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Part-Time Professors: Hard Work, Low Pay

Written by: Bernadette BeckerFebruary 17, 2016

Although many in higher education encourage free expression of ideas and social mobility, the system of higher education itself can be rigid and unequal in pay and benefits, according to the book “Equality for Contingent Faculty: Overcome the Two-Tier System,” which was a compilation of 11 activists speaking about the misconceptions and problems of the system.

The American Association of University Professors reported that over 50 percent of all faculty in higher education “hold part-time appointments.”Although they are classified as “part-time” these professors can have a full course load, but they receive no benefits and are paid only a few thousand dollars per course, according to the AAUP. The only unifying factor is the university’s lack of legal commitment to the faculty, according to the AAUP.

Limited Term Lecturers at IPFW are “hired for one semester at a time, part-time,” said Assistant Vice Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Dr. Marcia Dixson, who explained that LTLs are not required to do research, work on committees, advise students, etc. Dixson noted that many of the LTLs that IPFW employs lack the proper credentials to be eligible for hire as full-time faculty. IPFW employs 346 full-time faculty and 416 Continuing Lecturers and LTLs, according to the school’s website.

“For some of them it’s a very good situation,” said Dixson, who cited an example of a faculty member who works full time but is able to come in and teach.

The staff member Dixson referenced has been teaching in that capacity at IPFW since before Dixson arrived in 1993.

For people who want to teach full time: “they end up teaching two or three [classes] for us and a couple for Ivy Tech; they sort of put together a full-time position from part-time work,” Dixson said.

But, problematically, neither part-time job offers benefits, and LTLs and adjunct professors — those who have the accreditation to be a full-time professor — are hired on a short-term basis without long-term stability.

The trend towards adjuncts and other part-time positions is become more cost-effective because of the Affordable Care Act and the need to provide health insurance to full-time employees, according the American Prospect Longform. But the Affordable Care Act is also making those same adjuncts and LTL-type positions have limited hours, to ensure they don’t creep close to the 30-hour mark when health care must be provided, according to Inside Higher Ed.

A November 2015 video by Brave New Films entitled “Professors in Poverty” made many of these uncomfortable truths evident, such as that in the past 40 years adjunct salaries have reduced and almost proportionally university presidents have increased their salaries. This increased reliance on LTLs and adjunct professors has led to a surge of people with graduate degrees on public assistance, according to National Public Radio.

This shift to reliance on adjuncts has stifled free discourse since the professors have no protections like tenure, so academic freedom pays the price, according to The Atlantic.

Meanwhile, the highest paid employee at many universities is not the president, it is a coach, which is the case at Purdue, according to Purdue Exponent. Darrell Hazell, the Purdue football coach, received 2.14 million for 2015, according to the NCAA as from USA Today.

“We try to stay within CUPA guidelines,” said Dixson referring to the College and University Professional Association salary guidelines.

“One of the biggest benefits… [is] it allows us to bring in people who are working in the field,” Dixson said.

“We’re really lucky to have them come and teach our students,” said Dixson, in reference to the working professionals who regularly come and teach.

Another reason for the reliance on LTLs is the need to meet enrollment fluctuations, Dixson said. She explained that it is much more difficult and time consuming to hire a tenure-track professor than an LTL.

Dixson went on to explain that if the choice were to hire an LTL or a full-time professor and there were resources for the professor, IPFW would many times choose to hire the professor, unless a working professional is more beneficial to students.

Dixson expressed her gratitude to the LTLs: “our LTLs are amazing.” Dixson explained how LTLs provide excellent instruction to students.

Indiana has a unique disadvantage in promoting competitive wages for LTLs or other contingent faculty because Indiana has a monopoly in community colleges, according to the University of Texas database of community colleges in each state. Since the Ivy Tech system is the only community college in the entire state, there is no competition to give higher wages to LTLs or adjunct professors.

Loyola University of Chicago just voted to unionize all members of staff and faculty so that even adjuncts and other non benefited teaching positions would get to have bargaining rights, according to the school’s website. This is not the only university to take such a route, according to the AAUP.


To see the video “Professors in Poverty” visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbWFcqbefMs,

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