Excerpts From 'Chronicle' Survey of Adjuncts

October 18, 2009

The Chronicle's survey of Chicago-area adjuncts gave respondents the chance to make additional comments about their experience. A sample of those responses is below:

1.) Management treats us as if we don't exist, but their programs couldn't function without us. We are expected to participate in professional-development events but don't receive compensation or reimbursement for doing so. We are expected to know how the department functions, but are given no orientation. We are not introduced to the full time faculty.

2.) Office space and support (computers, support staff, etc.) is ridiculously inadequate for part-time faculty, although of course we are subject to the stock criticism that adjuncts "don't have enough time" to spend with students. Most of the adjuncts I know do make time and find some corner or other to meet with their students, I might add.

3.) Our union—in place for over 10 years now—has made all the difference, both in pay (which would be at least half of what it is now without unionization) and (very importantly) in terms of respect.

4.) The pay differential between part-time and full-time faculty is grossly unjust, as is the denial to all part-time faculty of any tuition assistance for continuing education outside of the school. Unethical behavior toward part-time faculty on the part of administrators and of full-time faculty continues, because the threat of retaliation against complainers is very real. As the economy worsens and the salary we part-time faculty members earn becomes more and more inadequate, we also have an increasing necessity to take other part-time work in order to earn a living. This impacts our ability to do quality work in our classes, but there seems to be no way to get around it.

5.) I'll be quitting after this year to go back to full-time work. After two years of teaching as an adjunct, I have realized that my opportunities for legitimate pay and benefits are nonexistent. The odds of getting a full-time faculty position are stacked firmly against me. It is hard for me to fathom how my job as an adjunct, which requires a postgraduate degree, pays as though I had only graduated from high school. … As an adjunct, I am treated as though my time is worth nothing. All the time I spend grading papers and meeting with students is on me. That's all free labor. I will be opting out.

6.) Full-timers who teach part time in the summer make more than twice as much as I do, and therefore there are fewer classes for adjuncts. Fortunately I consider my primary work in the classroom and try not to dwell on the inequities directed at adjuncts.

7.) Adjunct hell fits. We are second-class citizens, the red-headed stepchild in the attic. Work, work, work, unequal compensation and benefits, etc.

8.) The community-college system treats adjuncts as though they are migrant workers undeserving of respect.

9.) The longer I have worked as an adjunct, the less I have been satisfied. Even as my pay slightly increases over time, the prospect of full-time employment is increasingly unlikely. The competition is too great. I'm now thinking of getting out of teaching all together, or just to do it rarely, for extra money. Making a living as an adjunct is nearly impossible. I could not have taught for 10 years as an adjunct without additional support from family and friends.

10.) As adjunct pay goes in Chicago, mine is good. But when I add up how much I work and how much I am paid for it, and compare that to that of full-time equal rank, it seems that I am working twice as much for less than one-third the pay. … It's like hit-and-run teaching—not satisfying. I'm a good teacher, many of my classes are full within a few weeks of the opening of registration, student feedback is typically enthusiastic. Yet this gives me no negotiating power with the admin, and in the end I am just relieved that I cost them so little that I am rehired every term.

11.) I have taught as an adjunct 38 years, as I worked full time in my criminal-justice career. I love teaching but feel more and more exploited in terms of pay, lack of benefits, no security despite seniority, and little respect. I have always been a supporter of adjunct unionization but doubt that adjuncts can achieve much as an inherently heterogeneous group who have different adjunct expectations. … The acid test: WOULD YOU WANT YOUR KID TO BE AN ADJUNCT?

12.) My situation is a bit unusual. I like my full-time staff job, but pay is low; my adjunct wages are relatively high. The teaching I do is necessary to get decent total compensation, but it is a job and a half if not more. I also teach because I love it.

13.) Now that I am retired, adjunct teaching is satisfactory; however, my spouse has always had what I call the "real job" with health benefits, etc. I am probably what most administrators would like to think all part-time faculty are—those who just like to teach for the fun of it and really don't need the money. Because I teach core courses in English, however, they cannot argue that I am bringing a special expertise from the workplace; my workplace is the classroom.

14.) I love teaching, and if you teach enough, you earn a good living as a roads scholar.

15.) I only teach one course a year and mostly for the enjoyment of it.

16.) We have no place of privacy, the students are allowed access to a conference room that we are supposed to use. Additionally, there are weekly meetings in that room so there is no place to work or have privacy. There is little information flow. Adjuncts have no influence on changes made in the classes they teach.

17.) Adjuncts are the new 21st-century slaves. We work like dogs and get little recognition and financial compensation.

18.) Out of an 11-week quarter, adjuncts are paid only two times: After the submission of midterm grades at the end of six weeks and at the end of the quarter. Full-time professors are paid every two weeks.

19.) They expect a lot, but pay little. Being an adjunct is a dead end. You hope to make something permanent, get benefits, etc. They use up your goodwill and energy and have no intention of keeping you anything but a part-timer.

20.) I don't think my experience is at all typical of adjuncts. ... I do this as a hobby (don't in fact get paid for one of two classes I teach).

21.) I would say that I have virtually no connection with the Law School. I am given a list of students and the location and time of my class. I teach the class and at the end of the semester I deliver my grades to the Law School. Except for the registrar I do not communicate with anyone at the school.

22.) I work very hard and still feel like a substitute teacher. I would like better pay and greater respect for my skills.

23.) One has very little bargaining power considering one is working on a contract that the employer can refuse to renew. One has to really focus on the love of teaching so as to not become negative. The schools really are getting a pretty good deal—temp work at a fraction of the cost of a full-time faculty. … It is quite difficult to get funds together to attend regional and/or national academic conferences. As a result it has been years since I have attended a conference. My wife is out of work so adjunct income is what we are living on. … It is also very difficult to get to know other faculty at these institutions since one is not invited to department or faculty meetings. My experience is to have very little sense of being part of a team, much less a larger organization. There is almost no comradeship between myself and any of my "colleagues" at these three schools where I teach.

24.) The hours required to properly prepare, teach, and interact with students outside of the class room make the per-hour wage less than minimum wage.

25.) I have always viewed my teaching and other work as my contribution as an alum. I've generated about $7-million in tuition over the years.

26.) I work as an adjunct because I love to teach. Of course full time would be a better alternative—more money and health insurance. However, I can live fairly comfortably (by my personal standards) teaching as an adjunct. … I also work part time at a local library.

27.) I am very satisfied with the work I do; I love my job. However, I am very unsatisfied with compensation and zero benefits.

28.) How is it that community colleges can employ 75 percent adjunct faculty and feel like they are serving students and the community?

29.) With the low salary and no access to health care, I feel like I am a volunteer. The administration talks about the value and the dignity of adjunct teaching, but they don't back up their words with resources.

30.) Being an adjunct professor is a great job postretirement from public-school teaching!

31.) This year I was knocked out of a class I have been teaching exclusively for eight years by a full-timer. I would be pretty happy with adjunct teaching (I have low expectations), but things like that remind you that you're treated so poorly by the system. … I take teaching seriously, and spend a lot of my own time and money on improving my classes, and it's frustrating to be totally at the mercy of the system. I can be fired whenever just because; it doesn't matter how good my evaluations are or how much my students like the class. Terribly demoralizing.

32.) Because I have two small children under 4, I am satisfied with working part-time. On the whole I have been treated professionally and respectfully at the institutions where I have taught. However, in between preparation, teaching, grading, and student advising, the pay for adjunct teaching is deplorable, especially considering that there are no other benefits to the job. Also, I have no input as to class development and planning. I can't participate as a faculty guide for student organizations (well, I could, but it would have to be for free and on my own time). And I have no job security from semester to semester. I have had classes taken away from me at the last minute, last minute schedule changes, and I'm never sure whether or not I'll be teaching next semester.

33.) I love teaching, which is the reason I put up with the inconveniences. When I factor in all the preparation time for teaching, I'm working 30-35 hours per week. I question why I don't find myself a full-time job outside of teaching where I would be entitled to all the amenities not available to me as an adjunct instructor.

34.) This environment is the most encouraging work environment I have ever experienced. I am encouraged to study what I am interested in and even take risks. Co-workers are fully supportive. Wonderful except for the pay.

35.) In terms of my actual classroom experience and my interactions with students, my job satisfaction is very high. In my role as an adjunct, however, I have very little contact with regular faculty—or even other adjuncts, so I feel very marginal to the educational process of the school.

36.) Being an adjunct instructor means having all of the responsibilities and none of the benefits.

37.) I think that adjuncts deserve more of something from universities. It doesn't necessarily have to be money. How about simply honoring adjuncts, giving them awards, making them feel appreciated. This doesn't cost money.

38.) I am satisfied with my job but for the following: I am never offered other classes for which I am qualified to teach; the lack of communication within my area. I have to search human resources to see if a full-time opening has come up. I never get the courtesy of being notified by my chair.

39.) I get very few opportunities to participate in the department. I hardly know any of my co-workers. In one school I do not even have an office to spend down time in. I often feel like a second-class citizen, outside the clique. … I am carrying a full-time load of five classes between schools and making wages that put me under the poverty line. I love teaching, that is why i do it. However, the uncertainty, below-average pay, and heavy travel times have caused me to reconsider.

40.) I am never consulted on class times offered for the next semester. You just get whatever. Many times it's at the last minute when they couldn't get one of the tenured professors to take the class because it didn't work with their hours. They haven't raised the adjunct salary in the four years I have been doing this.

41.) I am treated with great respect and collegiality at each of the institutions. Similarly, I believe that is our responsibility as adjunct faculty to try to contribute to the academic life of our host institutions by offering to speak at seminars, etc. I am emeritus professor, and continue to teach because of the personal and intellectual rewards as well as the extra money.

42.) Opportunities for interaction between full-time and adjunct faculty have been limited, even though the same classes are being taught and interaction would be beneficial. Web pages for discussion are available; however, the full time faculty makes no personal attempt to seek input from adjuncts. Adjuncts are not paid to attend departmental meetings, and the dean speaks with the full-time faculty while the adjunct faculty are separated. … I do enjoy my teaching position, but being adjunct does have the stigma of being a "lesser than."

43.) This was my first year teaching community college after substitute teaching K-12 for three years. I really enjoyed it, and my support team at the school was excellent! I plan to take on another class in the fall, but I would have to teach 10 or more classes per semester to get above the poverty level of salary, with a master's degree. I am currently working at 60K less than I made in corporate America!

44.) Would like to receive: 1. Health care benefits (at least partial). 2. Pay increase to keep up with the rising costs instead of the flat pay scale for the past five years I have been serving. 3. Allow us to participate in the 401K plans. 4. Have benefits in proportion to the number of years served. 5. Provide membership to at least one professional organization. 6. Incorporate input in book selection/course management. 7. Call for an adjunct faculty meeting at least once a term. 8. Conduct performance review at least once a year or give feedback on what the department would like us to know about. 9. Have a rotating award for best adjunct faculty for each term/year based on the students' evaluation.

45.) At Elmhurst College, the department co-chairs and full-time faculty go out of their way to make adjuncts feel they are valued members of the department.

46.) We are Cinderella as the step sister—mostly an afterthought and a free lunch.

47.) Very little money, but great satisfaction. I love to help disadvantaged students.

48.) The job is much more intensive than a classroom environment only. I spend three times more time doing outside work to prepare for class. When you consider the outside work, the pay is considerably less than working at a much less demanding job. I have a higher education degree, yet I feel like I am earning less than a person with a high-school diploma. How can this be?

49.) I am invisible. There is also a 'caste' system between full-time and part-time, with no opportunities for part-time instructors.

50.) Hired with no orientation or training for what I was to teach, little guidance—and I took students to a nursing home to provide patient care! Never taught this anywhere before, never taught before. It was kind of scary, and I feel as though I got through it flying by the seat of my pants.

51.) The situation of adjuncts is definitely a second-class citizen of the academic world. Working conditions, such as being jammed into a single room for student conferences, are impossible to attain confidential conversations about student performance, etc., required by law.

52.) I teach because I enjoy working with students, not to supplement my income.

53.) I really like to be an adjunct. It gives tremendous freedom to be a teacher without the hassles of academic politics, etc.

54.) Being an adjunct sucks. There is no security, little pay, a lot of work. One keeps doing it because of a love of teaching and the students, but the other issues related often threaten to overwhelm that love.