By Kimberly Simmons, Part-time Faculty, LAC, Sociology, and Women and Gender Studies
I appreciated the recent article by Sam Margolin in the Free Press detailing the challenges that were posed by the 2014 retrenchments and the slow rebuilding happening today. One piece of the puzzle that was not addressed is the increasing reliance on part-time contingent faculty members and the potentially negative consequences this has for teaching and learning. In 2017, the office of institutional research reported that 60 percent of faculty were employed as part-time workers. For a three credit class, the pay ranges from $2841 to $4755. The highest pay is reserved for those of us with 20 or more semesters of teaching behind us. This compensation includes course development, a 15-week semester, and grading. If students need extra help, letters of recommendation, personal support or any other connection outside of the classroom, that labor is done for free. Similarly, participating in department sponsored events or functions is volunteer work. Most part-time faculty teach because we love our field, love students and believe in public education. Students often don’t know who among their teachers is part-time or what that means. Nevertheless, a university cannot be revitalized on the backs of a contingent and underpaid workforce. The work of a university faculty member extends beyond the individual course. Using adjuncts to offer occasional unique supplementary courses or to cover an emergency gap is a one thing; the dependence on an entire cadre of adjuncts to balance a budget is another thing entirely. I hope we will bring more conversations about workers into the next phase of rebuilding USM.