As the nationwide observation of Campus Equity Week begins, representatives from the UConn Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (UConn-AAUP) hope to raise awareness about the working conditions of adjunct faculty members.
Adjuncts are part-time professors who do not have tenure, and are traditionally appointed on a semesterly basis.
Christopher Henderson, Internal Organizer for UConn-AAUP, said that his organization works to improve pay and working conditions for these adjuncts.
“Adjuncts are less expensive than full-time professors, if you want to think about it economically…They make the least amount on campus,” Henderson said.
Henderson said that the salary of an adjunct professor is based on the number of credits they teach, which is restricted by the regulations for these faculty members.
“In their contract, [adjunct professors] get $1,556 per credit, and they can only teach up to eight credits, but they usually teach six,” he said.
Henderson said that adjunct professors are theoretically hired on a semester-long basis to fulfil a need, but many are here for longer, and the number of adjunct faculty grows continuously over time.
Rebecca Rumbo, adjunct professor within UConn’s English department, offered national statistics to support this statement.
“In 1970, nearly 80 percent of faculty were either tenured or on the tenure track. Today, two-thirds are not on the tenure track,” she said.
Henderson said that at UConn, 25 percent of the faculty is made up of adjunct professors and 40% of classes are taught by adjuncts.
He said that although adjunct professors generally have the same qualifications as tenured professors, they receive lower salaries and decreased job security.
“They live in a very precarious environment. Although they have some level of expectation about future employment, they are still very much semesterly-based, and can only typically make about $18,000 a year,” Henderson said.
Rumbo added that one-third of part-time faculty are on some form of public assistance, such as food stamps or a welfare program.
“You can’t teach classes for two or three thousand dollars and have enough to pay the rent and your car insurance, let alone support a family,” she said.
Rumbo also said that the working conditions of adjunct professors have negative impacts on the students that take their classes.
“It’s not good for higher education, and it’s not good for the students,” she said. “The ideal for students in a field is that they’re building a relationship with someone with whom they can have a long-term connection…and there’s no guarantee that a given adjunct will be rehired after teaching a semester of a class.”
Henderson said that another problem that adjuncts face is that they aren’t allowed to vote on university policy for their department.
“In most departments here at UConn, adjunct faculty do not participate in department governance, which means that they don’t have input into curriculum,” Henderson said.
Henderson said that there are currently no adjunct professors that are part of the university Senate, despite the fact that they make up about one-fourth of the faculty.
“It’s not a great situation. UConn is definitely better than some, but conditions are still inadequate,” he said.
Henderson said that the UConn-AAUP works to raise awareness of this need for improvement, which is why his organization endorses the observation of Campus Equity Week.
“There’s still a lot that needs to be done, that should be done…but at least what we’re doing is moving the conversation forward,” he said.
Henderson said that the UConn-AAUP will continue to work to improve conditions for adjunct professors, because they are unsustainable in their current state.
“On a personal level, it’s about economic justice,” he said. “And any time you’re seeking justice, you have to fight for it.”
Annie Stachura is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at email@example.com.