All About the (Complete Lack of) Benjamins

November 6, 2013

I was going to post today about neoliberalism and the discourse of good work, but I have a cold. Ergo, thinking and writing coherently about that topic is off the table. However, I didn’t want this blog to have a gap in its schedule–I don’t want to be that kind of an academic.

So, here’s what I earn from teaching per year: $25,200. That’s for three courses per semester at two different private universities. This courseload is greater than that required of a full-time, tenure-track faculty member at either university. The amount I get paid is also only $865 more per year than the current graduate student stipend at my alma mater.

At one of my institutions, a PhD or other terminal degree is required for adjuncts. At the other, it’s preferred. So, basically, in order to earn this extremely terrible amount of money, you have to be a highly educated person with the same requirements as a junior tenure-track hire. Only you don’t get benefits or job security, unlike those tenure-track people.

True, I do not do any service work, like they do. But I do all the other things that a tenure-track person does, just so I can still be (theoretically, but not really) considered for tenure-track jobs in the future: research, publish, and attend conferences. I also spend more time at the university than I probably should, unofficially advising students and holding office hours beyond what is required. I do this because the only evaluations I’ve had since 2009 are the ones the students complete, and if they wrote that I was “unavailable,” well, I’d be out of my job. So, while those office hours aren’t required, they in fact are.

Like many other adjuncts, I also have other sources of income. Because I never really stopped doing writing and editing work on the side, I earn a significant amount more than $25,200 per year. But, because that work is freelance, independent contractor work, 1) it fluctuates every year and 2) I have a fairly horrendous tax hit at the end of the year. And, like my adjunct income, it is precariously short-term.

This is not the kind of life I envisioned when I was 22, and I feel like such a liar when I tell my students they have bright futures ahead of them. Maybe the ones in finance do, but the ones who go into humanities probably don’t.

P.S. Various adjuncts have pointed out that their pay is worse than mine. THIS IS TRUE. I’m actually lucky to be where I am on the adjunct pay scale, if one can call it luck.

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One Response to “All About the (Complete Lack of) Benjamins”

  1. jersev said

    I completely agree with you. For about thirty years it was an adjunct. Most of the years my expenses (about a 25 mile drive to campus) did not even get covered and that was BEFORE taxes. I could go on and on: special trips to campus; more time spent than the students combined!; complaints at 3AM – students always had my phone number; rogue performance review by student that never attended class; complaints to dean over 2 points on exam that they received a 97 on; etc. I was lucky, I had a full time career and tried to bring real world experience to the classroom. I loved every minute of it! I fear, however that I and others like me made it possible for the university to pay such low wages. I probably would have done it for free. Minimum wage would have been a big raise.

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