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'A good start:' ETSU College of Arts and Sciences raises adjunct pay

Jonathan Roberts and Brandon Paykamian • Jul 25, 2019 at 9:00 PM

Amid rising pressure from students and campus union activists, East Tennessee State University’s College of Arts and Sciences is raising adjunct professor wages by $100 for anyone making less than $800 per credit hour.

The move comes after members of the campus community rallied with the United Campus Workers union and Democratic Socialists of America to demand adjunct pay raises in April. The rally, which was part of the Adjunct Action campaign, came shortly after Student Government Association Sen. 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 typically received a base pay rate of $600 per credit hour per semester and haven’t seen a pay raise in 21 years.

While it’s “not exactly what” they’ve been rallying for, the local YDSA Tweeted that they’re “glad to see that ETSU administration is taking our demands seriously and beginning to address them,” and that they’ll continue fighting until “all adjuncts are paid fairly.”

Members of the campus union have campaigned for years to raise adjunct pay, often holding tongue-in-cheek “celebrations” commemorating every year without raises. Most recently, campus union and student activists brought up concerns about adjunct pay rates at June’s ETSU Board of Trustees meeting. 

“You won’t hear this from upper administration, but the truth is that this would not have happened without the hard work of United Campus Workers, YDSA at ETSU, and other student and community supporters organizing around Adjunct Action. We learned that when people found out about adjunct pay, they were sympathetic to our situation,” union member and adjunct professor Dennis Prater said in a UCW statement that also expressed opposition to tuition raises. 

Cable — a leader in the Adjunct Action movement and YDSA — said the raise was “a good start,” but added that ETSU has “a long way to go if they want me to believe they are willing to change.” He also noted that students and professors have reached out to him expressing excitement, but emphasizing that they can’t stop pressing. 

“I 100% believe we had a direct impact on this decision,” Cable said. “One year ago, nobody was talking about the issue. Now (ETSU President) Dr. Brian Noland can’t talk about any budget material without being asked about adjunct pay.” 

“If the pressure we’ve generated thus far got us a $100 raise for a college full of adjuncts, then I guess we’re going to have to increase the pressure ten-fold to get what we believe is fair,” he continued. 

In a statement, ETSU Spokesman Joe Smith said “President Noland has asked the ETSU deans across campus to look at compensation for adjunct faculty members.” 

“Plans are being developed and submitted, and in the upcoming weeks the university will communicate any salary changes to our adjunct faculty as contracts are prepared,” Smith said. 

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