Welcome to GW, new students! During Colonial Inauguration, you register for your fall semester courses. The teachers you choose will quickly become one of the most important parts of your first-year experience. They will help your personal growth as well as your intellectual advancement. So I hope you can take a few minutes now to consider the status of these teachers in our community.
The Student Association, the GW student government serving undergraduate and graduate students, has set the treatment of part-time faculty as a primary issue on which our advocacy will be focused this year and in the future. The SA is aware of a campus organization, the Graduate Teaching Assistant and Adjunct Alliance, which is actively lobbying on behalf of these part-time faculty. You may have met GTAAA members and saw their flyers during your recent campus visits.
Although the SA has not yet reached an official position on the GTAAA’s movement, many of us share the concerns of these instructors who are organizing for better pay and conditions. As an SA member who actively supports the GTAAA, I believe it is imperative for the University administration to respond to the needs of our academic departments. We urge the administration to address our concerns openly, and we request the Faculty Senate to investigate these issues.
While part-time faculty members teach many of the most important classes at GW, such as introductory language and English courses, their wages per course average only $2,200. This amount is remarkably low considering the long hours of preparation, grading, in-class instruction, and other student contact. And the wages are not subject to regular merit raises.
In addition, part-time faculty members teach in substandard working conditions due to the growing strain on resources and facilities. For example, they lack consistent computer access as well as sufficient office space for individual student conferences. Their facilities and research support are inadequate. Even worse, these faculty members lack any benefits, including health care, family leave, and retirement investment.
According to the American Association of University Professors, part-time appointments at schools like GW average just over 30 percent of the faculty. However, GW’s statistics exceed national averages. Sixty percent of our faculty is part-timers, and they teach over 40 percent of all sections, according to the most recent data available from the GW Office of Institutional Research. While part-time appointments are often appropriate to fill certain niches, the University relies too heavily on contingent academic labor for the fundamental core courses which should be handled by full-time faculty.
While the usage of part-time faculty members holds certain advantages for GW, their working conditions are clearly inadequate. Reliance on part-time faculty has been identified as a national trend in higher education, but two other national trends are also apparent on our campus: the collective organization of the workers and the advocacy by respected institutions such as the AAUP and the Modern Language Association against the exploitation of these faculty members.
GW is a great school, and we are thrilled to welcome new students like you. The students and faculty who support this movement want GW students to get the best possible education. Our excellent faculty deserves equitable compensation for its labor, and parents and students deserve the most out of their education dollars.
-The writer is the Student Association vice president for graduate policy.