Thursday, November 12, 2009

I don't know how many academic types read this here blog, but if you are an academic type you already know about the huge scam that is the adjunct faculty appointment. The basic gist of the deal is that you get paid to teach courses and/or studio lessons (in the case of musicians), but you're not actually a member of the faculty, you can't vote in (or sometimes even attend) faculty meetings, you don't get any benefits, and you have absolutely no job security. Also, the money is utter crap in most cases.

I knew all of this, but the only adjunct position I've ever had paid anomalously well and it was a special situation--I was covering one semester for a teacher who knew me and arranged everything behind the scenes; I wouldn't have been hired if they'd opened a job search. It was a good situation for me. Still, I didn't get paid for weekly studio classes, which were required (and for which non-voice teachers did get paid), I didn't get paid for office hours, or extra lessons, or for helping the students in any way beyond the two hours per week I was required to spend with them.

I bring this up because I got an offer last week that was appalling in its meagerness. It was not the offer that had been discussed or that I was expecting, so naturally the first thing I did was go back and say "this is not in any way acceptable" and we got it sorted out (I wasn't supposed to get an "adjunct" offer in the first place). But it sure did open my eyes to the shoddy way in which adjuncts are generally compensated. I'm talking $425 a week for teaching a class and having a full studio. I'm talking $16 per lesson, with no distinction made between hour lessons and half hour lessons.

To put this in perspective for those of you who don't offer services like teaching, coaching, whatever with an hourly rate: I charge $45 an hour for private students, $25 for a half hour--and I am on the low side of the lesson fee scale. At my music school job I have to charge more, just so I can clear $35 an hour, so those students pay more for lessons. Another thing you need to know is that if you teach voice lessons 40 hours a week you will lose your mind. Most colleges and universities consider 20 hours to be a full teaching load, depending on your classroom teaching responsibilities.

And the sad thing is, as one of my friends pointed out, there are plenty of people who would have accepted the offer I got, no questions asked, just to have more higher ed resume credits, just to teach, just to have a job, even though you can't support yourself very well on that pay. Believe me, I know people get by with less every day, and advanced degrees are less and less frequently an indicator of any kind of economic upward mobility. But let's just say it ain't what I signed up for.

For much much more on adjunct teaching, try the Chronicle of Higher Ed, starting with these excerpts from a survey of Chicago-area adjuncts:
The hours required to properly prepare, teach, and interact with students outside of the class room make the per-hour wage less than minimum wage.
But you need a postgraduate degree to be able to do it.

17 comments:

  1. Word. Being a "Lecturer" is a racket also and why I've been a stay-at-home mom ever since earning my Masters.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Librarians and Adjuncts have a lot in common. It's awesome to be overeducated and underpaid...

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'm an ABD musicologist who works as an adjunct on and off. I once figured out my hourly pay, counting class time, prep time and grading. I made less than $2 an hour. Fortunately, I also moonlight as a not-for-profit professional. That pays better. Better, even, than assistant professor jobs. I'm having trouble finishing because I will make less with my Ph.D, at least for a while. If I can even find a job.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Girl, don't even get me started on this hot bullshit- I don't want to end up cutting someone.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I had to teach 5 classes one semester! 5! 2 of them lab classes! To make enough for us to live and to equal what I make now as a full-time visiting prof where I teach only 2-3 classes a semester.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Also, it's only gotten worse with the elimination of tenure lines because of the shitty economy. Even if the economic situation improves drastically, those lines don't come back easily. SAAAD.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I totally understand. I adjunct-ed two years ago and was appalled by the pay, but, like many, I was thrilled to have the opportunity. I know adjuncts are unionizing in some parts of the country.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Exactly. SUCH utter bullshit. As I was telling one of my grad school friends a few weeks ago, I basically can't afford to teach college lit or comp. It seriously works out to like less than minimum wage when you add in all the grading and reading and whatnot. But on the other hand, if you're one of the very lucky few who actually scores a tenure-track position in a field you love with a reasonable coursework-to-research ratio, like my phil prof bro-in-law, you have yourself one of the sweetest friggin' gigs in the world. Then again, I'm glad I'm not paying off a gazillion-dollar ivy league PhD. In summary and in conclusion: academic slave labor can suck my nads.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Oooh, that IS crappy. I'm glad you straightened things out!

    ReplyDelete
  10. This is timely for me. My parter will be finishing his MFA soon (poetry) and was thinking about teaching at a community college while continuing to work on his writing. Looks like it would be a bad idea, because unfortunately I can't support both of us on my salary--I need him to make actual money.

    ReplyDelete