I had the pleasure of having Professor Richard Aberle, an adjunct lecturer of English, as my English 101 instructor in my first semester here. My experience in his class was wonderful and helped to positively shape my college career, and his continued mentorship has proven invaluable to me. Professor Aberle is a true intellectual, and imparts his extensive knowledge of the humanities upon his students with great success. Many of my peers who have also had Aberle as an instructor agree with me. So, it is more than appropriate that Professor Aberle was awarded the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Adjunct Teaching for 2016.
But while the press release on the college website praised Professor Aberle for his dedication, diligence, and intelligence, it failed to mention that he made less than $16,000 last year. At Plattsburgh, an adjunct can expect to make approximately $2,600 per three-credit course. Aberle teaches six courses per year and is also working on his dissertation. He is not compensated for office hours or prep time. He has no guarantee of employment from semester to semester. It also fails to mention the advocacy work that Professor Aberle does for his fellow adjuncts, many of whom collect public assistance and need to work multiple jobs in order to support themselves. One of Aberle’s colleagues also teaches at Clinton Community College and waits tables, while another installs satellite dishes for DirecTV.
Approximately forty percent of the college’s faculty is part-time, and a substantial portion of that percentage teaches more than two courses per semester. A tenure-track assistant professor at Plattsburgh teaches three courses per semester and can expect to make at least $49,000 per year in their first year. Tenured faculty can expect to make more than $60,000 after a few years of tenure. But tenure-track and tenured faculty are becoming more and more scarce. Approximately seventy-five percent of higher education faculty in the United States do not hold tenure-track appointments, and approximately half are adjuncts. This has become a nationwide crisis.
The State University of New York should be ashamed of itself. Our chancellor had a base salary of $490,000 last year as well as over $100,000 in perks, and she received a raise this past July. Hourly SUNY employees will soon make $15 per hour; no such guarantee has been given to part-time faculty, who are paid per-credit. Our tuition has risen exponentially while faculty salaries have remained stagnant and full-time faculty who retire or find jobs elsewhere are replaced by part-timers who make starvation wages and have no other options.
Instead of giving adjuncts awards for being good at what they do in spite of often facing poverty and struggling to survive, perhaps they could be given actual job security and living wages.
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