A new George Mason University study on adjunct faculty may be the “most comprehensive study of one institution’s adjunct faculty working conditions ever.”
The report, appropriately named “Indispensable but Invisible,” is based on a survey completed by 241 adjunct at George Mason and conducted by the Public Sociology Association made up of George Mason graduate students. The results were extremely telling of the plight of adjuncts these days, shedding some light on a segment of college faculty members normally neglected when it comes to work benefits – even though they make up the majority of professors employed by schools.
According to Inside Higher Ed, of the adjuncts who took the online survey, only 26 percent “believe the uncompensated time they devote to the job – about five hours per class per week, on average – will be recognized by the university.” About 40 percent say they one day want to become tenured professors, but doubt they’ll be considered for such an opportunity because they are adjuncts.
The downside of being an adjunct were perpetuated in the results, with approximately 23 percent reporting that they have an annual household income of $30,000. Then there are the “significant minorities” of respondents who Inside Higher Ed says never received “course resources such as curriculum guidelines (29 percent) and sample syllabuses (19).” About 40 percent say they didn’t have access to a computer, 21 percent say they didn’t have access to copying services and 56 percent say they’re using their own office space.
The report’s lead author, Marisa Allison, told Inside Higher Ed that George Mason’s findings are significant, offering a more complete picture of what it’s like to work as an adjunct faculty member. She said it’s the groups “genuine hope” that the survey tool will be used elsewhere.
But while Allison believes the survey highlights the working conditions of adjunct faculty at George Mason, Provost S. David Wu disagrees.
In an email to Inside Higher Ed, Wu admitted that “there is a need for more research and dialogue around the issues raised,” but says “the study’s findings are not consistent with the environment here [at George Mason] or the services we provide.”
Whether the survey results are an accurate portrayal of the situation at George Mason or not is up to debate, but one thing’s clear: the call for fair wages and better working conditions for adjunct faculty is being echoed far and wide across the states. Sen. Dick Durbin submitted a bill in August to eliminate student loan debt for adjunct professors, the first-ever National Adjunct Walkout Dayis scheduled for February 25, 2015, and now studies are being performed by researchers on the hotly debated topic of adjunct rights.