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A Letter to My Students as I Leave Adjunct Teaching

by 

I’ll miss you. If you don’t believe me, ask any of my former students. Or ask my husband who has had to put up with my moping and my bouts of tears these past few weeks as the semester winds down to an end.

It’s not you; it’s me. I can’t teach for poverty wages and zero benefits any longer. The university administrators have taken advantage of my need to mentor long enough. Knowing that teaching is a calling, administrators have carved out a fiefdom in which they exploit this need of ours to teach, while paying themselves fabulous salaries and bonuses (see “UNH justifies bonuses for administrators” HERE).

goodbyeWhen I began, I didn’t even make minimum wage for all the hours I worked. About four years ago I finally climbed past that lofty ambition, and now make about $14 to $17 an hour each week, depending on how much grading I have, how many extra emails I need to respond to, and how many times I need to meet with students.After ten years of teaching for the university, I am paid $1000 per credit—a sum I’ve reached after having to ask for my raise every other year.  The last time I asked for a raise, I was told via email that this was “the upper limit of the UNHM adjunct pay scale.” A few weeks later I learned of a colleague who was offered almost double that amount—$1950 a credit—to teach his first class.

I thought my time here would eventually be rewarded with an offer of full-time employment. I was wrong, and should have known better. Why would the university administrators offer me benefits and a livable wage if I’m obviously willing to work for almost nothing? Why buy the tree if you can get the apples for free?

I’m uncertain of my future since I thought I was working toward it this past decade. But I am certain of my advice to you: Do not pursue advanced degrees with the thought that you will teach at a college or university one day. If the university’s administrators have made anything clear, it is this: Faculty members are not valued; they can be bought for a couple thousand dollars and zero benefits. It’s an unlivable wage. To administrators, it’s an unspeakable wage, for you won’t hear it from them.

Therefore, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is this: Ask your professor if she or he is an adjunct. If so, ask if they make a livable wage. When they’ve stopped laughing or crying or both, ask what you can do to help in the struggle to pay adjunct faculty a fair and livable wage with benefits. Then do it, whether it takes the form of a picket line, a letter to the editor, a petition to administration, an email to your legislator, sharing a handout I’ve prepared (available HERE), or what have you. It won’t be easy, but it will be much appreciated.

Short URL: http://www.adjunctnation.com/?p=6421

2 Comments for “A Letter to My Students as I Leave Adjunct Teaching”

  1. Dana,

    I am glad I cannot say I understand your plight. I taught as an adjunct for six years at the University of Phoenix Online and 15 years at Northern Virginia Community College and I can honestly say that I was treated fairly, received a fair salary for the hours I worked and the students were wonderful. I retired from teaching last may to begin writing and yes I miss it.
    Warm Regards,
    Jim

  2. Hi Dana:
    I applaud your article and views. I’ve been in this adjunct situation for a long time. Now, I think the future of adjuncts is becoming even more dismal for reasons given below. I’ve posted this to a LinkedIn group and will be posted elsewhere on the Net. This may/may not be of interest to you. It’s new, it’s developing, it’s a longer-range situation.

    Best,
    Richard

    Looking In Another Direction

    I’ve been an adjunct at a number of institutions for 18+ years. The corporatization of higher ed proceeds steadily and reduces what scant self-actualization we have remaining. Satisfaction has diminished for many adjuncts.
    Instead of scrambling for the symbolic quarters that educational institutions throw on the floor, another possibility is developing. Disintermediation is affecting colleges and universities and the other side of the wall is slowly being populated by startups that want to be a much less intrusive presence between the learner and the instructor.
    One of those newly- created organizations is Oplerno (www.oplerno.com). Its model takes c. 20% of the tuition for that entity (it hosts the courses on Canvas, supplies advice and other benefits) and 80% stays with the instructor-creator of the course. Copyright remains with the course creator. You may be interested in investigating Oplerno.

    If you think that I’m shilling for Oplerno, the simple solution is to ignore this post. I’m not shilling but I am enthusiastic about a developing direction in a time of major upheaval where many institutions are expected to go out of business. That will certainly swamp surviving institutions with out-of-work applicants and render the adjunct job even less valuable than it is now.

    I have a course almost ready to go on Oplerno- “Introduction to Future Studies” and am interested in combining with others in closely or somewhat connected fields to offer a certificate in something to be decided on. I get nothing from any other course or from Oplerno and my sole purpose is to solicit indications of interest in developing a certificate. It takes 4 courses to do that. I have one course.

    Is anyone interested in exploring the website, contacting Rob Skiff, the Oplerno founder and possibly discussing what you can do for learners and for yourself? If you want to skip me, that’s fine. If you want to converse, my email is GalileoOrg@me.com

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