Adjunct Choices

Erin O’Connor at Critical Mass has some good stuff to say about the recent problems with adjuncts, specifically Barrett (in an Islam class he is teaching 9/11 conspiracy) and Frisch (talked about sexual acts with a blogger’s 2 year old).

She ends with the statement “If UW wants to avoid that sort of embarrassment in the future, it will need to rethink its relationship to adjunct teachers.”

But UW can’t afford to rethink its relationship. Not unless it wants to price itself out of the market.

For reference sake, let me say that I have taught at two large public universities as a TA, one small private university as an instructor, and a community college as an adjunct. All the schools except the small private university relied on adjuncts. And one reason the small private university didn’t is that they paid comparatively low wages.

So… Universities and colleges can’t afford to NOT hire adjuncts.

At my level of experience with my degree, as a full-time instructor, I would be paid about $50,000 a year for teaching 8 classes. As an adjunct I get paid $9800 for teaching six classes. That is a difference of $40,000 and that doesn’t include the benefits the full-time people get that adjuncts don’t. Nor does it include the government related costs, such as unemployment insurance, that the school pays for full-time people. An adjunct is incredibly cheaper than a full-time instructor.

Most of the teachers at the community college are adjuncts. If they weren’t, the school or the state would have to come up with 5 times as much money, at least, to pay almost the same number of adjuncts as full-timers.

So UW and most other universities won’t be stopping their hiring practices anytime soon. Otherwise they’ll all end up being as expensive as the private university.

But the more important issue here is that adjuncts are not the problem. There are probably thousands of adjuncts in the country who are more committed to their jobs than the full timers. If a college only hires full timers, then, especially in union states, they will have more trouble getting rid of them.

Maybe we need to re-think the screening process for teachers.

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