Graduate teaching assistants and part-time faculty members are calling for higher pay and better benefits, a change they say would boost the quality of the academic services they provide students.
“It takes 42 part-time faculty members to earn what (GW President Stephen Joel) Trachtenberg earns in a year,” part-time English Professor Jon White said.
Rachel Riedner, chair of the Columbian Graduate Student Coalition, said adjunct professors are paid $2,000 per course.
“That comes out to be less than minimum wage,” Riedner said. “We are getting paid to teach a course under the minimum wage.”
“You can probably make better money working at McDonald’s,” said Noreen O’Connor, a Ph.D. candidate in English and a part-time faculty member.
O’Connor said she received a Graduate Student Teaching Award in 1997 but stopped teaching last semester because she got “burnt out.” She said to survive, part-time faculty have to look outside GW to supplement their income.
Randy Papadopoulos, a Ph.D. candidate in history, said at a minimum, GW should offer insurance benefits. He said GW abuses part-time instructors.
“It’s exploitative,” he said. “It exploits cheap labor. The University tries to minimize costs, but they do it at the expense of people relatively new at academia.”
Craig Linebaugh, GW’s associate vice president for academic planning and special projects, was unavailable for comment.
Riedner, an English instructor, said part-time instructors teach many English courses. She said instructors spend a lot of time preparing for the courses they teach, and the University’s poor treatment of them affects students.
“We are not able to give good services to students,” Riedner said. “We are (teaching) while we are being vastly underpaid.”
White, who is also an English department representative to the GTA adjunct alliance, said GW has no system for promotion or merit pay raises for part-time faculty. He said GTAs and part-time faculty have been fighting the low pay and lack of benefits for some time.
“Some of the specific benefits that we’ve been trying to get include retirement benefits,” White said.
White said salary statistics indicate part-time faculty at GW receive less money per course than part-time faculty at the University of Maryland and Georgetown University. He said a part-time instructor at Maryland receives $3,600 a course and an instructor at Georgetown receives $4,000.
“On one hand, this is a national problem,” White said. “But GW is worse than most (universities).”
White will speak Wednesday at a lecture, organized by the Columbian Graduate Student Coalition, titled “Higher Pay, Better Benefits, More Respect: What GW’s Part-Time Faculty and GTAs Need.”
White said he will make suggestions about how to improve the working conditions for part-time faculty members.
White said part-time faculty members need immediate changes, but he would like to see more significant changes in the future.
“I’d like to see a (GTA) and part-time faculty union,” he said.
But he said the University must make immediate changes.
“It is appropriate to lift the wage freeze,” White said. “The University must abide by the terms of the Faculty Code. According to the Faculty Code, all faculty are guaranteed basic health care coverage.”