“The impending negotiations between the City University of New York’s faculty union and administration may come down to a fundamental question: How much is adjunct labor worth? The union’s answer is $7,000. That’s the minimum pay per three-credit course that it’s seeking for the roughly 14,000 adjuncts it represents — about double the minimum that adjuncts there now earn per course.
“The current pay rate is ‘insulting to adjunct faculty and not commensurate with their experience,’ said Barbara Bowen, president of the Professional Staff Congress, which represents 30,000 faculty and staff members at CUNY. Increasing the pay for adjuncts, who teach more than half of the courses in the nation’s largest urban university system, would, she said, send an important message to students and the part-time faculty…
“The union arrived at the $7,000 figure for adjuncts by reverse-engineering from the wage of a different group of contingent faculty — full-time lecturers. The salary of full-time lecturers at CUNY for a full teaching load of eight courses a year is about $60,000. A part-time adjunct teaching the same number of courses would earn only about $25,000 at the current minimum per-course rate of about $3,200…
“The union also took into consideration the minimum per-course compensation suggested by professional associations like the Modern Language Association — which in 2011-12 recommended $6,800, but is now calling for $10,700.
“Levels of per-course pay that are in line with what CUNY’s union is seeking have cropped up in recent years in cities with similar costs of living — but they have been at private institutions. Three years ago, Tufts University agreed to pay part-time faculty members at least $7,300 per course, and a new contract promises further pay raises.
“And in New York, newly unionized adjuncts at Barnard College can now count on making $7,000 per three-credit course — a 3-percent increase. By the fall of 2021 that figure will increase to $10,000. Barnard makes a point of touting the pay on its human-resource department’s web page, calling the wages ‘among the best in New York City, and among elite, urban colleges and universities nationally.’
“…Faculty and union leaders say the items on the union’s bargaining agenda, especially the per-course minimum, mean CUNY’s governing board, administrators, city and state leaders will need to make a commitment to deeply invest in public education — no matter what…”
from What’s a Fair Wage for Adjuncts? by Audrey Williams June
Audrey Williams June is a senior reporter at The Chronicle for Higher Education who writes about the academic workplace, faculty pay, and work-life balance in academe. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @chronaudrey.
For 60 articles on this crisis, click here.