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Adjunct abuse: why adjunct professors are mistreated

By Tucker Paquette                                                                                                                                                  @tpaquette17

On Nov. 10, as part of the SEAT at the Table proceedings, Springfield College Professor of English Mike Spry led a session that outlined the numbers behind and causes of the widespread mistreatment of adjunct faculty members across the country.

Spry provided the dictionary definition of the word “adjunct,” noting how something (or in this case, someone) who is adjunct is “a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part.” This definition provides useful insight into how adjunct faculty are viewed and treated.

When discussing how adjunct professors are usually left out of the campus-wide loop, Spry touched on the fact that they aren’t included in meetings and decision-making processes. Also, adjunct faculty typically don’t receive the emails that full-time professors consistently receive, and at some colleges adjuncts aren’t even identified on their school’s website.

“[Adjunct professors] are not entirely, by definition as an adjunct, part of the community,” Spry said. “I think it’s important that [people] are made aware of how difficult it is to be an adjunct in 2023 at an American college.”

According to Spry, there are over 700,000 adjunct faculty members currently in the United States. The average pay for those professors per one three-credit course taught is about $3,800. While taking into account that the maximum amount of credits an adjunct can teach per semester is nine, Spry did the math and emphasized the concerning results: adjuncts end up making about $24,000 per year. 

Also, adjunct faculty members do not receive health benefits and have virtually no job security. The fact that adjuncts aren’t paid much and don’t get benefits makes it easy for colleges to cut bait with them at any time they choose to, even if no valid reason is provided. 

“Quite simply, colleges in this day and age are built on the backs of underpaying adjuncts,” Spry said. “The easiest thing to cut [from a college’s budget] is the salary you give to contingent laborers.”

Spry’s affinity for teaching is one that is obviously shared by countless professors across the country. Unfortunately, all of the challenges that come with being an adjunct might end up tearing away at that joy. 

“I love teaching [and] I love trying to get students to love writing a fraction of the amount that I love writing,” Spry said. “It’s difficult to do when you’re sitting at the poverty line, or below the poverty line.”

Photo courtesy of: Springfield College Flickr 


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