Adjunct professors unionize for respect and benefits

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  • Dr. Thom Long Beach, CA
    Feb. 10, 2014 12:14 p.m.

    A colleague has worked as an adjunct at the same institution for six years and not a whisper of a FT position even with a PhD, published research in respectable peer-review journals and stellar reviews. Therefor, she delivers the course information as contracted; no more, no less. All of her courses are designed so that she can apply it across her discipline (chemistry) so prep-time is minimal and all tests are TF, fill in the blank, so grading is easy to automate. Even in academics, you get what you pay for.

    In order to "encourage" any organization to come to the bargaining table, you need get their attention. This is to be done by establishing a union that covers both adjunct and FT tenure-tracked faculty. Then the faculty union needs to create a situation (strike) so that the institution has to negotiate and faculty are not in danger of being fired. Imagine what would happen if BYU or the University of Utah were closed down for an entire semester? And what academic is willing to commit career suicide by crossing the picket line?

    Worked for Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters, why not with colleges and universities?

  • junkgeek Agua Dulce, TX
    Dec. 15, 2013 10:47 a.m.

    Take the salary from the tenured, who barely, if ever, teach. You've got some professors at public schools make $150-200K or more and never teach a single undergraduate class. SamSmith is mistaken - most teaching is done by adjuncts.

  • Vegas POV Las Vegas, NV
    Dec. 11, 2013 8:52 p.m.

    Thirty years ago in Hugh Nibley's BYU commencement address "Leaders to Managers, the Fatal Shift" Nibley talked of how the world was moving towards knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

    Those who run universities, reward professors for the money they bring in. In a university, the undergraduate brings in a very small amount of the funding required to finance a University. Thus an adjunct professor, who is skilled in teaching, is not as prized as even a Graduate Assistant who facilitates tenured professors research and publications. The tenured professor brings money in through grants, publications and "prestige" which enlarge the coffers of "the endowment" for the university.

    It appears that the value of a solitary student, taught by an adjunct professor, positively changing a dozen or so lives over 40 years does not carry the same "value" to the university as the tenured professor who brings federal and private lucre to the coffers and yet cannot influence an undergrad to change a life including their own.

    Rock on Henry Zwick.

  • DN Subscriber 2 SLC, UT
    Dec. 11, 2013 8:18 p.m.

    Back up a couple of steps.

    Today's colleges and universities are too often little more than leftist indoctrination centers pushing the meme that government centralized planning, unions, and statism are the solutions to everything. (And the bogus notion that all the evil rich much have cheated and are not paying "their fair share.')

    This move is not to get better pay for adjuncts. It is a move to give more power to unions, empower their bosses, and fund their operation.

    Too many people go to college for the wrong reasons. Too many classes are poorly taught by adjuncts (Heck, Obama was one!) instead of the real professors, most of whom are NOT actually dong serious research or writing.

    Major reforms are needed in higher ed, but unionizing adjuncts is near the bottom of the list.

  • SamSmith Bronx, NY
    Dec. 11, 2013 7:21 p.m.

    Would you rather have your child taught by a professor of the academic equivalent of an office temp?

  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    Dec. 11, 2013 7:08 p.m.

    If it wasn't for adjunct professors a lot of schools would have to turn away a huge number of students. I agree with those on these boards who feel these teachers are underpaid while there administrative budgets continue to get bloated. Do State supported institutions really need "internal marketing" departments? Why are they advertising when they can't accept all the applicants they already have. Its time to prioritize and put students and those who teach them first.

  • Max Charlotte, NC
    Dec. 11, 2013 5:37 p.m.

    Johnny Moser,

    This is exactly why Ph.Ds in colleges and universities tend to be well paid. They are professionals who are experts in their subjects. For this we have to pay. As for professionals in other fields, my experience is that they do not do well in the classroom. In fact, the reputation is that they can't teach at all and I have known many students who avoid them. But we can't be too surprised, they are not professional teachers. This is not what they do and we can't expect them to do as well as those who are full-time professors.

  • Johnny Moser Thayne, WY
    Dec. 11, 2013 4:46 p.m.

    I considered doing some teaching at the collegiate level several years ago. After some investigation into what I would actually get paid for the time invested and required it was obviously not worth what I considered my time to be worth. If you want to get qualified and skilled people in front of the students, you have to pay what those people are worth. Education from qualified and experienced professionals will likely be more valuable to students than a class that covers the "textbook" written by some PhD that is babysat by his TA.Just another point reinforcing what is wrong with the education programs of the colleges and universities today.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    Dec. 11, 2013 4:22 p.m.

    As for "where will the money come from," let me illuminate. My husband is a high school teacher with 30 years experience and a masters degree. During the summer, he works as an adjunct professor for a for-profit university. For teaching one semester-long class, he is paid $1,600 gross, no benefits of any kind. The for-profit does a poor job of supplying his classroom, which is usually rented space on a state college campus. Needed equipment and supplies are rarely provided, even though the for-profit school says it will do so. Like so many teachers, my husband fills in the gaps out of our own pockets. Why? Because he is a teacher and he cares about his students, who are usually struggling adults. Checking the tuition cost, my husband figured that the school is pulling in over $30K for his one class. The for-profit university's expenses in salary and infrastructure are minimal. As for the rest? It's for profit, that's what running a school like a business means.

  • Midwest Mom Soldiers Grove, WI
    Dec. 11, 2013 4:19 p.m.

    It never ceases to amaze me how so many people who post comments here think that the wealthy should have the money they earned, while saying to the laborer that they are not entitled to theirs. The difference between the rich and the poor is that the powerful can control their price much easier than the lowly worker. Hence the need for union voices.

  • Commenter88 Salt Lake City, Utah
    Dec. 11, 2013 2:46 p.m.

    Where will the money come from?

    From cutting bloated administrative budgets. Cut the little perk programs that mainly benefit administrators and serve very few students or make very little contribution to learning. Administrators outnumber teachers by a wide margin.

    Why should anybody else care about adjunct representation?

    Because adjuncts don't get the same facility support, technical resources, curriculum aids, continuing training, centralized supervision, or even sufficient campus orientation. This all makes lower quality student learning. And it won't change until they have leverage.

  • rick122948 boise, id
    Dec. 11, 2013 1:09 p.m.

    This is the same argument as the justification for a low minimum wage. Businesses or here colleges make the argument that their positions aren't meant to provide someone a living wage but to be only a part time job. The problem in our current economy is that they are being used as a loop hole to keep from creating real jobs.

    Colleges have been doing this for years, having famous names on their faculty lists that don't really teach instead having classes taught by adjuncts or TA's.

    Just one more case of deceptive advertising.

  • VikingZag College Station, TX
    Dec. 11, 2013 12:06 p.m.

    Before looking at the low pay offered to adjunct professors, keep in mind how their job differs from that of credentialed PhDs or even lecturers. Adjunct professors generally have a full time job and teach one or maybe two classes at at time. A good friend of mine is an attorney that teaches one night per week, and it's not for the money. Lecturers are full-time collegiate teachers who do receive benefits. Professors with PhDs do not teach a lot as their primary job is research, which leads to textbooks and other publications. Just because they all work at the same place doesn't mean that they do the same thing. We wouldn't expect a nurse to be paid the same as a physician, nor would we expect them to receive benefits if they only work one shift per week. As for pay freezes, that has happened to full professors at times as well. Besides, when you have lots of other people wanting the jobs, why should universities pay more when equally qualified people are willing to perform job for less?