#FairPayUChicago Targets College’s $183K Pay Gap Between FT & PT Faculty

“I am a Ph.D on welfare…there is something wrong with that!”

On Oct 6, 2015, Dr. Wanda Evans-Brewer testified in front of the Chicago Education Commission:  “I am a Ph.D on welfare…there is something wrong with that!” said Dr. Evans-Brewer (pictured left, speaking) at the hearing.

Tens days later, on Oct. 16, 2015 staff, graduate students and adjunct faculty rallied for a living wage at the University of Chicago. Tweets by organizers and supporters called out the University for “being run as a corporation.” Andrew Yale of  spoke to several dozen staff, students and faculty who attended the Oct. 16 rally, and said that, “making poverty wages is ‘atrocious.'” Yale told the group assembled that a $15/hr wage is “essential.”

The University of Chicago, where annual undergrad tuition is $47,215, the institution pays adjunct faculty $5,096 per course. Richard Nisa is an Assistant Professor of Geography at Fairleigh Dickinson University. In Oct., he created an interactive  map “exploring the relationships between adjunct instructor pay (taken from the most recent data submitted to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s The Adjunct Project) and state minimum wage data.” The data compare the average per course pay and then show how many courses would be necessary to teach to reach the equivalent of one year of full-time work (2,080 hours) at the state’s minimum wage.

In Illinois, the minimum wage is $8.25 per hour. The University of Chicago pays its staffers a minimum of $10 per hour.  At the current per course rate of pay, then, adjuncts at the University of Chicago need to teach 3.7 courses to earn the equivalent of one year of full-time work (2,080 hours) at the state’s minimum wage.

There have been several recent articles published in both the higher education and mainstream media about the fact that adjunct and part-time faculty are turning to public assistance to make ends meet, including applying for foodstamps.

In April 2015, hundreds of students and professors from Columbia supported CU Fight for 15 by demonstrating in front of Low Steps to promote a $15 minimum wage for low-income workers and raising the wages of adjunct professors. CU Fight for 15 continues to be an active organization on campus and recently rallied to show approval of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to raise the minimum wage of fast-food workers to $15.

Stephanie Diaz is a co-coordinator of the group pushing for a $15 living wage at the University of Chicago.

During the University of Chicago rally, Stephanie Diaz, co-codinator of  told those gathered, “Lots of us go hungry and the admin doesn’t listen to us.”

Benjamin Olson, a senior at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign, credits the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — often called food stamps — with his ability to graduate on time after transferring from a community college.

“If I didn’t have those benefits … I may have had to do another semester, take a semester off, or save for the next four years,” says Olson.

In 2001, 5.4% of students enrolled in school ages 19 to 24 received SNAP, whereas in 2010, 12.6% of students in the same age group were SNAP recipients.

According to a piece recently published by Slate.com, “According to an analysis of census data by the University of California–Berkeley’s Center for Labor Research and Education, 25 percent of “part-time college faculty” and their families now receive some sort public assistance, such as Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, food stamps, cash welfare, or the Earned Income Tax Credit.” The author points out that it would not be quite “accurate to say that 25 percent of all adjuncts are getting aid, since some do in fact have full-time jobs that would show up in the census as their occupation. Still, we’re talking about a large group of highly educated individuals. According to NBC News, which reported on some of the labor center’s data prior to publication, “families of close to 100,000 part-time faculty members are enrolled in public assistance programs.”

Nonetheless, colleges such as the University of Chicago are prime targets for living wage protests. Full-time faculty at the college earn some of the highest salaries in Academe. In 2010, U of C full-time professors received an average salary of $203,600. Harvard and Columbia Universities were the only schools that reported higher salaries for professors. This means that the salary gap between tenured and adjunct faculty who teach 4 courses per year is a whopping, $183,216 annually.

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