Adjunct professors take deal for 3 percent pay increase

Adjunct professor Philip Muehlenbeck teaches a U.S. diplomatic history class. Professors like Muehlenbeck will receive a 3 percent pay raise after the adjunct union ratified its third contract with the University last week. Hatchet File Photo

Updated Aug. 15, 2012 at 11:58 a.m.

This post was written by Hatchet staff writer Aliya Karim.

Adjunct professors secured a wage increase and approval for a dispute resolution committee after GW’s part-time professor union finalized its third contract with the University last week.

The University will pay adjunct professors with Ph.D.s $4,032 per course, a 3 percent increase that is just enough to keep up with inflation but less than union vice president and adjunct music professor Kip Lornell’s initial target of nearly $5,000 per course.

University officials and the union agreed on the contract in mid-July, but union officials finished tallying professors’ votes to ratify the contract Aug. 9. Adjuncts represent nearly three-fourths of faculty and teach about half the courses at GW.

Lornell said the pay raise satisfied the union, but still low-balled the value of adjunct professors, who often have real-world expertise in their fields and work at federal agencies and businesses.

“We’re asked to do exactly the same work, so we want equal pay for equal work for equally well-qualified people,” Lornell said.

University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said in an e-mail that officials were “pleased” to strike a deal on its third contract with the adjunct union.

“We believe that the terms of the agreement represent a fair and appropriate framework for the part-time faculty.  We look forward to continuing the constructive relationship that was established during the terms of the first two contracts,” Sherrard said.

Full-time faculty are typically tasked with more university commitments than adjuncts, taking on research, committee service and advising. Adjunct professors usually teach part-time at other universities or work second jobs.

According to the American Association of University Professors, GW paid regular instructors – the lowest rung for full-time professor – an average $62,400 last year, while it paid full professors – the highest rank – an average $152,000.

Salaries for full-time professors at GW are typically in middle of the pack among its 14 market basket schools. Universities do not have to release average salaries for adjunct professors.

The contract also gives teeth to a labor-management committee, which will bring adjuncts and University officials together to settle disputes, like respect and working conditions, or issues that the contract does not spell out.

“This signals a change in attitude on the part of GW that they will now be willing to sit down and talk about important issues,” Lornell said.

This committee was included in earlier contracts but meetings were never held, said Ed Grefe, an adjunct professor of grassroots and community advocacy. Now, the labor-management committee will hold at least three meetings per academic year with adjuncts, department chairs and other full-time faculty members.

Grefe has often criticized the University for putting off issues with part-time professors, comparing GW’s treatment of adjuncts to “a caste system at the University in which we are made to feel like the untouchables of India.”

“We finally got what we have sought in both of the first two contracts. [This is] a sincere commitment to move forward towards a time when adjunct and part-time faculty are viewed and treated as equal partners in the academic community,” he added.

Born out of a legal battle with the University, the union – part of the Service Employees International Union Local 500 – formed in 2006.  It has helped adjunct faculty wages increase by more than $1,000 per course, created formal job security for professors who have taught the same course for four years and expanded evaluation of teaching performance.

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