EDITORIAL: Adjuncts deserve a hike in their pay

If being a student can be considered a full-time job, then it only seems fair that those instructing classes make a salary that mirrors the work they put into their courses. Instead, as reported in The Oracle and Inside Higher Education, adjuncts earn about $2,500 per course. 

While the pay is above minimum wage, teaching 10 classes a year would only pay $25,000. Those ten courses make up one student’s year load, if following USF’s prescribed 15 credits a semester. But those adjuncts teaching 30 credit hours are living under financial stress and fear of job security. 

Low income is what drove adjuncts across the country to take part in a national protest last Wednesday and demand $15,000 per course. The adjuncts on the USF campus were no different. They protested in front of the Library, where they demanded more pay and sought to inform their own students about the realities of their lives.

At USF, The Oracle interviewed adjunct Summer Cunningham, who summarized the plight she and her colleagues face: “We are underemployed, we don’t have benefits, we don’t make enough money to take care of our families and many of us live at, or below, the poverty level.”

The USF System is home to 1,425 adjuncts, 1,934 instructors and 2,097 graduate assistants. While Senior Vice Provost Dwayne Smith said USF adjuncts average somewhere between $3,500 and $4,000 per class, this is still not enough.

The poverty level mentioned by Cunningham is no exaggeration. As reported by NBC News, a study by UC-Berkeley found 25 percent of families of part-time college faculty are enrolled in at least one public assistance program. The same research also found 20 percent of part-time college faculty is living below the federal poverty line.

To compensate educators so poorly suggests universities do not appreciate their faculty and do not value the work put into teaching a course. It is particularly laughable at USF, when one night of Bullstock costs as much as several adjuncts’ combined annual income. 

It can be argued that being an adjunct is not a career, as Smith told The Oracle last week, and full-time professors are those who deserve comfortable salaries, but that should not validate dismissing the work adjuncts do. 

Many adjuncts teach the same courses a professor might and put in an equal number of hours meeting students, grading and coming up with lesson plans. It is a comparison that shows the unfairness of the system — that one should be financially set and the other so desperate to get by after already giving so much to the education system. 

While it’s unexpected for a university to pay an adjunct the same as a professor, there should be a middle ground that allows for all educators to be free of worrying about how they will keep a roof over their heads and feed their families, especially after all the work they’ve done.