Updated: Feb. 10, 2023 at 5:35 p.m.
Administrators and adjunct faculty union officials ratified a collective bargaining agreement last month, providing part-time faculty with an increased base salary and their first contractual raise in four years.
The agreement, a contract between GW and the Service Employees International Union Local 500 that will remain viable until 2025, issued a 10 percent raise to regular part-time faculty’s annual base salary effective this spring and could increase all other part-time faculty member’s base salary from $4,467 to $5,000 by fall 2024. The new agreement follows an 18-month negotiation process between union leaders and officials that left part-time faculty without an official agreement for about 17 months, marking the longest stretch without an agreement between the union and GW over the past 14 years.
Union leaders said they were negotiating with officials to institute “equity” for part-time faculty members’ compensation through increasing salaries, benefits and professional-experience recognition for adjuncts.
“Our relationship is characterized by a spirit of professionalism, collegiality and cooperation toward a common objective or providing an exceptional educational experience for the University’s students,” the agreement states.
The agreement also doubled the amount of money adjuncts can request from the Part-Time Faculty Professional Development Fund to $1400 per fiscal year, which can be used to pay for occupational expenses like traveling to conferences.
University spokesperson Julia Metjian said officials are “pleased” they reached a “mutually acceptable” Collective Bargaining Agreement with SEIU Local 500 officials.
“The University is grateful for the contributions of its part-time faculty and their commitment to providing an exceptional educational experience for our students and advancing the academic mission,” she said in an email.
Adjunct faculty members said while the increased salary and benefits guaranteed in the new CBA are “notable,” their salary is still not enough in terms of the qualifications adjuncts bring to GW.
The University employed 277 more part-time faculty members than full-time faculty members during the 2021-22 academic year, according to institutional data. Part-time faculty taught about 42 percent of classes at GW during the 2021-22 academic year, according to last year’s Core Indicators report.
On average, GW pays full-time professors $186,000, associate professors $118,000 and assistant professors $101,000, according to the report. The new CBA raises the salary of regular part-time professors salary to $27,175 this semester.
Kip Lornell, the head of the adjunct faculty union and an adjunct professor of music, said the increases to the part-time base salary and the professional development fund are “significant,” but GW’s adjunct pay and benefits still lack in comparison to other D.C. universities, like Georgetown and Howard universities.
GW’s increased part-time base salary is $2,000 less than the part-time base salary at Georgetown University, which, as of 2019, pays adjuncts a minimum of $7,000 per course of three or more credits they teach.
“It gets kind of frustrating when the University talks about the local marketplace for adjuncts, and you’ve heard me say this before – we point three miles away, and we say their minimum is 50 percent more,” he said.
Lornell said the negotiation for the new CBA was the longest process since administrators and union officials deliberated on the very first CBA for three years. Officials ratified the first CBA between the union and GW in 2008, after a three-year legal fight where GW challenged the unionization efforts of part-time faculty in 2004.
“First agreements are always time-consuming because there’s no template for them, and even though we’re in many ways inventing a whole process, both sides had trouble coming up with dates when everybody could meet,” he said.
Lornell said two adjunct faculty members from GW Law who are registered attorneys served on the union’s bargaining team, which played a significant role in negotiations because they could share their expertise in contract law to help other members understand provisions in the CBA. He said moving forward, the union hopes to recruit more active members so union leadership positions do not go unfilled if current leaders decide to retire.
“There has to be other people who step up and become part of leadership,” he said. “So that’s an ongoing issue, in any volunteer organization, is leadership and finding fresh blood. And certainly, the part-time faculty union at GW is no different than most other organizations.”
Lornell said while he feels “comfortable” being a part of GW’s music department because it hosts a high number of part-time faculty, he has heard that adjunct professors in other departments are made to feel “disposable” and like they could be easily replaced. He said the University improved outreach efforts to part-time faculty over the past two years, which he hopes officials will continue.
“Some departments will tell you that they respect part-time faculty, but I’m not sure it’s as much respectability as one might hope for,” he said. “But I’m sure there are also full-time faculty who feel the same way. To be fair to the University, they have done more small things for outreach, like inviting new faculty to a kind of ‘Welcome to GW, here’s some of the things you should know.’”
An adjunct faculty member who requested to remain anonymous due to fear of retaliation said they accepted their position at GW knowing that they would be paid “very badly” but wanted to work at the University to connect with students.
“It’s very satisfying to work with students who are smart and eager to learn,” they said. “So you know, I said, ‘Okay, forget it, I’m not doing this for the money.’”
They said adjunct faculty are “significantly underpaid” when considering their professional qualifications, like experience working for governmental institutions like the World Bank, which they can apply to their course curriculum.
“They’re not academics who wrote their dissertation 30 years ago and have been in the ivory tower since,” they said. “They are people who have actually worked on these issues, and they speak with, I would argue, as much or more authority on certain issues than the tenured faculty.”
Ernie Abbott, a professorial lecturer of law, said although he did not review the CBA closely, any increase in salary that the new agreement provides is “welcome.” Abbott said as a full-time practicing attorney, his position as an adjunct faculty member is not his primary source of income.
“When you’re in the full-time practice of law and a firm, at least in Washington, that’s where the primary compensation, monetary compensation for me is,” he said. “And I would expect that’s the case for all of the adjuncts who are still practicing law.”
Barrett Pitner, a part-time lecturer of media and public affairs, said while he and other part-time faculty can’t “complain” about the CBA’s increase to pay and benefits, it is “absurd” that GW does not pay adjuncts at an equitable rate to what the University pays full-time faculty.
Part-time faculty received about a 10 percent pay raise during the past decade, while full professors and assistant professors received 19 and 17 percent salary increases during the same period, respectively.
“GW is not a cheap institution, and they still rely on a whole segment of faculty not being paid the amount that other faculty get,” he said. “These classes are essential. If there’s a business model where people are essential workers, you have to have them. But you can’t pay them the amount that you pay somebody else that does the same job?”
This post has been updated to correct the following:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the new CBA will increase the salary of all adjunct faculty. The new CBA could increase the base salary of all part-time base faculty if they receive the part-time minimum. We regret this error. The Hatchet also clarified the CBA issued a 10 percent raise to regular part-time faculty’s annual base salary.
This article appeared in the January 30, 2023 issue of the Hatchet.