More money for professors, except not for the professors we see most frequently

Today, InsideHigherEd came at me with an exciting headline: “Modest Gains in Faculty Pay” (4/13/15 here). Specifically:

Full-time faculty member salaries grew somewhat meaningfully year over year — 1.4 percent, adjusted for inflation, according to the American Association of University Professors’ Annual Report on the Economic Status of the Profession…

Ok, I guess “modest” isn’t all that exciting, but in a world where more money is considered better in just about every instance, I’m sure people in the associate, assistant, and full professor categories of professor were excited to read about their pay grade increases.

Wait, what’s that you ask? What about the pay increases for the most numerically frequent category of professor, the “part-time” (heavy duty sarcastic air quotes there btw) adjunct? Well…

According to the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) – the same AAUP that just got all gushy about increases in professor pay – more than 50% (fifty mother fucking percent!!) of all college professors are “contingent faculty,” aka part-timers, adjuncts, lectures, and various other non-tenure track professor job classifications.

Now, some of these jobs carry a measure of full-time benefits. Depending on the university, lecturers, for example, occasionally get health benefits and an office, but they are paid far less than a ranking professor. Lecture positions, however, are just a small fraction of contingent faculty. The vast majority of contingent faculty work as adjuncts, laboring under full-time comparable (if not greater – hence the aforementioned sarcastic it quotes) course loads across multiple campuses/university systems, all while getting paid an infinitesimally small fraction of what a “professor” professor makes.

This “study”and InsiderHigherEd’s giddy headline contribute to the continued exploitation of adjunct professors and other part-timers. The folks at InsiderHigherEd point out the omission of salary discussions of the most common class of professor, but they still contribute to the cult of the professor myth/ideology with this piece.

The study does not include part-time professor pay, so keep in mind that those adjuncts who are part time – many of whom face flat wages on a lower base and who have the least chance of getting a raise – are not counted.

While the study summary touts “Modest Gains in Faculty Pay,” it perpetuates the myth of the professor as an occupation and the university as a lifestyle. People will read this and perhaps think a decade in grad school is a good idea… because they’ll eventually be pulling in over $100K with an endless summer lifestyle, right? (That’s what is says in the movies!) Others will read this and scoff at the notion that many of the people who teach them college stuff are living below the poverty line…

…because THIS is what life is like for most of the people teaching college today: “Your College Professor Could Be On Public Assistance” (NBC News, April, 2015).

In search of cuts to their bottom line, American colleges and universities are using part time instructors to teach classes that a generation ago would have been the responsibility of tenured professors.

Paid as little as a couple of thousand dollars for each semester-long course, hundreds of thousands of people with doctorates or multiple master’s degrees are earning near-poverty wages working as adjunct professors. And as a result, one in four families of part-time college faculty are enrolled in at least one public assistance program, like food stamps, Medicaid or the Earned Income Tax Credit, according to calculations of Census data by researchers at University of California, Berkeley’s Labor Center.

Part-time jobs now account for over half of all professor positions. Another 19 percent of faculty are employed full time but without any hope of gaining the security of tenure.

Research has shown that the quality of instruction declines as teaching work is shifted from full time to adjunct professors.

Read the entire piece here. What do you think?


* * *

Got a sociology question? Need some social justice informed life advice? Contact Dr. Chauntelle right here.

One thought on “More money for professors, except not…

  • April 13, 2015 at 11:07 am

    We got a $4/credit raise a couple years back at the community college where I adjunct. Woo-hoo, $12 more dollars a class! That’s when you know the administration is really looking out for you, that they’re really championing adjuncts.

    I’m sure said administration was just as frugal with their own pay increases, especially at the top levels.

Comments are closed.