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Area adjunct professors to 'celebrate' 19 years with no pay increase

Tony Casey • Updated Apr 10, 2017 at 6:02 PM

You’re invited to a party on April 21 at East Tennessee State University’s Borchuck Plaza.

Cake will be served, but presents are unnecessary.

Gifts for some of the celebrants could come during the next ETSU Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, June 9, where increased pay for the school’s adjunct professors could be discussed. The April 21 party will be a lighthearted but sarcastic celebration of 19 years with no pay increase for adjunct professors under the Tennessee Board of Regents. Now outside of the TBR’s control, ETSU has its own board governing campus operations.

Adjunct professors and United Campus Workers members Dennis Prater and Adria Ryan hope the board takes up discussions of faculty compensation.

During the board’s inaugural meeting on March 24, ETSU President Brian Noland mentioned employee compensation several times, but procedural actions and board policy dominated the three-hour meeting.

Noland’s acknowledgement of pay increases gives Prater and Ryan, educators at ETSU and Northeast State Community College, hope that action could be coming.

“This is a good time for us to bring this issue to the forefront,” Prater said.

In a statement Monday, Noland said salary conversations could take off now that ETSU guides its own operations.

“In determining the rate of pay for part-time faculty members, ETSU has historically been bound by the guidelines provided through the Tennessee Board of Regents,” he said. “Improving salaries for faculty and staff at ETSU remains one of our highest priorities, and we will begin having conversations about salary enhancements with our Board of Trustees starting at our meeting in June.”

Any increase would help. Prater recently crunched some numbers, and said costs increased 49 percent since 1998, the last time the TBR gave a pay increase to people in his shoes.

Prater said the goal of the party is to let the public know how poorly many of the area’s professors are paid.

For a three-credit hour class at ETSU, Ryan said she and her peers are paid $1,800. In addition to the two Tennessee schools, she also teaches at Virginia Highlands Community College.

“Hence why I, and others, teach at multiple places to make ends meet,” she said. “Northeast pays even less.”

For her efforts at three total institutions, teaching six classes, Ryan brings in just over $20,000.

“As far as if the Board of Trustees will find us to be a priority is yet to be seen,” she said. “Noland in his forum a couple weeks ago mainly kept reiterating we needed more students and money to address things like that.”

Prater has a solution for the belt-tightening state government, which has sought to potentially outsource the jobs of state maintenance and operation employees, though ETSU’s Noland has said he’s against the move.

“I always recommend chopping at the top,” he said, referring to cuts to administration and higher-paid jobs, rather the people who are teaching students.

The TBR still governs Northeast State and other community colleges in the state, so Prater and Ryan don’t expect their pay to increase there, but ETSU could.

The party will start at 11:30 a.m. and continues until 1 p.m. It’s sponsored by the groups Adjuncts United, a derivative of the United Campus Workers, Tennessee’s largest higher education union. Its self-stated goal is to bring non-tenure track educators across Tennessee together into a strong voice to win respect and justice at work.

Email Tony Casey at tcasey@johnsoncitypress.com. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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