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Adjuncts in Michigan and Louisiana Protest Long Waits for Pay

Part-time lecturers at Eastern Michigan University are protesting a decision by its administration to delay their first paycheck, leaving them among many adjunct instructors nationwide who find themselves facing long waits to be compensated at the start of each academic year.

Adjunct instructors at Delgado Community College, in New Orleans, are similarly facing financial hardship as a result of the college’s decision to extend their wait for their first paycheck from five weeks to seven, The Times-Picayune reported on Monday. The newspaper said administrators there had blamed the delay on new data-reporting requirements associated with the Affordable Care Act, but both adjuncts there and the American Association of University Professors have expressed doubts about that explanation.

More commonly, colleges blame such delays on the complexity of processing payroll information for all of their adjuncts at the beginning of each semester or term. Although a large share of adjuncts at any college have taught there for several years, the institutions’ administrations often enter all adjuncts into payroll systems whenever a new round of classes begins, to account for fluctuations in instructors’ workloads from one contract period to the next.

Maria C. Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority, an advocacy group for instructors off the tenure track, on Tuesday said she annually heard complaints of delayed paychecks from adjunct instructors at about 20 colleges. She said she did not believe such delays were becoming more common, but adjunct instructors appear to be discussing the delays openly as “more people are feeling empowered to shine a light on some of these practices that colleges have been able to get away with for so long.”

Eastern Michigan previously had paid its nearly 600 part-time lecturers twice in September, although glitches in the process often caused it to pay some lecturers late. Then, late last year, its administration decided—over the objections of the lecturers’ union, the Eastern Michigan University Federation of Teachers—not to pay lecturers this semester until September 30, nearly a month after they began teaching.

Geoff Larcom, a spokesman for Eastern Michigan, said in a statement issued on Tuesday that part-time lecturers had been told upon being hired about the new salary schedule, which went into effect for the summer semester. He said the schedule had been adopted “to ensure a high degree of payment accuracy and reliability” in response to challenges such as fluctuations in enrollment and class sizes at the beginning of each semester. “Our No. 1 priority,” he said, “is to ensure that all part-time lecturers are paid accurately and reliably throughout the year.”

Sonya Alvarado, president of the lecturers’ union, argued in a letter sent to Susan W. Martin, the university’s president, in July that the new pay schedule would leave adjuncts “struggling to pay bills and buy food” every semester. Lecturers have set up an information table on the campus to tell others there about the pay delay and have mounted a petition drive to urge the administration to pay lecturers much sooner after each semester begins.

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