There is a false yet persistent belief that colleges and universities are filled with professors who enjoy light workloads and hefty benefits. The reality is that more than 50 percent of all faculty appointments are part-time positions held by adjuncts, lecturers and graduate assistants, according to the American Association of University Professors. This population of “contingent faculty” often teaches the equivalent of a full-time course load, but for as little as $1,500 a course and with no health-care coverage.
A collection of photos from part-time faculty at Ithaca College in upstate New York captures the hardships endured by instructors and shows why so many are fighting for higher wages.
“There is a national conversation about this right now, and many of us are at the end of our ropes,” said Brody Burroughs, a lecturer in the Department of Art at Ithaca College and member of the part-time faculty union’s collective bargaining committee. “People are working multiple jobs. Something has to give. You have instructors who are alumni being put into [student debt] collections by the very school they teach at.”
Administrators and part-time faculty at Ithaca have been locked in negotiations for a year. Instructors, who are affiliated with Service Employees International Union (SEIU), are fighting for pay parity with the full-time, nontenured faculty represented by their union. Part-time faculty earn an average of $16,500 a year for teaching 12 credits, roughly half the base pay of their full-time counterparts, according to the union.
“We’re not asking for much, just equal pay for equal work,” said Rachel Kaufman, a member of the bargaining committee and part-time writing instructor. “We want job security and to provide students continuity on campus.”
College administrators say the school provides competitive wages that exceed those offered at other institutions in the region. According to Ithaca College, part-time faculty teach about 15 percent of classes at the school; graduate assistants account for another 9.3 percent; full-time, nontenured instructors make up 24 percent; and tenured faculty make up the remainder.
“Ithaca College is bargaining in good faith with the union representing part-time, per-course faculty, and intends to work toward a collective bargaining agreement that is in the best interests of our students and employees,” Dave Maley, a spokesman for Ithaca College, said in an email. “We have also offered enhancements at the bargaining table to the current wages and appointment provisions.”
Negotiations resumed on Monday. Last week, about 300 students and faculty members staged a protest on campus in support of the part-time instructors. Ahead of that rally, Ithaca’s Students for Labor Action posted the photo series of part-time faculty sharing their stories. Kaufman said a member of the bargaining committee came up with the idea after receiving acceptance for Medicaid.
“She just really felt like it was important for the campus community, administration and parents to know that this is the state your faculty are living in,” Kaufman said. “We’re professionals, we’re dedicated to our students, and we love teaching. But we’re on Medicaid. We work other jobs to make ends meet, and she really wanted to put that out there.”
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