ETSU faculty and staff rally for adjunct pay raises

Brandon Paykamian • Apr 10, 2019 at 7:24 PM

East Tennessee State University students, staff and faculty gathered at Borchuck Plaza Wednesday urging campus leadership to institute pay raises for adjunct professors.

The rally, part of the Adjunct Action campaign, came after Student Government Association Senator Austin Cable co-sponsored a university-wide bill with ETSU campaign co-founder Connor McClelland supporting adjunct raises. 

Unlike tenured professors, adjunct professors at ETSU make a base pay rate of $600 per credit hour per semester and have not had raises in 21 years.

Days ahead of the rally, Cable said raising adjunct pay above “poverty-level wages” should be a higher priority for campus leadership. He said the campus community will continue to campaign for adjunct pay raises as long as needed.

“We’re going to keep saying this is what we want, this is what we believe we need and this is what adjuncts need,” he said. “We’re going to keep making noise and fighting for it until it gets done.”

Wednesday’s demonstration was part of ETSU’s third tongue-in-cheek “celebration” commemorating another year without raises with a birthday cake on Faculty and Staff Appreciation Week.

The rally was held in conjunction with the United Campus Workers union and Democratic Socialists of America’s Northeast Tennessee chapter.

Zachary James, an adjunct professor in the Literature and Language Department, was one of the speakers at the rally who spoke in between chants such as, “What do we want? Adjunct raise! When do we want it? Now! And if we don’t get it, shut it down!”

Like other adjunct professors, he has also had to take other part-time jobs and “a little bit of everything” to make ends meet. 

“It’s ridiculous that people with advanced academic degrees are getting paid some weeks less than minimum wage,” James said.

ETSU Chief Planning Officer Michael Hoff said its an issue that is being examined by ETSU leadership.

“Within ETSU’s 2016-2026 Strategic Plan, one of the institution’s goals is to have market-salary equity for faculty and staff and for graduate student stipends. During the fall 2018 semester, ETSU began a study that includes an examination of how instruction by tenure-track professors, temporary faculty, lecturers, part-time faculty and adjunct faculty is staffed across the entire university,” he said in an emailed statement Wednesday. “This review is ongoing and, once completed, will provide university leadership information necessary to revise and provide guidance around university policies regarding faculty appointments and salary.

“Implementation of these policies now resides at the college level, allowing salary decisions to be made within the appropriate budget unit,” he added. “ETSU has a diversity of programs that is broader than most institutions its size. This results in a wide range of pay rates at all employee levels.”

Lisa Moss, an ETSU staff member and campus union organizer, said ETSU President Brian Noland “seems to have forgotten his time as an adjunct” before pointing out that the ETSU Strategic Plan does not mention adjunct professors.

“In actuality, the fact that adjuncts are not even mentioned in the entire document titled, ‘ETSU Strategic Plan 2016-2026’ shows just how invisible they are,” she said. “Despite comprising 40% of ETSU faculty, adjuncts do not make an appearance in the ETSU Strategic Plan, and they hold no seats on the Faculty Senate.”

As campus activists continue to campaign for adjunct pay raises at the university level, efforts to raise pay rates are also moving through the Tennessee General Assembly. If House Bill 0707 makes it through the legislature, adjuncts at ETSU will make $1,000 per credit hour.

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