Adjunct professors live in fear, writes Elizabeth Salaam in the San Diego Reader. An adjunct who speaks up could get fewer classes assigned the next semester, “Jenny” says. “It’s really political.” She could ruin her chances for a full-time job — if there ever is a full-time job.
Meanwhile, she’s afraid to say no to a job. Jenny teaches eight classes at two community colleges, a private university and an online university. She earns about as much as a full-time professor teaching four or five classes.
John Rall carries a 67 percent teaching load — the maximum for an adjunct — as an English professor at Mesa College in San Diego. He was barred from advising a student group because it might give him a claim to a full-time job, he writes on AdjunctCrisis.com.
In addition to teaching three classes at Mesa, Rall teaches two at nearby Cuyamaca College.
“I work five classes, and I’m making barely $40,000, probably more like $35,000. A full-timer teaches five classes and they’re making $65,000 a year,” he says. “We have the same responsibilities except for whatever work their committees are doing, which isn’t that much more. We have the same credentials. We have the same obligations in terms of what we do with our students.”
This is the first year Rall has taught so few classes. For the past four, he taught seven per semester: three at Mesa, two at Grossmont, and two online for the University of Phoenix. He took on the load not only for the money, he explains, but to prove his worth and his willingness in the hopes it would help him secure a full-time position. This, while applying for jobs “in every English department up and down the California state” and volunteering approximately five hours a week (outside of teaching) to develop and coordinate a writing-outreach project for high school and college students across the county.
After 10 years teaching at Mesa, Rall gave up on ever getting a full-time job.
Mesa College held an Adjunct Appreciation ceremony at the beginning of the 2013 fall semester. It was “a morale breaker,” says Rall.
“There was one guy who had been here for, like, 40 years, and all he got was a paper certificate,” Rall says, appalled. “You couldn’t get him a frame? You couldn’t buy him a lunch? . . . they kept calling out people who had been here for 10 years, 20 years, and the new people were, like, ‘I don’t want to be here for 30 years as a part-timer.’”
Rall supports a wife and three children. Although he loves teaching, he’s thinking of a getting a contractor’s license.