By Joe Vitale
There has been a recent surge in activism on campus, and now adjunct professors are rallying for higher wages.
A number of adjunct professors have organized under an advocacy campaign of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) called “Fordham Faculty Forward,” one of the hundreds of grassroots Faculty Forward campaigns at colleges and universities.
On April 15, nearly two dozen protesters (some Fordham-affiliated, some not) distributed information about adjunct professors at Fordham, trying to rally support among students about the issue.
The group’s protest was featured in a front page article of The Fordham Ram this week.
In the report, one of the protestors, Fordham adjunct Alex Trevethik, called Fordham’s working conditions “unacceptable,” saying, “that they’re not only bad for us but they’re bad for students as well and not at all in line with Fordham’s mission and/or Jesuit and basic Catholic social teachings in regard to fair treatment of labor.”
The group is looking for support from administrators to help meet some of their goals, which include higher wages, more affordable higher education for students and the removal of “bad actors” in higher education who drive up tuition costs.
There are currently around 650 adjuncts professors working at Fordham.
Currently, for a standard undergraduate course meeting for 3 hours per week, Fordham University says it has a minimum pay of $3900. Per course pay can be up to $5000 per course, depending on the professor’s experience and credentials.
(Faculty Forward lists one of its goal as setting the per course total compensation at $15,000, almost three times the current maximum.)
An adjunct position at Fordham includes three hours of teaching, four hours of preparation and grading, as well as two office hours per week, adding up to about nine total hours per course per week.
This lasts over a 15 week semester and comes out to be 135 hours per course. The equivalent minimum hourly rate is $28 per hour.
Adjuncts at Fordham teach a maximum of two courses, or 18 hours per week, and most teach two days per week here.
Many of the questions being posed by the adjuncts consider the percentage of tuition and fee revenue expended on the salaries of tenured and tenured-track faculty.
In 2007-08, according to Faculty Senate minutes during a February meeting, the percentage of tuition and fee revenue that was expended on the salaries of tenured and tenure-track faculty was approximately 16 percent. In 2013-14, it was 14.8 percent.
The Senate minutes contend that adjunct professors only received 2.2 percent of the university’s gross tuition and fee revenue in 2007. The data projected for 2015 show that the number will decrease 0.3 percent during this year.
“What adjuncts earn in a year overall is difficult to say, because so much depends on what other sources of income they may have,” states university documentation provided to The Fordham Ram by Christopher Rodgers, dean of students. “Many of Fordham’s adjuncts are professionals in the New York area who teach on the side; others may have courses that they teach at other schools.”
Hannah Jopling, an adjunct in the anthropology department, told The Fordham Ram that Fordham adjuncts receive about $3,800 per course taught, but believes that number should increase.
“How many students in one class cover that cost,” she asked, “and what happens to the money Fordham makes off of us from the rest of the students?”
There are 2 comments
Based on the title, I was hoping there would be a review of what percentage of faculty at Fordham were adjunct now versus 10 years from now. The “numbers” cited are vaguer than that. It is the fact that when TT folks retire, they are not replaced by other TT people, and the increasing numbers of adjunct jobs – with no job security, benefits, or a living wage – as a percentage of total academic teaching jobs that is most troubling. Throwing us a bone in the form of a couple hundred dollars’ raise is not what is in order.
It is certainly not true that most adjuncts are “professionals who teach on the side.” This is a standard boilerplate reaction of university administrators everywhere, when confronted with the dreadful and really indefensible working conditions of adjuncts, so I hope Dean Rodgers will not feel singled out when I note 1) some professions more than others–typically law, medicine and business–indeed provide part-time adjunct faculty (often at higher rates than received by most adjuncts), and have for many years, 2) the great number of purely “academic” courses, NOT the “professional” courses, now and for the past two decades, are taught by poorly paid part-time adjunct faculty and that is a dramatic departure from the once-normal “professional” adjunct model of the past to which Dean Rodgers refers, and 3) that which is “on the side” to you, may not be, to me and, anyway, it is ethically dubious, to say the least, to rationalize gross pay and benefit inequities on such considerations. In any other labor situation, does a prospective employer ask an applicant how much she or he is making from other sources?