WASHINGTON—Monday marks the beginning of Campus Equity Week, Oct. 26-30, aimed at drawing attention to the exploitation of low-wage adjunct and contingent faculty at American colleges and universities, and to the impact of colleges’ staffing decisions on students.
On campuses throughout the country, faculty will be circulating the AFT’s nationwide petition to the Department of Labor to expand access to unemployment insurance to adjuncts. And at other campuses from California to Ohio to New York, the AFT’s adjunct and contingent members will be distributing petitions and surveys, holding membership drives and rallies, providing students and faculty with information about adjunct poverty, and fighting for job security, higher wages and better working conditions.
Despite the popular image of tweed-wearing college professors, the majority of faculty today are struggling to fight their way into the middle class:
- Contingent faculty—including adjuncts/part-time faculty, full-time nontenure-track faculty, and graduate employees—now represent 75 percent of the higher education instructional workforce.
- Adjuncts are paid an average of $2,700 per class with few or no benefits—below the minimum wage for a typical lecture class.
- Adjuncts themselves usually have advanced degrees, and their student loan debt situation is even worse than it is for other students—averaging $43,000 for graduate school debt.
As the largest higher education union in the country, the AFT is committed to fighting for economic and professional justice for all of our 225,000-plus higher education members—including more than 70,000 adjuncts—at more than 300 locals.
Representative of our affiliate work nationally, United Academics of Philadelphia, the AFT’s Philadelphia metro-region adjunct faculty union, is raising the bar at Temple University. On Monday, students, faculty and community members will rally and march through campus, giving an “adjunct tour” to shine a light on skyrocketing tuition, the university’s disinvestment in support for students and faculty, and its gentrification of North Philadelphia. Marchers will be carrying a 60-foot banner of personal stories from the 1,400 adjuncts who teach on campus and who will be voting to join the AFT in the coming weeks.
AFT President Randi Weingarten had the following to say about Campus Equity Week: “To strengthen the middle class, we need high-quality, affordable higher education and strong unions. That will help make a difference for this inequitable and exploitative environment. For too many Americans—increasingly including adjuncts and contingent faculty members, who are the majority of the higher education instructional workforce—too many obstacles are standing in the way of the American dream. Unless and until institutions reward the dedicated teachers who teach most of the classes in higher education with the job security and pay that they deserve, America will be shortchanging students. And while we fight each day to fix this broken system, this week represents an opportunity for our members to engage and educate parents, students and colleagues on the exploitation of part-time higher education faculty.”