Instructor Will Highlight Best and Worst Colleges for Adjuncts With Crowdsourced Data

February 06, 2012

Even as colleges' use of adjunct faculty members grows, comprehensive national data about those instructors' salaries and benefits remain scarce. One writing instructor is hoping to paint a clearer picture—and name names of institutions that treat professors off the tenure track well and those that treat them poorly—through a crowdsourcing project.

Josh Boldt, a writing instructor and education consultant at the University of Georgia, has set up a Google document to which he is asking adjunct instructors to contribute data about course pay, benefits, retirement policies, and contracts. In announcing his effort on his blog, Copy & Paste, Mr. Boldt said he had been prompted to collect the information by conversations at a national summit on adjunct faculty members, held last month in Washington, and by a recent essay by Michael Bérubé, the new president of the Modern Language Association.

Mr. Bérubé, a professor of literature at Pennsylvania State University at University Park, has pledged to use his new position to improve conditions on the nontenure track. His essay cites recommendations the scholarly group has made for fair standards of treatment of part-time faculty members. Those include a minimum compensation in 2011-12 of $6,800 for a standard, three-credit-hour semester course, or $4,530 for a standard three-credit-hour quarter or trimester course.

"Almost $7K per course!" Mr. Boldt wrote on his blog. "Most adjuncts have never seen anything close to that figure. I personally have taught at schools that pay right at or below $2,000 maximum per course."

Through crowdsourcing he said he wanted to gather enough information to be able to recognize colleges that are doing a great job in their treatment of adjuncts (a category in which he said his institution, the University of Georgia, falls) and to expose colleges that "have chosen to ignore the basic human rights of their employees and shortchange their students and their communities by devaluing the very education they pretend to celebrate."

Part-time employees represent just over one-quarter of all instructional employees at nonprofit, four-year colleges and 70 percent of all instructional employees at public, two-year institutions, according to U.S. Education Department data cited in The Chronicle's annual Almanac issue.