While full-time faculty, staff and administrators at the Alamo Colleges will see a little extra in their paychecks come January, our many adjunct faculty members will not.
The sorry secret of higher education – from community colleges to brand-name universities – is that they’ve embraced the corporate culture of a contingent workforce, turning professors into part-time, low-paid, no-benefit, no-tenure, temporary teachers. Overall, more than half of America’s higher-ed faculty members today are “adjunct professors,” meaning they are attached to the school, but not essentially a part of it.
It also means that these highly-educated, fully-credentialed professors have become part of America’s army of the working poor. They never know until a semester starts whether they’ll teach one class, three, or none – typically, this leaves them with take-home pay somewhere between zero and maybe $1,000 a month. Poverty.
Adjuncts usually get no benefits, no real chance of earning fulltime positions, no due process or severance pay if dismissed, no say in curriculum or school policies… sometimes not even office space. Like their counterparts at Walmart and McDonald’s, adjunct college professors are not treated as valuable resources to be nurtured, but as cheap, exploitable, and disposable labor.
Some of our core departments, offering classes which students are required to take in order to graduate, are hovering around 30% full-time faculty. We can’t offer enough sections to satisfy student demand. Adjuncts come in and do a great job for us in the classroom, but they do not do student advising, serve on committees, or have the time to participate in the full-time work required at our colleges. And the dedicated few who do participate in work outside their classroom schedules are not getting paid for that work.
Time to organize.