Wednesday, October 22, 2003
The Chronicle of Higher Education
Equal Pay for Equal Work
By KEITH HOELLER
Since I have made my career teaching as a college faculty member for the
past 20 years, you might well imagine that I have earned at least $1-million
in salary (averaging $50,000 a year for 20 years), and that I have amassed a
handsome retirement account worth at least another $500,000.
And you would be wrong, because instead of spending all this time as a
full-time professor, I have worked in the category of part-timer, even though
I often taught more than a full load each year. For my efforts, I have in
fact been paid less than 50 percent of what a full-timer would have earned,
and my retirement savings amounts to only 10 percent of what most full-timers
have when they retire.
Indeed, my academic career has made me a poster child for what sociologist
Ulrich Beck has called The Brave New World of Work (Polity Press, 2000),
where "fragmentation of the time and place of work is compounded by
fragmentation of the normal labor contract. This contractual
individualization, with the introduction of cheap-rate insecure jobs, is
taking place not only at the bottom but right at the top of the skills
Beck illustrates his thesis with an example of a "seasonal professor," taken
from an account in a German newspaper. I am the migrating professor he
describes in his book:
"There no longer seemed to be anything standing in the way of Keith
Hoeller's academic career. By 1982, when he netted his doctorate in
philosophy, he had already contributed to ten academic publications, obtained
a grant from the French government, and worked for a year as a visiting
professor at Seattle University. He was even on the advisory board of a
renowned specialist journal -- an honor usually accorded only to full
professors. And yet the decisive breakthrough failed to come. Over the past
sixteen years he has stumbled from one fixed-term appointment to the next.
His latest stop is [the] community college [system] in Washington state,
where he gives 12 lecture courses a year -- on a part-time basis. The job
only brings in $26,000 a year. Now fifty, he suspects his dream of a Chair
will never be fulfilled ... It's a great deal for the universities, but it
splits the country's faculty into two classes."
Unfortunately, my career is symptomatic of an ever-growing trend since
America's colleges and universities initiated this two-tiered professorial
track more than 20 years ago.
On the tenure track, full-time professors receive multiyear contracts, with
annual salaries, year-round health care, retirement benefits, sabbaticals,
regular raises and promotions, and unparalleled job security (tenure).
On the nontenure track, part-timers receive semester-long contracts paying
less than 50 percent of what tenure-track professors earn. For the most part,
these adjuncts receive no health-care or retirement benefits, and no
sabbaticals. They have little or no chance of promotion, let alone periodic
raises. While many full-time faculty members now receive annual raises, most
adjuncts are hired at the lowest rate and never see a raise. At one community
I teach, I have never received a raise based on my 10 years of experience; I
am paid at the same rate as a beginning instructor.
In the past decade, a new part-time faculty movement has emerged, calling
attention to these inequities, and demanding change. Those of us in this
movement are celebrating "Campus Equity Week" from October 27 to 31, with
activities being held on campuses across the country, to call attention to
the plight of contingent professors of all stripes.
Many faculty unions are joining in the events. And all three national
faculty associations have called for some form of "proportional" compensation
for adjuncts. In 2002, the National Education Association passed a policy
recommending "pro-rata pay" for adjuncts that says "they should be paid for
preparation time, office hours, committee assignments, and other activities
by their full-time colleagues." That same year, the American Federation of
Teachers adopted a policy calling for part-timers to be "paid a salary
proportionate to that paid to full-time tenure faculty of the same
qualifications for doing the same work."
And the American Association of University Professors, in its recent "Draft
Statement on Contingent Appointments and the Academic Profession," recommends
that adjuncts who are paid by the course or by the credit hour should be paid
"the applicable fraction of the compensation (including benefits) for a
comparable full-time position."
Of course these calls for "equal pay for equal work" are policy statements,
and it remains to be seen how hard state and local union chapters will push
to turn them into real contracts. As the AFT statement on its new policy
acknowledges, "no state currently offers or requires full pro-rata
compensation for part-time adjunct faculty members."
That's why Jack Longmate and Frank Cosco had to go to Vancouver Community
College, in Canada, to find an example of full pro-rata pay in their May 3,
2002, essay in The Chronicle Review, "Part-Time Instructors Deserve Equal Pay
for Equal Work." In Vancouver, part-timers and full-timers who teach three
courses a term receive exactly the same pay.
A major argument often made against equal pay for equal work is that since
many adjuncts do not engage in nonteaching duties, they do not do the same
work as full-timers, and thus, do not deserve the same rate of pay. But this
argument is fallacious on several grounds.
First, many adjuncts already participate in nonclassroom activities, such as
keeping office hours, preparing lectures and tests and advising students, but
are not being paid for that work. For example, I have engaged in curriculum
development, creating several new courses for our college catalog, without
any extra remuneration.
Second, many, perhaps most, adjuncts would be delighted to engage in
nonteaching duties, such as departmental committee work, if they were
equitably compensated for their time. Indeed, placing adjuncts in positions
where they "just teach" keeps them marginalized.
Third, the majority of part-time professors are not currently receiving
health-care and retirement benefits where they teach; they must pay for
coverage out of their own pockets. It's unfair to pay part-timers less than
full-timers when part-timers must purchase benefits that the college provides
for full-timers. Our demand must be for "equal pay -- and equal benefits --
for equal work."
Some critics might argue that at institutions where research is part of a
faculty member's workload, part-timers are not doing the same job as
full-timers. But many adjuncts do research; they're just not supported or
paid for it.
Where research is a required component of a full-time faculty member's
workload, as it is at most graduate universities, part-timers should also be
expected to produce original scholarship and should receive pro-rated pay for
their efforts. But that means the university should also offer the part-timer
comparable institutional support, including reduced teaching loads,
sabbaticals, research assistants, travel money, and sufficient office, lab,
and secretarial support.
For the past 20 years, I have engaged in regular research as the editor of a
scholarly journal, the Review of Existential Psychology & Psychiatry. All of
my labor has been done on my own time, and without any support from the
colleges where I teach. I have not received any increases in pay as a result
of my extensive research output.
However, as the AAUP's draft report says, faculty members with research
obligations "should not be the sole or primary model for tenurable academic
work. ... There may be different models for tenurable faculty work within a
Ultimately, the system of "academic apartheid" must be abolished. The answer
is one salary schedule for each college. Each person, whether part time or
full time, should be placed on this scale when hired, based upon their
highest degree attained, years of teaching experience, and accomplishments.
In these tough economic times, many colleges have increased tuition, without
offering the students anything more for their money and without directing any
of the revenues toward fairly compensating the part-timers. Spending more of
the tuition dollars on the adjuncts would do the most good for students by
giving them more access to faculty members who have time to spend with them.
Only when part-timers and full-timers are finally in the same salary boat
can we begin to see all our boats rise together.
Keith Hoeller, a part-time faculty member who teaches in Washington state,
is a founder of the Washington Part-Time Faculty Association and a member of
the AAUP's national committee on "contingent faculty and the profession."