09 April 2014

Why The Fact That An Adjunct Teaches Your Class Is A Feminist Issue

Someone passed this very interesting article from the Feminist Daily News  to me:


Adjunct Faculty Demand Fair Pay and Benefits

Prompted by a homeless adjunct professor's one-woman protest outside the New York State Department of Education in Albany, adjunct professors across the nation took to Twitter over the weekend to call attention to the low-wages and exploitation of adjuncts working in higher education.

Mary-Faith Cerasoli went to Albany during Spring Break to protest working conditions for adjunct college professors. Cerasoli is an adjunct at Mercy College in New York where she teaches a full courseload, but makes only $22,000 per year before taxes. Ineligible for public assistance, Cerasoli relies on friends for shelter but is sometimes forced to live out of her car - a gift from a used-car dealer in Westchester, NY. Cerasoli has no office, no health benefits, and a sizeable debt-load thanks to unpaid student loans and medical bills. "They call us professors, but they're paying us at poverty levels," she said. "I just want to make a living from a skill I've spent 30 years developing."

Cerasoli is not alone. Adjunct professors - the majority of whom are women - are contract employees usually paid per course taught, and the pay is low. The average adjunct is paid less than $3,000 for a typical three-credit course, but one study found that adjuncts at several colleges reported earning less than $1,000. The vast majority of adjuncts do not receive health insurance, retirement benefits, or sick leave, and many must cobble together a living, often by traveling miles to teach at multiple campuses. In terms of annual compensation, then, adjuncts earn between $18,000 and $30,000, without any benefits, for the equivalent of full-time work, compared to "tenure-track" professors who earn between $68,000 to $116,000 plus benefits.

Some adjuncts have joined labor unions at their institutions in order to organize for better pay and working conditions, but the average adjunct professor is still a source of cheap labor for many colleges. And the use of adjuncts is more widespread than ever. Adjunct professors now make up approximately half of all college faculty.

"I had this idea that I could get a job so that I could have a good income to support my son, and it didn't work out that way," explained Nicole Beth Wallenbrock, an adjunct professor featured on PBS NewsHour. "I'm a precarious worker. I have no job security."
Media Resources: Minneapolis Star Tribune 3/31/14; PBS NewsHour 3/31/14, 2/6/14; New York Times, 3/27/14; The Nation 7/11/13; The Chronicle of Higher Education 1/4/13

The issue of adjunct (i.e., paid as part-time) instructors in colleges and universities has been getting some attention in the media lately.  But this article is the first I've seen that framed the adjunctification of higher education as a feminist (i.e., women's; a.k.a., gender) issue.

And it is exactly such an issue--unless, of course, you believe that the fact that faculties have gone from having almost no adjuncts thirty years ago to having adjunct majorities today and the fact that women constitute the majorities of many departments is purely coincidental.  Or that the fact that every trade and profession that has ever gone from being mainly male to mainly female has lost respect, let alone prestige, not to mention pay relative to the consumer price index.  Or that the least-respected professions--and the ones avaricious managers try to bully--are the ones that employ mainly women.

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