for.  I have consistently positive evaluations at both institutions.

I ask therefore, how is my work worth 37.9%, 51.2%, or even 51.3% of a full-time contract employee’s, especially when I face the loss of work from even one bad evaluation cycle, or a downturn in funding?

If the above facts don’t point out the glaring inequities of the system, I don’t know what does or will.

So I say, good adjuncts, speak of your salaries, what you do make, what your colleagues both full-time and adjunct make, and of the sharp disparities.  Do it in emails, to your colleagues, to governing boards, to the editorial sections of newspapers and blogs.

Maybe then the larger academic community, and perhaps more importantly, the public will finally “get it.”

Geoff Johnson

A Good Adjunct in Search of Pay Parity