Letter to the editor

Part-time pay

The current state of compensation and benefits of our part-time faculty deserves immediate and serious examination.

Re-accreditation teams and internal University self-studies during the past few years have noted the increasing reliance on part-time faculty. These instructors play vital roles at GW. This year, the Student Association has prioritized the treatment of part-time faculty. Promoting awareness in order to improve their compensation and add reasonable benefits will serve the academic interests of our student body.

GW has been part of the national trend, during the past two decades, to employ greater percentages of part-time faculty. Now, 47 percent of college and university teachers are employed as part-timers. At schools such as GW, part-time appointments average more than 30 percent of the faculty. GW’s statistics are consistent with national averages for several reasons.

Part-time faculty provide unique professional and educational advantages in an environment such as Washington, D.C. They can offer curricular specialization as well as valuable skills, experience and contacts from their nonacademic employment. In addition, they allow increased scheduling flexibility. For all of these good reasons, part-timers help to meet the needs of a diverse student community.

Of course, financial incentive is also significant in GW’s deployment of part-time faculty. Dividing the teaching load of a full-time faculty member into work handled by several part-timers can provide savings of up to 60 percent for the University administration.

GW parents are frequently surprised to learn that the high-quality instruction which students receive is not adequately compensated. Not only are their wages low, but many part-time faculty lack basic resources, including computer access and sufficient office space for individual student conferences.

Furthermore, all part-time faculty members are denied essential benefits such as health care and family leave and are prohibited from investing through retirement plans.

As a result of their comparatively substandard economic and professional conditions, part-time faculty lack sufficient opportunity for the active research which contributes to good teaching and sustains superior connections to their disciplines. These are the key reasons why the treatment of part-time faculty substantially impacts college recruitment and rankings.

The use of part-time faculty is not a temporary measure but rather a permanent feature in higher education. Our University must facilitate rather than impede the excellence that the part-time faculty is so eager to provide to our deserving student body.

-Student Association President Phil Meisner and
Student Association Vice President for Graduate Policy Emily Cummins

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