Adjuncts do most of the teaching at community colleges — for very little money. In Washington state, a part-time English instructor at Olympic College is speaking out against a union-backed bill that would raise full-time faculty pay but do little for adjuncts at the state’s 34 community and technical colleges. Jack Longmate may be stripped of his leadership post in the Association for Higher Education, a National Education Association affiliate, reports Inside Higher Ed.
Longmate testified against House Bill 1631, in front of the House Education Committee of the Washington State House of Representatives. The bill would guarantee annual pay raises, known as increments, based on a tenured or tenure-track instructor’s years of service and, in some cases, level of education. The system resembles the traditional way of paying K-12 teachers. It does not guarantee raises for part-timer instructors.
The bill is endorsed by the union, which sees it as a way to identify a permanent funding stream for increments. The lack of a reliable or predictable source of money for increment increases has proven to be a long-standing and troubling problem for full-time faculty in recent years. The union also argues that the bill would help fund increases for part-time faculty, even though increments are not available to them on all campuses.
The bill is unfair to adjuncts, known in the state as part-timers, Longmate argues.
Two-thirds of faculty at the state’s community and technical colleges are part-time. Fifty-five percent of courses are taught by part-timers.
In a Tacoma News Tribune op-ed in December, Longmate complained that “overloading” by full-time faculty — teaching more than full-time — takes jobs from part-timers.
One might suppose that the lower costs of hiring part-time faculty would protect their jobs during austere budgets – part-timers are paid 50 cents on the dollar for teaching the same classes as their full-time colleagues, and are not provided private offices, computers, or professional development stipends. And many receive no health or retirement benefits.
Also, part-timers offer colleges “flexibility” that tenured faculty do not. Like airlines that maximize profits by overbooking flights, colleges can offer courses which, if filled, generate revenue, but if not filled, can be cancelled without repercussions for the college.
Retired State Sen. Ken Jacobsen once called Washington state’s community colleges “a chain of academic sweatshops,” Longmate writes.
At Olympic College, full-time faculty average $55,797 a year, while an adjunct who taught full-time would average $27,833.
“The same tension has arisen elsewhere — at Wisconsin’s Madison Area Technical College, for instance, adjuncts filed suit to stop overloads,” notes Inside Higher Ed.
In New Hampshire, community college adjuncts have joined a state employees union.
Years ago, I sat next to the chancellor of the local community college district at a dinner. I told him my sister was a part-time instructor at several community colleges with no benefits, no job security and not even a mail slot to call her own. “Closest thing to slave labor we have in this country!” he said.