Accommodating adjuncts

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If you’re a student at Saint Louis University, you probably know an adjunct professor, and I bet you’ve even had one as an instructor. We adjuncts make up about 41 percent of the teaching staff at SLU. We work hard to ensure that our students get the most out of each lesson that we teach because we know the value of a good education. But there is a real crisis going on in higher education, and it’s time to start talking about it.

Some of you reading this article may not know what an adjunct is, so let me first give a brief description. An adjunct professor is hired on a contractual basis as opposed to having tenure and a permanent position. Many of us have a master’s degree or a Ph.D., but we aren’t paid anywhere near what other professionals with advanced degrees typically earn. We are not entitled to benefits such as healthcare and retirement plans. At SLU, most adjuncts get $3,000 to $3,500 per course, and there is a limit to the number of courses we can be given. Sometimes our courses get dropped with no notice, so we have absolutely no job security. Because the pay is so low, most of us have to work at multiple jobs to supplement our income.

Maintaining a professional appearance and attitude while teaching isn’t always easy when you’re constantly bouncing between jobs and worried about how you’re going to pay your heating bill each month. Universities often hire large numbers of adjuncts because they are cheaper to employ than full-time faculty, but at what cost?

In the 2012-2013 academic year, Saint Louis University spent 28 percent of its total revenue on instruction. Is it just me, or does it seem a little strange that less than a third of the university’s money went to its teachers? What exactly is a university without its professors?

Going to college in order to pursue a higher education holds the promise of expanding your horizons both socially and professionally. Receiving a college degree allows students to make a better life for themselves in the future. But this bright future is potentially threatened when universities start treating their faculty as cheap and disposable laborers. This lack of respect trickles down and affects the students’ learning experience. It’s an increasing pattern that is being seen around the country.

College isn’t a business; it’s an institution of learning. With student loan debt on the rise and teachers not being fairly compensated for their talents and educational backgrounds, we now find ourselves at a pivotal point where something must be done to maintain the respectable reputation of higher education. Students pay a lot of money to go to college, and they deserve to get the most out of their time there.

Full-time and adjunct professors across the United States are demanding that universities start reversing the trends that are negatively affecting teachers and students alike. Adjuncts all over the nation are asking to be paid $15,000 for each course that they teach, including benefits. By having more secure contracts and better pay, adjunct professors would be able to devote more of their time to their students. We would be able to plan more creative lessons, hold more flexible office hours, and focus all of our energy into what we enjoy doing the most – teaching. By putting its focus on education, a university naturally earns more respect and credibility, which is a good thing for all of its employees and students. By working together, we can better the quality of education at Saint Louis University.

Poor pay problem: According to the author, adjunct professors at SLU are paid only $3,000 to $3,500 per course.