Letters: Treat part-time adjuncts with full respect

Johnson City Press • Apr 21, 2019 at 6:00 AM

Want to have your voice heard? Send a Letter to the Forum. Authors must sign their letters and include addresses and phone numbers for verification. Letters may be no longer than 300 words and will be edited for grammar, style and length. Send your submission to Mailbag, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605-1717 or [email protected].

Treat part-time adjuncts with full respect

My hat is off the Dennis Prater and the supporters of the Campus Workers Union to address an overdue issue of adjunct plight. Their classes are just as important as a full-time professor. They have the same pressure and responsibilities to the students. In effect, it is a form of academic slave labor who are covering 25% of the courses.

I am well aware of the challenges and difficulty of the adjunct teacher at ETSU. I worked for 20 years teaching Western and Asian Art for the Department of Art and Design. Along with a pay raise, the issue of status and consideration should be addressed. Adjuncts should be treated as professionals, not as migrant farm workers.

Some administrators and full-time faculty, perhaps due to their own insecurities, have subtle and not-so-subtle ways of letting the adjuncts know of their low status and for them to stay in their place. This attitude will have a degrading effect on morale over time. I wish them luck. They will need it.


Support adjunct pay bill

Thanks to the Johnson City Press for covering the “Adjunct Action” campaign at ETSU, a student-led effort to remedy poverty-level wages for part-time instructors.

Like other public higher education institutions, ETSU has an unequal system, with substantial growth in pay and incentives for administrators, dangerous attrition and salary compression for tenure-track faculty, stagnant pay for lecturers, and shockingly low pay for adjunct (part-time) instructors. An untold number of ETSU’s 425 part-time/adjunct educators scramble to support themselves and their families. Quite a few work the equivalent of full-time hours, yet still receive part-time pay and zero benefits.

On average, ETSU adjuncts earn $650 per credit hour. For adjuncts who are “lucky” enough to teach 9 three-credit-hour courses over a year (a full-time load), this translates to $8.43/hour at best, although there’s no guarantee from one semester to the next how many courses they will get to teach. Because all instructors must hold at least a master’s degree, this amount of pay is deeply exploitative.

Proposed state bill HB 707 (Thompson)/SB 775 (Yarbro) would bring adjunct pay up to the national median — $1000 per credit hour. This would mean earning almost $13/hour. Instructors and our local economy would directly benefit from that increase.

Many people in our region, including those who hold elected office, may have been unaware that cost of living pay raises for state employees have never been extended to part-time instructors, even though they, too, are state employees. Including adjuncts in future statewide pay raises would thus be helpful.

The state allocation to higher education is critical; we should not impose this burden solely on individual students and their families. Both HB 707/SB 775 and, in the future, including all employees in statewide increases are important and positive steps to rectify this problem.

Johnson City

The next writer answered a previous Question of the Week asking what we should do with plastic waste.

Put it to good use

We can begin by learning what is being done about plastic waste in other countries. For example: compressing waste into building blocks for housing construction and preparing waste to be used in paving for roads.

Even here, hemp is now being considered for products that can degrade quickly to replace certain plastic containers, etc.

Meanwhile, consciousness-raising about the need to limit our use of plastic bags and one-use water bottles can continue reaching more people every day.

Thank you for bringing the problem into a larger awareness.

Johnson City

Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos