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Adjuncts Should Do As Little Work As Possible



by Marni

I was talking to my brother-in-law one day. He is a tenured professor and has been one for over 30 years. In other words he gets the good salary and all the perks. He informed me that administrators just LOVED adjuncts. I replied, “Well, of course, we are cheap.” He replied that this was not the main reason. Administrators love us because we are pressured to give the grade away. As a result more students graduate.

Schools are rated on retention and graduation rates — not actual learning. Schools are now able to admit students that they could not admit in the past. If you are the real teacher that dares to fail someone then that particular student can go elsewhere and find someone else who will pass him or her. Then your school’s retention and graduation statistic goes down. What’s a school to do?

At many schools student evaluations determine if you will be invited back. Go

on ratemyprofessors.com and you will note that the best evaluations are usually accompanied by ‘easy A, no work’. That is the first pressure. But even if administrators aren’t influenced by evaluations, you eventually come to the conclusion that the only way to make this work for you financially is to assign less work to the student. The student will NEVER complain about this and you have also given yourself less work.

Adjuncting is a good job if you:

  1. Don’t prep.
  2. Assign the least you can get away with.
  3. Grade by doing a brief scan.
  4. Never grade finals — just give the student the grade you would have given him or her without the final.

My last point is statistically significant. I remember spending 4 hours, on my own time, grading finals only to discover that only one student’s grade was changed by the final and that student went from a B to a B+. And so, to be fair, increase every student’s grade by half a letter and save yourself the 4 hours of unpaid labor.

I am a little too ethical to do this and hence I do not adjunct anymore but if you think about it 1) This IS what the school wants. 2) This IS what the student wants. 3) It is the only thing that actually

makes the job profitable and 4)

Given that this is the real job description, just about anyone can do this.

I do not adjunct anymore. I was sucked in and taught at three different schools before I realized that this is a systemic problem. I was stupid enough in the beginning to assume it was a problem at the particular school I worked at. Unions are not the answer since I was represented by a union at all three schools. To me this was a double whammy — 1) Get paid next to nothing with no benefits and 2) Pay union dues.

And finally, to reinforce my opinion that this is really what the school wants. Specifically — they really want us to do next to nothing. To make sure this happens, most of us get hired two weeks before school begins. This protects the school from the kind of person who might actually spend his or her summer putting together a great class. At the first school I taught, I was unofficially hired in June but told that I could not see the textbook until August when I would officially be hired.


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79 thoughts on “Adjuncts Should Do As Little Work As Possible

  1. This is EXACTLY right in every detail. The inferiority of the adjunct as teacher has nothing to do with the intelligence or education of the adjunct: any difference in accreditation or position in the hierarchy is a total red herring. The adjunct is intentionally refused the power and resources necessary to teach (this includes the power to give students undesirable grades and undesirable amounts of work). The fact that any of us do a good job or educate students is necessarily despite the system.

    • Some of this thoughts really floor me. It gives the impression that we are moving backwards instead of forward. Our responsibility is to help our students learn. I get it that adjuncts are millionaires but some of the reasons I’m seeing I hope are only a small percentage. I’m aware of the whys but my question is what are we as a group going to do to change it?
      Jeff

      • It is not up to the adjuncts to change it but faculty and students. If the administration won’t listen to faculty they WILL listen to students, but we need to then convince students that their learning is important (good luck). I did, in my last position, convince some students to complain when they weren’t being asked to learn. Non-traditional students tend to be good for this. It made a small difference. Small.

    • Didn’t know about Margaret Mary until you mentioned her here. Thanks! If I were a folk singer, or if I could sing at all, I’d certainly write a song for her!

      Both should go viral…

  2. You obviously had crappy union leadership. At my institution the union ensures much better compensation and benefits than contract faculty would have without it. It is not the solution — more full-time tenured positions is — but it sure beats the alternatives at non-unionized schools.

    • I agree that being unionized pays better than not being unionized. BUT two times a low number is still a low number. Back when I was adjuncting, my son was in college and my daughter was in high school. My son worked as a life guard and my daughter worked as a nanny. My son earned $15 per hour. He worked right around the corner and got paid when it rained. Even when it didn’t rain he noted that not that many people showed up at the beach at Wellesley College and that summer he either sat in a chair at the beach reading a book OR stayed home on the rainy days while collecting his $15 per hour. Meanwhile my daughter also earned $15 per hour as a nanny. This was a job that she drove 45 minutes to get to and when she got there she picked 3 middle school children up from middle school and drove them to their after school activities. She was paid for her traveling time and her gas and on many occasions the family threw in extra food and always rounded up the money that they owed her and of course she never paid taxes.

      Now I on the other hand was earning a little bit less than $60 per CONTACT hour BUT I was not paid for traveling time which was an hour in both directions, clearly I was not reimbursed for gas, clearly I did pay taxes BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY I WAS NOT PAID FOR ANY TIME I SPENT PREPPING NOR WAS I PAID FOR ANY TIME I SPENT GRADING HOMEWORK AND TESTS. I did do the math and I concluded that both my son and my daughter had a better deal than I did.

      The final school I taught at did pay $3600 per class which does appear to be significantly more than other places AND if you taught there for 3 years the rate went up to $5300 BUT I was limited to two classes per semester which annually turns out to around $20,000 per year after taxes and many, many low level jobs pay better. My children now teach middle school and they each earn close to $50k per year.

      So Mr. Cranky Old Prof what was your deal with a union? Were you able to earn more money than either a life guard or a nanny?

  3. Nothing in this piece surprises me; I am tenured, though not highly paid, and I am fully aware of the philosophy of education the writer experienced. Most of it doens not applhyonly to adjuncts, however, but is an endemic situation just about everywhere. One of the main causes, which the writer cites, is so-called teacher evaluations, the worst thing to happen in post-secondary education in my lifetime/

      • It’s both. At my U, the evaluation forms have gotten progressively stupider and more befitting a restaurant exit questionnaire, with almost all questions geared toward customer satisfaction, not testing the challenges of the course or the educational quality its teacher. Obviously this results in teacher “goodness” being equated with an ever-new definition of “ease.” Management, meanwhile, acts with mind-warping double-standards about these forms. In casual conversation, they may lament the forms’ stupidity. In professional practice, they can act like squamous managers working for steely-bureaucrat deans with little interest in actual liberal arts education. I fantasize that if department heads rose up and demanded a new evaluation system, it would change. Mid-level Uni people (like department heads) too often treat policies (like the evaluation forms here) as though they are forms natural law. They aren’t. Actual, corporatist jackasses foisted these forms on the U just a few years ago. But the dynamics compelling these consumerist/ corporatist decisions are large. I write this on day two of the 2013 government shut-down.

        • In a way, I would like a NEW evaluation form. I was not happy while teaching at my first college to see someone in the room filling out the evaluation who hadn’t been there much of the semester. He had no right to evaluate me. Also, does any student have a right to evaluate an instructor when that same student refuses to do the assignment? Maybe my biggest gripe is that a student doesn’t necessarily appreciate a teacher until many years after the fact. Both my children complained about a particular social studies teacher whom they had in middle school. I recognized this teacher as magnificent. She assigned lots of work and made you work for your A or B. Many parents really disliked her because her grades were lower than the other teacher AND she would call you at home to complain about students who didn’t do the work. Several years after my children had this woman as a teacher they both took a standardized social studies test. Both were actually surprised that they remembered just about everything this teacher had taught them but not so much what the other teachers had taught them. If they had been able to evaluate this teacher while they were in her class neither would have given her a great evaluation, however three years later it dawned on them that she did them both a great service.

          • From the American Heritage Dictionary:
            stu·pid
            adj. stu·pid·er, stu·pid·est

            Do you also get your bloomers in a not over “tastier”? George Orwell’s
            “the beer is bitterer” must really bug your prescriptive sensibilities. What about the argument here?

          • From the American Heritage Dictionary:
            stu·pid
            adj. stu·pid·er, stu·pid·est

            Do you also get your bloomers in a knot over “tastier”? George Orwell’s
            “the beer is bitterer” must really bug your prescriptive sensibilities. What about the argument here?

  4. Too true! BUT I want my writing students to be empowered and to succeed! I will say that I won’t be taking any more students that I am required to after this semester. It’s not my fault that there aren’t enough classes. Maybe they will get politically active.

  5. Mr. Grella, you ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie! The situation for adjuncts is more horrible in every imaginable way, (though the person who can say “I am a little too ethical to do this and hence I do not adjunct anymore” has another source of income squirreled away, and not a lot of tact). But there are, believe it or not, a million ways to make life very difficult indeed for tenured profs who don’t toe that grade-inflation, low-workload line that helps administrators make everyone happy–except of course for instructors (all of us), students, and any parent who hoped for an education for her kid. So I guess I meant “helps administrators make administrators and trustees happy.”

      • So, what are the easy jobs that pay more for writers? Or do you just mean jobs that pay more than adjuncts in general?

    • Also, in my opinion, part of the problem is due to the fact that many people who are adjuncts do have another source of income.

      • Many adjuncts start out believing and hoping they will be able to earn a full time position because this is how things once worked. You obviously live somewhere where the economy is much different than it is in most of the country. I don’t assign less work nor do I take shortcuts on grading. I work a lot of hours to get the work done because it is the right thing yo do as a teacher. My efforts as a teacher are not based on what I am paid but on my dedication to my profession.

      • Most of the adjuncts i know have several jobs – as adjuncts on different campuses so they can pay their bills, feed their kids, and buy the gas for the cars that drive them around the city trying to make enough money to survive.

    • There is something slightly pompous in your response. The person may have no other option than to teach. This is a reality for many. Secondly, your “probably best” implies a kind of ethos of service, a sense of vocation, an esprit de corps, of teaching – and what the article is showing in a way that, for me, is very compelling, is that this kind of ethos is no longer viable and no longer makes sense within the institution of higher education.

      • I totally agree with this and see a well-reasoned, balanced response. And yet, at the same time, this doesn’t prevent you from being in touch with your own ethos that is still capable of compassion, being open to building relationships with students in the time that you do have, and not beating yourself up or holding yourself to some standard that is truly not appropriate to the situation any more. It’s okay if you aren’t perfect. As an adjunct, it should be considered a kind of low-level, entry position. You are doing this below market value for you based on your investment, based on real labor power, in order to get job skills and build a resume that will be the only way forward given the hole that has been dug for you (under the guise of it all being your “choice”). Which, in reality, if a choice at all, has been obscured by the circulations of exchange value that “the market” somehow artificially controls and regulates (and which justifies itself when it says, but you could have gone into business or found a way to be on the exploitative side of the equation (read: inequality)). As a result, it is better, in my own estimation, to let go of some of the liberal arts ideology and just embrace the pragmatics of the situation at hand. The students did not ask for this. Many of them would be better served with a different path if it were made available to them. And I don’t want to overstate this, as if this wave of serfdomhood that is being impressed across American society is so terrible when there are still many positive aspects to the times we find ourselves in. Especially when we have the educational resources to truly be aware of possibilities that are still there if we commit to working toward them, if we commit to striving to be our best. Meanwhile, adjuncting, when paired with a second source of income, can be a flexible job. Even if the monetization of all educational process, especially the administration, is so wasteful when it comes to human potential. But serving and truly taking care of that human potential isn’t a product of proper grammar, or what an A used to be, or any of that shit. It’s not giving them more than you have. It’s being more real, and being more open, and trusting yourself more to show up as you are and allow that transparency to be the foundation for you to truly listen to them as they are and not just the ideals/ideology that can be so crushing.

        • Maybe one of my main issues stems from the fact the the student and his or her parents are very unaware of the situation. They see their tuition going up and up and just assume that it is going to the person who is teaching them. Since professors used to get paid a decent salary, many students think that that is still the case. How many of us have the courage to announce to the class our compensation? I think if we could figure out a way to do this, something might change. I have experimented by telling various students and most just assume that I am lying through my teeth.

          The student is paying a lot of money and I feel does have the right to have a professor who is available for office hours. When that professor is not, then the student will think bad things about the professor. The student will sometimes blame his or her professor’s unavailability to tenure when that is so far from the truth.

          • I have had the courage to mention to my students my lack of pay. They are appalled and sympathetic, but they are only there 16 weeks. After that, they continue with their education. For them, as long as they get through the class, they are content.
            Our department coordinator did the math and found that adjuncts are paid (in our NC institution) $6.50 per hour. She wondered if the college was breaking the law. This is what I am researching and petitioning for at Moveon.org–Equal Pay for Equal Work. I am also working on a website for contingent faculty in North Carolina to do research, to educate, and to advocate for change.
            I want to go past the talking. I want change based on the rights of working educators.

  6. Yes and yes and yes of course. You should have seen what happened when I went to my boss with an obvious plagiarism case. She indicated that I should assign papers in December because these things are too difficult to deal with at the end of the semester. She was super judgey of me for daring to bring up an obvious case of plagiarism “so late in the semester.” I was young and didn’t fight it, but it was so obviously an attempt to not make waves because waves are frowned upon and result in F grades, angry parents or lawsuits or what not. I spent so much time as an adjunct feeling bad about the wrong things. Like not getting my grading done on time. I think the judgey tone of some of these commenters is a result of an idealism that is only afforded by those who can afford it. The only adjunts I know who love their jobs have husbands who make 75,000K doing something else, or a nice little nest egg from grammy. Or they just don’t really get that they are going to have to pay all those loans back and administrators are closing all the expiring tenure lines in order to more readily exploit part time labor. The adjunts in the fog spend a lot of time thinking about pedagogy and congratulating themselves on how much they care about their students and are leaving you these, “oh how sad about your cynicism” comments. But you have exposed the only logical way to participate in a system governed by the repulsive corporate motivations that have taken over the University.

    • Yes, I also went to the Dean with two identical exams and he told me that if I did not actually see it then I could not do anything about it. I did talk to another prof who told me what to do. I let both grades stand with a warning that if it happened again I would fail both. Then the copier, I assume, disappeared.

    • You lost me on “they don’t get that they will have to pay all those loans back.” I thought this was about adjuncts?

  7. I’ve been an adjunct for 8 years and I work as hard as my full-time colleagues. Why? (1) I love teaching (2) I have personal integrity. Isn’t that what it all comes down to? I’ve known plenty of tenured professors who behave exactly as this article describes. Why? (1) They’re sick of teaching (2) They have no personal integrity. Adjuncts are NOT destroying our education system, people: greed and apathy are destroying it.

  8. I do understand where the author is coming from, but this attitude toward adjunct positions is just consent to the status quo. If all adjuncts approached the job this way, then administrators would be justified in how they mistreat part-time faculty.

    Unless… this is some kind of satire… meant to comment on how our cynicism is making us complicit in our devaluation? If so, then it’s genius. Otherwise, it is horrifying.

  9. I find this disturbing. I am an adjunct at 4 schools. I don’t give an easy “A” and I have been retained at all the schools I work for. I get great evaluations, but my students always say while I am tough and expect a lot I am also fair and very understanding. I have been told by my boss at one school that my grades tend to be lower and I grade more strictly, but that she knows for me it is not about the grade it is about supporting learning.

    • Your comment is very refreshing to hear. After reading this article, I was very intrigued. What has happened to education? To think that money is the leading factor in a teacher’s profession worries me because of the education of the students. How can a teacher properly teach their students without being truly passionate about instilling in them a desire to learn? I am not saying that money should not be evaluated before taking the job, but it should not be the main reason for teaching.

      • For those dedicated to teaching, money is not “the leading factor.” Those in education know that the best educators are passionate, just like the best in any field are passionate. If you want the best CEOs, you pay them well. If you want the best in any job, you pay them well. It is difficult to continue year after year in teaching when you don’t have enough to eat, live in poor housing, have no health care and no retirement, and do not make enough money to save for when you are older. If you want us to stay in education, you need to make it so that the passion isn’t subdued by poverty.

  10. Pingback: Do the Math: Part 2 | Cathy Day

  11. FWIW, it’s obvious how to best measure and rate non-profit vocational schools: workforce placement at middle-class jobs. Recruitment, retention, and graduation metrics are thus a sideshow. Workforce placement is everything.
    There’s nothing quite like hearing a department chair counseling prospective vocational education students for purposes of recruitment and retention. The smart students ask about placement.

  12. I really am feeling that what might be happening soon is “The Revenge of the Blue Collar Worker”. I cannot outsource my plumber. Because we, as a society, have made college a priority, we have also made vocational school a scarcity. As a result, our labor will be cheap and the labor of the blue collar worker, which cannot be outsourced, will not be cheap.

    On the other hand our main problem is that we agree to work for nothing. In times of recession, people return to college to update their skills. More people than ever are going to college. AND they are going for the education. If we are not careful, it is only a matter of time before the college degree is meaningless and that time might be closer than we think. There truly was a time when getting through college GUARANTEED a job that allowed you to live a middle class lifestyle but I am feeling that those days are at an end. If an employer wants a competent employee they are usually hiring immigrants.

    When the time comes that students and parents start to complain about this then things will change. My daughter is from the class of 2010 and that class has a 25% unemployment rate which is the highest of all time. When the GUARANTEE of a middle class lifestyle is gone then professors cannot get away with giving the grade away because when that student does get a job and demonstrates that he or she cannot read or write or do simple arithmetic then that student will not have that job for very long and then the gig is up and then colleges will have to return to the days of yesteryear.

    We aren’t doing our students any favors by passing them along when they don’t show up for class and don’t . do the required work. When they get older they might really resent us (or possibly sue us).

  13. One may fault the cynicism of this comment, but not its logic. Doing hours of preparation & grading that just ties up your time is probably foolish. Your institution indicates how much it cares about education by how well it pays & supports those teaching the bulk of introductory level courses.

    The rise of the era of 50% or more adjuncts teaching for starvation wages at major universities (some of which have multi-million dollar sports facilities & upper echelon bureaucrats “earning” six-figures) is the sound of mainstream American academia on its way over the cliff. The only thing it has going for it is familiarity, name recognition of the institutions, & an accreditation system in its back pocket.

    I predict that alternatives to this system will soon arise visibly, especially online. A few are already here (check out Udemy.com, for example). Keep your eyes open & your ears to the ground.

  14. This article IS true on all aspects. Tongue in cheek, I would add these suggestions:
    1) use every sick day possible (don’t feel guilty since you make less than min. wage anyway). If you are entitled to three PAID sick days a semester, take them.
    2) say no to ANY extra work (course development, online forums, committees, staff meetings, depart. meetings)
    3) do not participate in supplementary or career improvements like research, publishing, conferences. Adjuncts could win the Nobel Prize and Admins would NOT CARE. All they care about is filling Freshman Comp 101 for the fall. In many universities the adjuncts have way more impressive credentials and achievements than the tenured faculty but no one cares.
    4) have students “grade” papers (in groups as a classroom activity)
    5) use every opportunity to “skate” as you can: schedule library or lab orientations. ON class time, take students to the tutoring center for orientation, take them to a museum or a lecture
    6) show movies
    7) host “panels” where students present information or assign students mini-lectures throughout the semester
    8) do not hold unpaid office hours
    9) come up with excuses not to attend “mandatory” unpaid meetings
    10) come up with an overly simple grading process
    11) when possible, use open book, multiple choice exams that do not have to be manually graded

      • I ask because I wondered what other professors opinions were.

        Honestly, for me I’d pay for someone to grade my papers and create lesson plans. I find that those are the two most time consuming aspects of teaching and the pay is so low for the workload. I don’t see it as unethical as I’d provide the rubrics and well thought out lesson plans can be developed by many teachers.

        • My questions to you would be these: if, as an adjunct you make barely enough to feed yourself and pay the bills, how could you afford to pay others to do the work? And how would you know the comments and notations given by another are correct unless you took the time to look them over? How would you respond to your students when they ask about the comments? How would another know your method of teaching and make lesson plans to fit?

          • Yes, I am and have been for six years. I’ve taught in three community colleges and one private university.

          • I don’t see anything wrong with getting others to grade papers especially if you have a rubric. As far as questions from students, the grader should leave sufficient comments.

            I do other projects which is why I personally would have the money to pay someone but I haven’t really found the right person, because it would have to be someone with good knowledge about the subject.

            I firmly believe that outsourcing some of these things makes me an even more effective teacher because I can spend more quality one on one with my students instead of being a machine.

            It’s 2013; I would ask, why should each adjunct even need to come up with any more lesson plans? There should be books available across the curriculum that have excellent lesson plans created by professionals. This all enables more quality.

          • There are a couple of arguments in your reply. One, students should be graded by a rubric but, in the writing courses I teach, the grades are still highly subjective. How would you grade creativity? How is creativity measured? How do you grade their understanding of punctuation? Can a student know 80% of the time on how to use commas? Is that sufficient? Many courses are not subjective (like math and science) and it would be advantageous to strictly grade by the rubric. But the only person that knows if that particular student is progressing is the one who actually reads and evaluates their writing, and that person is me. Two, you say that you don’t want to “be a machine,” to your students, but how is that possible if you only receive information about your student from someone else (the person that does the grading)? That is input from another source, not from you; hence, you become the machine that only puts out what others put in. Each discipline has their own needs and we should not be lumped together in terms of methodology and, therefore, pedagogy.

          • Hey Yvonne, Thank you and I love the philosophical stimulation.

            I’m not judging at all, but I would say all teachers should be using rubrics as that is what the educational research has been showing for years now. My master’s is actually in teaching literacy.

            You can put “creativity” as a standard in the rubric if you so choose.

            I always grade writing with a rubric and comments, because if I don’t then I’m being subjective and that’s not really fair for students. That’s like back in the days when a teacher would just put a D on your paper and you had no clue what was going on.

            My rubric tells them exactly why their paper got a C or a B and where, exactly, they need help so they can improve. They might be great in one aspect and need help in another. They then know what to focus on.

            As far as getting grades from another professional? I don’t see what’s wrong with that as long as students are aware.

            As mentioned, if the burden of grading 1000 papers is off my shoulders after already teaching strategy, that leaves me time to be a normal human being and actually talk to my students one on one and strategize with them. I think that’s where the value is.

            I agree, we shouldn’t be lumped in but there needs to be some across the board educational standards making the profession more efficient for other adjuncts.

          • I do use rubrics. They receive one at the beginning of each piece of writing assigned. My students submit their papers electronically, and I use the Track Change and Comment tools to give them feedback on their work. This way, they know exactly the errors that they’ve made and where. I also allow them to revise their work in order for them to learn about themselves as writers. They always follow up their work with a reflective journal about their writing process for that particular piece of work. My goal, especially in a foundational writing class, is to take them from where they are at, to where they should be. Oftentimes, I spend extra one-on-one time with students that are having difficulty with their writing. They often get discouraged and, as a result, give up and accept where they are. I don’t believe in this. I tell my students that they are creators and, like it happens sometimes, it doesn’t come out as it should. But, instead of giving up, I help them learn the craft of writing, that it is a process, not an assignment with a grade.

  15. The Life of an Adjunct

    Also forgot to mention–I had a student in an ESL class. Her husband was wealthy and had donated money to the school, so she was placed in a course too advanced for her skill set. She earned F’s on every assignment, and when I made suggestions about improvement, she repeatedly said she liked her “version” better.

    When I gave her an F, she wrote an indecipherable complaint to my Dean, who threatened me with my job, so (as requested), I changed the F to a C. On the form, under the reason why, I put, “Dean made me.” Well, that “remark” caused the Dean’s henchman to monitor my classes, bullying me, taking notes, grimacing.

    After that, I was not even officially fired–just told the next semester that there were no classes for me.

  16. One of the questions my wife and I have had on this topic: Since as much as 1/3 or more of teachers at some colleges are part time, and these same schools charge outlandish sums to go there – WHERE THE HECK IS ALL THE MONEY GOING? It sure isn’t going to the part time teachers. My guess is it’s going to to Administration and Sports programs. Thoughts?

    • That is the question that I am attempting to answer. I do know that the state of NC sets the minimum amount community colleges can pay (Section 29.6.(b) of S.L. 2011-145), and it it up to each institution to at least pay the minimum. Many of them do just pay the minimum. I do not know exactly where the tuition goes to, but it probably goes to the state which allocates the money back to the institution based upon the budget. Who sets the budget could possibly decide the pay allocation for adjuncts. If and when I do find out, I will post it.

  17. Latest news is that nation-wide nearly 80% of all college courses are now taught by adjuncts. Not 10% not 1/3rd. Schools that charge outrageous tuition often pay adjunct below poverty level wages. So, yeah, where IS all that money going? A friend of mine taught at a private school where the tuition was over $20,000 a year per student (not counting books) and she made $800 a semester for a 3 unit class. Now someone, somewhere is getting rich.

  18. About where the money goes. Another thing I have never understood is why the percentage difference is SO high between adjuncts and full timers.

    For example, a FT teacher may earn $70,000 a year, teaching 4 classes per semester, while an adjunct (same qualifications, same school, same classes) earns $6,000 a year to teach half of the course load (2 per semester).

    In ANY other industry, a “consultant” or “temp” would at least earn 1/3 or 1/2 the salary of an employee. Why are adjuncts paid so MUCH less?

    Even teaching 5 or 6 classes a semester it is difficult to earn over $20,000 a year as an adjunct.

    • In my state (NC), the legislature sets the salary. It is there that I intend to go to find out why. In my opinion, there are many reasons why, but the rationalizations as to them are faulty. One reason is that legislatures aren’t educators and,as such, don’t know what work is entailed into teaching. They only see numbers. They say they need to quantify the work to the taxpayers, which is true, but the methodology to quantify the work is faulty–poor input in, poor input out. Another reason is employment instability. We are contingent faculty and our employment is tenuous at best. The legislators know this, and count on this fact to keep our pay down–many workers vying for the same position every 4 months equals low pay; however, the reasoning is faulty as better pay usually means better work. These are just a few of the reasons as I see them. Until they are confronted (at the peril of my employment) with their rationizations, it will not change.

  19. What if attorneys were only paid for hours IN COURT? And they could not bill for time spent prepping cases, interviewing witnesses, doing research, etc.

    At every school where I have worked as an adjunct, I have ONLY been paid for classroom time. The “other” hours I work are unbillable. And make no mistake about it, I was an hourly worker, not on salary, not lump sum.

    This would be illegal in any other industry.
    –what if wedding planner were only paid for the time of the wedding?
    –what if bakers were only paid when bread was in the oven?
    –what if soldiers were only paid for battle time?

    • Absolutely not. I teach writing courses, and their work is highly individualized requiring my careful eye and the standards set in the classroom for evaluation. No other could do this work. As for lesson plans, my methodology does not follow a strict plan. It is more fluid. Besides, how would an individual not connected to me and my students possibly know and understand the nature of our work? While this might work for other disciplines which have a more quantitative evaluation, mine is qualitative and could not be properly done by another.

      • As far as grading papers, there is plenty of precedent. At the university I worked as a graduate assistant where I helped with lesson notes, graded papers and ran small discussion groups for two large (over 200 student) lecture classes, all of which was sanctioned by the professor and the school. More under-handed but still not technically unethical was my second job where I marked papers for an adjunct teacher with a load of ten courses (she needed this many to make ends meet as a single mother). At the beginning of the semester she told students she had a reader and that was that. All I did was “mark” the essays. She assigned the actual grades but I made the notes and notations.

        • @Millicent Borges Accardi:

          I’m just curious, are professors allowed to have assistants not hired by the school? I’m just wondering about confidentiality issues that the school may frown at.

          • As an instructor I don’t recall signing an confidentiality agreement (about student work). As a grad student, I worked for many professors (hired by the university as Grad Assistant) where I graded papers and ran discussion groups (activities which were fully-sanctioned). I also worked for a professor who had rec’d a grant and used me to grade and do paperwork, freeing up time for his novel. These activities, while not sponsored by the university were out in the open and fine with the dean. As an adjunct, I was once hired by another adjunct to “grade” her papers and manage her grade book (now these activities were definitely secret). I am not sure why one of the above is “unethical” and seen as an invasion of privacy while the other two are not. But that has been my experience.

    • I get high school students to grade my ENG 101 papers, but I don’t pay them because they are “interns” and learning what to do (and what not to do) when they are in college.

  20. While I would disagree on an ethical basis that adjunct faculty should do as little work as possible, from a financial standpoint it may make sense. I just completed an analysis of faculty pay at my institution, comparing 1969 pay (adjusted for increases in the Consumer Price Index) to 2013 compensation.

    Full time faculty now make from 76% to 94% of what they made then, with the higher number going to the lowest rank.

    Adjunct faculty make from 56% to 65% also with the higher number going to the lower rank.

    Class sizes have increased and for those teaching courses requiring many assignments, the work load as increased substantially. Colleges pay less but expect more. Meanwhile administrative positions increase (in compensation) and multiply (in number).

    • I would like to see the analysis to add to my website information about adjunct pay. Thank you for doing the analysis.

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  23. Of course the original post correctly describes how things actually work. But, if you don’t grade the final, what do you say to the student who asks to meet with you about why their course grade is so bad (they think), and wants to know their grade on the final? If a “final exam” is required by an institution, what do you do if asked about it?

    • Of course I really DID grade the finals. What I suggested only happened in my imagination. In my imagination I give every student a grade on the final which is a half grade higher than what his or her grade was going into the final and if asked about it by a particular student, then I would actually sit down and grade that particular one……

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  25. The situation has gotten so bad that students complain at the start of class that they want A’s and threaten to contact Lead Faculty and Supervisors if this does not occur.

    In addition, the students, who typically do what they are suppose to and follow the assignment conditions in terms of timeliness and criteria, do not fill out the evaluations.

    One question I have is if the college is intent on a safe and encouraging classroom atmosphere; then, why allow a person who is a belligerent detractor to remain in a classroom for weeks prior to doing anything?

    I see two things happening in unison: lack of motivation and entitlement with students and corporate mentality with leadership. These two things are producing much of the concerns presenting previously.

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