By Peter D.G. Brown, Chapter President
Campus Equity Week takes place every other year during the last week in October on campuses all over America. The aim of Campus Equity Week is to raise public awareness of the inequity surrounding contingent academic labor and expose higher education‘s ―dirty little secret: only a quarter of all the teachers in American colleges and universities today are tenure-track faculty, while the other three-quarters are comprised of part-time adjuncts, full-time lecturers and other contingent faculty members or graduate teaching assistants.
In the first half of the twentieth century, the faculty in higher education was composed of full-time college teachers, nearly all of whom were hired with an expectation of a mutual long-term commitment between the institution and the faculty member. This commitment was expressed in a tenure or tenure-like employment relationship. Since mid-century a variety of short-term and part-time employment structures have emerged, sharing in common narrowing professional expectations and responsibilities usually limited to specific instructional duties. These non-tenure track employment structures are what have come to be termed ―contingent academic employment. They include part-time faculty assignments off the tenure track, term appointments, usually on a yearly basis, and a rapidly growing number of full-time term assignments with little or no formal commitment to future employment.
The inequity of compensation increases from year to year, i.e., the gap widens every year between what adjuncts are paid per course, and what full-time teachers receive for the exact same work. My own research, examining compensation here at SUNY New Paltz, clearly shows the growing inequity. Back in 1970, a beginning assistant professor received a salary of $10,000 per year, exactly 10 times what an adjunct was paid to teach a single three-credit course. By 2008, a beginning assistant profes-sor was paid 17 times what an adjunct received for a single course.
A comparison between adjuncts and the college president is even more alarming. Back in 1970, the college president, John J. Neumaier, received a salary that was 32 times that of an adjunct teaching a single three-credit course. Today, President Donald Christian‘s salary is 86 times what an adjunct receives for teaching a single course, a whopping 165% increase! In real terms, when adjusted for inflation, adjuncts salaries are only half of what they were forty years ago, while the president‘s salary has increased by more than one-third.
The point is not that President Christian is overpaid; he may well be worth his weight in gold. The point is that the inequity, the gap between adjuncts and everyone else, is widening with every year. When asked how the administration plans to begin closing this gap, we are told repeatedly that there are no plans whatsoever to do so, that there is no intention to ever grant adjuncts another pay hike.
Adjuncts are largely excluded from departmental business, barred from faculty governance and deprived of a vote at faculty meetings. Many adjuncts can be dismissed without cause from one day to the next. The most job security they can ever acquire is the right to be given six weeks‘ notice before non-renewal.
The 313 adjuncts here comprise about half of all the teachers at SUNY New Paltz. They are the faculty our students are most likely to encounter during their first two years here. They teach the bulk of our labor-intensive General Education courses, yet they are paid less than the folks who sweep the floors at night. They are treated like domestic servants, who are expected to remain subservient and largely invisible.
That is what Campus Equity Week is all about.
Note: Campus Equity Week happens every other year on odd-numbered years. There will not be a Campus Equity Week for 2012.