The Adjunct Professor Crisis

Foodstamps in Corporate Academia: the Scandalous State of Part-time Faculty

Some adjunct professors at Montclair State University are saying they feel exploited, have no job security, and not enough office hours for students – all of which is bad for student learning.

Adjuncts and students raised these issues recently at an adjunct forum entitled “Foodstamps in Corporate Academia: the Scandalous State of Part-time Faculty.”

Robert W.Noonan, president of Local 6025, the union that represents adjunct faculty, lead the event, which was held at the Cohen Lounge in Dickson Hall last month with approximately 50 students and faculty attending.

“[The union] found that over 40 percent of our [adjuncts] make their living almost exclusively as adjuncts at multiple institutions, ” said Noonan, who teaches secondary and special education.

The issues presented at the forum were these: that adjunct professors work part time, teach no more than six credits or two courses over the semester, heavily rely on teaching at multiple institutions, and have no health benefits.

Another issue mentioned at the forum is that adjunct professors make on average $3,875 per 3-credit course. This is far less than the full-time tenured professors whose average salary is about $90,000, according to the Montclair State University Current Employee Salary data.

Dr. Tricia Robertson Bogle, an adjunct professor for the Political Science and Law Department, Women and Gender Studies, and Honors programs, says adjunct professors have labor contracts but no tenure or tenure-track, and a one-semester contract to teach a specific class. These contracts concern adjunct faculty since they are left with no job guarantee at the end of a contract, no possibility for tenure, and consequently, a reluctance to speak out about unfair labor practices or poor treatment by their departments due to fear of losing their jobs.

In the fall semester of 2014, the number of adjunct professors grew to over 1,100, according to Noonan, as the number of enrolled students surged beyond 20,000.

According to the Fact Book data posted on the MSU website, from 1995 to 2013 state aid decreased from 54 to 21 percent in MSU’s funding while tuition and fees have increased from 25 to 40 percent. These percentages have led to unfair payments for adjunct professors and financial concerns for students, Noonan said.

“When you lose state aid, you offset it by raising tuition, and by increasing the number of low paid adjuncts; the adjuncts and students become the cash cows of the university,” said Noonan.

Students and professors at the forum proposed some solutions to address the concerns of adjunct professors.

Vice President of the New Jersey United Students, Evangelia Stone, a Data Collection and Management graduate student here at MSU, proposed a student union for better learning conditions for students, which would aid adjunct professors.

“A student union would function at its core to demand better conditions for students on campus,” said Vice President Stone about the function of a student union. “In some cases, it is not immediately relevant to the plight of adjunct professors. However, if students are militant and well organized and demanding better learning conditions, it will directly link up to adjunct professors’ working conditions.”

Other solutions include awareness among students, the support for equality among tenured and adjunct faculty, better working conditions, and better pay for adjunct professors.

“When I tell students to stand up for justice,” said Dr. Bogle about her reason for speaking at the forum, “ I need to be an example of standing up for justice.”

Montclair State | New Jersey

Daniel Borja

Aspiring journalist, comic book enthusiast, and a short-tempered TV viewer.