Is your administration using “the economy” as an excuse to extort more work for less pay from an already overburdened faculty?
Buying Howard Bunsis a plane ticket to your campus might be the best investment you can make right now.
Bunsis, a Michigan professor of accounting and treasurer of the AAUP, has been tracking administrator claims of fiscal crisis for several months. His conclusion, published in this issue of The Chronicle, is that at many campuses, there’s no financial crisis at all. At many schools, tuition and other revenue is up, or existing reserves could easily cushion the shortfall.
Furthermore, Bunsis observes after detailed analysis of university financial data, where cuts have to be made, they don’t need to be made to the core education function — they can be made in athletics, construction, services, and other ventures.
“We need administrations to start focusing on the core mission of our colleges and universities: educating our students,” Bunsis says.
He’s been traveling the country, analyzing the financial data of universities, and puncturing holes in administrators’ fake claims of crisis. In the powerpoint above, he demonstrates the clear financial health of one state system (Pennsylvania), and paints the big picture:
Faculty pay is typically less than a quarter of spending;
Faculty often earn less than schoolteachers; faculty earn less as a return on education than other professionals;
Faculty quality, education quality, and affirmative hiring are all harmed by converting education work into philanthropy.
Okay, that last part is from me.
So check out his slides, especially those after #25, recording the steep decline in spending on instruction — what he urges you to understand as the instructional spending gap.
Invite him to take a look at your administrators’ books. You might be surprised at the results.
Speaking of An Instructional Spending Gap:
It’s Campus Equity Week!
From the point of view of the majority of faculty not even in the tenure stream, a “gap in instructional spending” is really
a gap in health insurance
a gap in feeding one’s kids
a gap in one’s ability to stay faculty at all
an amplification of the wealth gap’s effect on faculty diversity
a gap in the time and attention one can afford to devote to students (see Isaac Sweeney on “winging it,” below)
a gap between reality and administrator rhetoric on the subject of access, merit, equality, justice, etc. (see Sweeney again)
There’s an eye-opening study of his own unionized campus by Peter Brown about the longest-running scandal in higher-ed, contingent faculty compensation. At SUNY New Paltz in 1970, there were only 100 adjuncts; today they are almost half the faculty and earn half the pay they did 40 years ago. The sad thing is that these faculty are represented by a collective bargaining agent and are better off than many faculty serving contingently in say, the Southeast — where they’re on food stamps.
So the governor of Washington state, after a series of lawsuits forcing some gains for publicly employed contingent faculty, started issuing annual proclamations one day during Campus Equity Week “Adjunct and Part-Time Faculty Recognition Day.” This year it’s Thursday.
Woo-hoo. That and about half a million dollars per employee will make up for 20 years of extortionate employment practice. Keith Hoeller’s response: Yeah, well, show me the money. Oh, and if you missed it, check out how the geniuses at Southwestern College marked Campus Equity Week — by suspending four faculty who showed up at a student rally protesting budget cuts, including the union president, natch. Hurray for the students who — like students across California — are fighting back.
The Crisis in Teaching is Real
Nice work by Isaac Sweeney who tells it like it is for the majority of faculty serving contingently: your students suffer because your employers sort not for the best faculty, but for the cheapest faculty, and arrange not for the best learning conditions — but the cheapest learning conditions, so they can spend lavishly on themselves and their pet projects:
I can wing it if I need to. And that’s a good thing, because I am often not prepared for class. Sometimes, I admit, I haven’t even read my own assigned reading for the day. It’s not that I don’t want to; it’s just that I had to take on those extra two courses at the community college and finish up the freelance article so I could pay the mortgage for the month. Winging it usually works OK. But sometimes it doesn’t.
My not being prepared for class is only one way in which the students suffer. More and more, I find myself completely drained by the end of the day. In the middle of a great discussion, a student directs a comment to me. To the detriment of the discussion, I stopped listening a few comments ago, thinking instead about my decreasing checkbook balance or the dishes that have been piling up as I have been grading papers. Or I stopped listening just because I have had similar discussions four times already today, and I am, frankly, bored and/or exhausted. At least once, I stopped listening because of the loud construction across the street, where the university is building a new performance center. And I couldn’t help but remember the news a week earlier that budget cuts had put my job in jeopardy.
In the end, how much does it matter to my department, and to my university, if I do a good job? It’s not like I can share this information in any formal setting.
When I leave the classroom, I know I could have done better. That isn’t an empty thought; I try to do better every day, every semester, every school year. And maybe my efforts succeed-maybe I do a little better. But I can’t help but wonder: Is it enough? If some of these distractions that come with being an adjunct were taken away, wouldn’t my students benefit? If I could talk about teaching and listen to others talk about teaching in that conference room, wouldn’t my students benefit?
Again, I am not bitter about the money (or lack thereof). I chose to enter this profession this way, and I can choose to leave anytime I want. What makes me uneasy is that cheap labor seems more important to academe than quality instruction.
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