Part-time professors fight for higher wages

Correction appended

Part-time professors want the University to pay them as much as their cross-town counterparts.

In a May 8 meeting, the adjunct faculty union began negotiating a steep pay hike and better treatment for part-time professors – who represent nearly three-fourths of faculty and teach about half the courses at GW – looking to bring compensation up to par with Georgetown University’s rate.

Talks to renew a third contract for the adjunct union, formed in 2006 to negotiate improved wages and benefits for professors who are touted for bringing real-world experience to the classroom, will continue Monday.

Union vice president and adjunct music professor Kip Lornell said part-time faculty salaries have slipped behind those of other universities since 2010. Non-unionized part-time faculty at Georgetown earn about $5,000 per course, he said, about 28 percent higher than GW’s minimum of $3,915 for part-time professors with Ph.D.’s.

“In terms of being treated collegially, in terms of being treated in a respectful way, the message is mixed,” Lornell said. “We’ve been told, if you don’t like your salary, too bad, go find another job.”

Negotiations come on the heels of American University’s adjunct faculty vote to unionize in February, giving GW’s union more momentum. Adjunct professors at American typically earn about $3,000 to $4,000 per course.

The University’s adjuncts made headlines in 2006 by becoming the nation’s third part-time faculty core to unionize, after the U.S. Court of Appeals ordered GW to collectively bargain.

Montgomery College, a community college in Maryland, is the only other area school to recognize an adjunct faculty union.

Since the union formed, the minimum pay for many adjunct professors has increased by more than $1,000 per course. Part-time professors have also ensured greater job security, as administrators cannot use solely student evaluations to judge merit. In the last union contract in 2010, adjunct faculty received a 3 percent pay raise.

But Ed Grefe, an adjunct professor who has taught at GW for more 15 years, said the divide between full-time faculty and adjuncts still feels like a “caste system.” He added that adjunct professors who have stayed at the University for more than a decade rarely see higher pay, a stark disparity between part-time and full-time professors who earn tenure.

“Many [adjuncts] have the same academic credentials and are often lauded by students for the work they do, and I think that notion of respect needs to extend into the whole process,” said Grefe, who teaches in the Graduate School of Political Management.

About 2,785 part-time professors teach at GW, according to a February report by Provost Steven Lerman, about 1,100 of which are represented by the adjunct union called the Service Employees International Union Local 500.

Nearly all of those professors are paid per course – not by merit – and only have teaching duties, Lornell said, often earning just the minimum compensation, while full-time faculty are expected to also take on a research load, serve on committees and advise students. Adjunct faculty typically either teach part-time at other universities or work second jobs that add to their expertise in their field.

Regular part-time faculty members who, unlike most adjuncts, also serve on committees and pitch in with administrative needs, earn $21,630 annually.

Lornell said he could not yet comment on a specific target for the salary raise because of ongoing negotiations, but added, “I can just tell you that we’re asking for more money, in particular, in line with Georgetown and what they pay their part-time faculty.”

Through the Office of Media Relations, Lerman said he could not comment on the negotiations.

“They are just starting [negotiations] right now, and while they’re underway, we literally can’t say anything,” Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs C. Dianne Martin said.

The union expects to strike a deal with the University, Lornell said, despite the “philosophical divide between the University and faculty about how part time faculty should be compensated.”

The University’s full faculty members saw a 3 percent bump in pay this year, earning on average $152,000, according to data released by the American Association of University Professors last month.

Cheryl Vann, an adjunct professor in the University Honors Program and member of the union’s bargaining team, said that split has grown beyond adequate pay for adjuncts and respect for their teaching has come up short.

“Adjunct faculty are clearly an integral part of a GW student’s experience, and students rely heavily on various kinds of support from adjunct faculty,” Vann said. “Yet GW’s appreciation for adjunct faculty contributions basically manifests itself in an annual reception.”

Cory Weinberg contributed to this report.

This article was updated May 14 and 19, 2012 to reflect the following:
Due to a reporting error, The Hatchet stated that full-time faculty members earned on average $152,000 this year. Full professors, the University’s highest-ranking professors, earned that sum on average. All full-time professors did not. Full-time professors also include associate professors, assistant professors and instructors, who earned on average $103,100, $84,200 and $62,000 this year, respectively. The print headline also referred to the union’s activities as a “fight for fair wages.” While the union described the wages as unfair, The Hatchet does not have a position on this issue.

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