Are USF’s Adjunct Professors Fairly Paid? Faculty and Provost Speak Up
Members of the adjunct faculty at USF have come forward expressing frustration over their salaries and “exploitation,” as one adjunct faculty member described it.
Adjunct professors, who are part-time faculty at USF, differ from full-time faculty in their hours, obligations, and salaries.
Some adjunct professors argue that their salaries are too low for the amount of work they put in. Others argue that part-time salaries are too low to cover the cost of living in San Francisco
The number of adjunct faculty members has increased remarkably at universities nationwide — USF being no exception. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, adjuncts composed just over 50 percent of the faculty in 2009. This number is in stark contrast to the to figure in 1975, when part-time professors only made up around 30 percent of the faculty.
The adjunct faculty members at USF are broken down into two categories: preferred and non-preferred hiring pools. According to article 18.3 of the USF adjunct faculty contract, the minimum pay rate for an undergraduate adjunct professor in the non-preferred hiring pool is $1,668 per unit. If the non-preferred professor taught the usual eight units a semester, his or her yearly salary would come out to be $26,688. For a preferred hiring pool adjunct faculty member, the pay rate is $2,020. After spring and fall semesters, this comes out to a yearly salary of $32, 320.
The difference between preferred and non-preferred is related to how long a particular adjunct has been teaching at USF. According to an adjunct professor who wished to be left anonymous, “In order to qualify [for the preferred hiring pool], you prepare a portfolio for the Dean, including recommendation letters from colleagues and students, the student evaluation forms (the SUMMAs) for every class you’ve taught, a statement of teaching philosophy, a curriculum vitae (resumé), and a sample syllabus. One of the deans in your college observes your teaching, and some months later you find out whether or not you’ve been accepted. If you are not accepted into the PHP [preferred hiring pool], that is often the end of your teaching career at USF.”
In most cases, the pay a given faculty member receives directly reflects the amount of teaching hours put in. But according to adjunct philosophy professor Nancy Zeigler, this is not the case for part-time faculty. “32,000 dollars a year is not a livable wage,” she said. “The university’s justification is that I only work 10-20 hours per week, which is ridiculous. I am in the classroom or office hours for about that much time. And even if it were a part-time job, it would still be grossly underpaid for the level of skill and experience required in order to teach at the college level.”
Adjunct Spanish professor Cassandra Millspaugh echoes this sentiment: “I feel in some ways we are treated better than in other institutions, but I also feel like we are often treated almost like children or second class citizens. We cannot vote, at least not in my department meetings, and are paid about half for the same amount or in some cases more work (since we usually teach the entry level classes which are usually much larger than the major classes).”
According to Academic Vice President and Provost Jennifer Turpin, however, “The salaries paid to adjunct faculty are not intended to support them as would a full-time position, which carries with it additional workload and responsibilities.”
Although full-time professors have extra responsibilities, such as conducting research in their field and publishing academic literature, full-time politics professor Stephen Zunes remarks, “As a full-time faculty member, I certainly work more hours than adjuncts, factoring in equivalent teaching loads and other obligations, but I don’t work whatever X amount of times more salary than the adjuncts. I mean that’s just ridiculous. It’s totally out of proportion.”
However, USF as an institution treats their adjunct faculty markedly better than most other institutions of higher learning. Prof. Zunes explains: “Compared to most schools, our proportion of faculty, adjuncts versus full-time, is better. We are fairly unusual in allowing part-time faculty members their own union. A lot of colleges fought that tooth and nail. And I give the administration credit for that.”
When it comes to pay, Turpin points out, “USF pays adjunct faculty approximately double the national average for private comprehensive universities, according to CUPA, the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources.” Turpin also points out that this is partially due to the fact that the Bay Area is an expensive region. It is over this very point that adjuncts have grievances.
“The salaries paid to adjunct faculty are not intended to support them as would a full-time position, which carries with it additional workload and responsibilities.”
In a recent article published by Al Jazeera America, former San Francisco State University (SFSU) adjunct professor Darren Brown was interviewed about the income of adjuncts: “If I’m only teaching two classes, after taxes I bring home a paycheck that would be about $1,100 a month. No one can survive on that in the Bay Area.” With over $100,000 in student loan debt and the high cost of living in the Bay Area, Darren wasn’t able to make ends meet. Subsequently, he had no other option but to leave the world of academia.
The pay adjuncts receive at USF is decidedly higher than that at SFSU. However, when asked if it was enough, Millspaugh replied, “Well it is better than nothing. Including what I get from unemployment and the three jobs I have on campus (and I am in the preferred hiring pool), I make about $44,000 a year and live ok off that. But I don’t have a family, own a car, or a home.”
Yet Turpin said there may be other reasons adjunct faculty members would accept a part-time position: “Many of our adjunct faculty teach for reasons besides salary including professional development, satisfaction from teaching, and a desire to give back to their profession. For this group, their salaries are supplementary to that from their full-time job.” In response to this notion, Zeigler replied, “no comment.”
The growth of the adjunct faculty at universities is a nationwide trend not specific to USF. Zunes articulates the reason for this: “What we’re seeing across the country is pressure for universities to run on more of a corporate model, which is to cut costs. And one way of doing that, given that there is a surplus of PhD’s and other qualified people, is to take advantage of that fact by hiring adjuncts for substantially less salary and benefits than full-time faculty.”
Furthermore, the U.S. is one of the few countries where this is happening. “In most countries, there is enough support given to higher education by the government, either directly or by subsidizing tuition, that they don’t have to do this,” Zunes explained.
USF, a values-based institution committed to social justice, is leading the way on this issue in many regards. But as Zunes commented, “Just to say we’re not as bad as other places doesn’t mean there aren’t some real issues.”