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Career Q&A: 10 years, no raise for adjunct instructor

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Q: Ten years ago, I became an adjunct instructor at a local university. At the time, the going rate for adjuncts was $2,500 per semester for each class taught. Amazingly, our pay hasn't increased one penny since. An older instructor says he received the same amount 20 years ago.

Whenever someone asks about increasing pay for adjunct faculty, management replies that they need to control costs. Yet somehow administrators and professors seem to get raises on a regular basis. From what I hear, this also happens at other universities. Any thoughts about how to fix this?

A: When compared to the work required, pay for adjunct instructors has historically been abysmal. Calculating the hourly rate would be seriously depressing, so I suggest avoiding that exercise. Given the amount of money saved by using adjuncts, denying pay increases for a decade or so is absolutely inexcusable.

A couple of unfortunate realities probably contribute to this situation. For one thing, adjuncts are typically not an organized group. They usually come from different fields, have individual employment contracts and seldom interact with one another. As a result, their collective concerns are rarely discussed.

Additionally, some people see part-time teaching as a way to enhance their resume, promote their services or fill an employment gap. Because this is a temporary gig to obtain other benefits, compensation becomes less important. If enough of these folks are available, principles of supply and demand begin to apply.

Since all these factors reduce influence, you need to find ways to increase your leverage. Start by connecting with other adjuncts and developing a plan to get the administration's attention. Instructors who have strong reputations or political connections might be especially useful in presenting your case.

If the direct approach fails, other options might include appealing to the appropriate governing body, contacting local reporters or connecting with national adjunct associations. Although your group has to determine the most effective strategy, one thing is certain. If you wait for management to do the right thing, you might be waiting for a very long time.

Supervisor's friend harasses employees

Q: Our supervisor's friend frequently visits our store as a customer. "Jake" orders the staff around and acts like he owns the place. He and our boss have lengthy personal conversations and often take 30-minute smoke breaks together.

He also makes suggestive comments that are totally inappropriate. For example, if I take a break to pump breast milk for my daughter, he grins and asks if I'd like help. We've complained to our supervisor, but she refuses to confront him. Should we tell upper management?

A: Management has an obligation to protect employees from harassment by customers, so you could reasonably take these concerns to the next level. Just be sure to reduce the risk of retaliation by going as a group and requesting confidentiality.

Instead of becoming angry or upset, present the facts calmly and accurately. Clearly describe how Jake's unacceptable behavior is offending employees and harming the business. Explain that you're requesting higher-level help because your supervisor seems unable or unwilling to address the issue.

Career Q&A: 10 years, no raise for adjunct instructor

02/08/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 8, 2017 1:13pm]
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