Eye Opening Testimony from Adjunct Professors - We Can Do Better Than This!
Clark College adjuncts share their experiences in their own words…
Answering the call to offer my testimony and doing so anonymously is in and of
itself an indication of the working conditions for Adjuncts at Clark College. I work
in fear. That’s my testimony in a nutshell. I fear losing hours as we lose students.
I fear losing my job for the same reason; however, I also fear losing my job if I
speak up and offer a differing opinion. I fear losing my job, being replaced by a
younger adjunct. Those are fears. Fact is, we cannot input into the systems,
conditions and curriculum that we work in and under. At lease some of us cannot.
Yet we must work under those conditions and within the curriculum set out by
Tenured and fulltime instructors. Whether or not those conditions and curriculum
are correct. We put in just as many hours structuring our courses and correcting
assignments, yet we are not paid for this time. Fulltime and tenured instructors
are. I know we all know this, but it makes me feel unappreciated, almost like a
second-class citizen having to take a back set to others. I feel disenfranchised as
I cannot input. And I live and work in fear. I must ask, is this why we earned a
It should be remembered that students get the same value in the credits they
earn from adjuncts but adjuncts work with a great deal of uncertainty and also
our working conditions are dismal. I share/d a windowless office with 6 other
faculty members. The office is used as a storage room from time to time – so I
have not gone back there for over 2 years. It is not possible to meet with students
there so I meet with them in different places and work at home using my own
equipment at my expense. Instead, tenure track or tenured faculty have large
private offices with windows, college equipment and support. It is shameful!
I have an impeccable track record and credentials but some classes I could
teach are given to administrators who are moonlighting.
There is favoritism and a lack of opportunity to bid on classes or projects.
Today, I was speaking with another adjunct. We independently had come to the
same conclusion. We are seeing younger adjuncts being hired in our department
and older adjuncts hours being reduced. I also had the same conversation with a
tenured instructor close to retirement who said the same thing. She couldn’t help
but notice younger adjuncts being hired while older ones either remaining
stagnate in hours or losing hours.
Would it be helpful if we were to break down the hours to show how much we
really make? I did that last year, and discovered I make about $1.24 per hour
(not counting gas costs and sitting in traffic).
Since we are paid for "lecture hours" and nothing else it is somehow conveniently
assumed that we do not put in time for prep or grading. When you have 44
students, like I do this term, if you are to provide any worthwhile feedback, that
really adds up. It adds up regardless of 25 or 50 students!
I have been told many times that I am "much better" and the "best" professor
students ever had at Clark. I HIGHLY doubt that. I think it is more that professors
decide that there is no way they can provide the kind of feedback students
deserve and be compensated fairly. I am simply obsessive and a workaholic and
do things that are not in my best interest, like work all day today on my day off
(due to the holiday) on grading and prep I will not be paid for. I hate sounding like
a martyr so I have never shared any of this. I feel like I should just be quiet and
be grateful (like a good little female).
I would venture a guess that students would receive much more personalized
service and interaction from their adjunct professors if the professors weren't
busy with other jobs they must work in order to be able to teach and b) the
professors felt they were being paid fairly and not taken advantage of.
I can see my level of engagement declining as time goes on and I am getting
very weary of working my full-time job in Portland (marketing director for a book
publisher who wants me to triple sales from last year), rushing to my class, fitting
in grading at night and on weekends, and spending the rest of my time trying to
find loans and other means of making ends meet (rent, food, student loan
payments, medicine, etc). My employer allows me to teach my class on MW, but
I have to make up the time on nights and weekends (I am hourly).
Of course no one wants to speak out. I know I am nervous because I do not want
anyone to think I am not grateful for my position at Clark and the opportunities it
provides me to reach students with the life changing knowledge and skills
sociology provides. Or that I am starting to burn out and might be a slacker, so
get rid of her. There are plenty of others standing in line who would love the
chance to have my position at Clark.
I am overwhelmed. I am not a slacker. Something has got to give; I just wish so
much that my hard work and dedication, which is QUANTIFIABLE, would be
recognized with compensation that recognizes my effort and skill.
This whole thing makes me feel like we adjuncts are begging for a favor.
We are simply saying we are valuable, our contributions are essential, and
fairness dictates increased compensation. Paying us at 1960 rates because they
can get away with it because we so value our roles, while others continue to
receive fair compensation and health benefits, is inexcusable and even cruel. It is
not like decision makers are unaware. I understand that budgets are tough and
enrollments are down. I say it is highly likely that one of the reasons enrollment is
down could be due to less than stellar experiences with professors who are burnt
out, tired, disillusioned, disappointed, and hopeless.
We all know that there are correlations.
It is so vital, especially in our current climate, to educate our citizens so they can
make informed decisions. True education is a two-way enterprise. When one
considers the tuition for the students in my class of 44, and what I am
compensated, it is masochistic for me to say, "Thank you, may I have another?"
But I do, because every term my students tell me they are better human beings,
vow to be better friends, partners, parents, citizens, because of my class. What
an incredible opportunity, what an amazing gift, for me. I do not want to lose it.
On the other hand, I have been working hard since I was 12 years old. I am 58. I
just wish that for once in my life I could go from one month to the next in my
Toyota without worrying about how I am going to pay the rent. Literally.
Virginia Solan, Sociology and Criminal Justice Instructor
I have been with Clark College Nursing program since 2002 as a clinical instructor. In
2008 I left my practice in acute care to just work for the nursing program. I had found
that I loved teaching nursing students. From being an adjunct staff member, I went on
to become an affiliated adjunct member teaching both in the clinical setting and in the
skills/simulation lab. During my long history with the Nursing Program I have seen the
challenges that the tenured, full time staff had had to go through-putting in amazingly
long hours doing class work and administrative duties, while still supporting the nursing
students. In 2018 I was given an opportunity to teach a class due to the fact that there
were not enough tenured track instructors to do so. Currently I teach one theory course
and oversee two other theory/skill courses (and still put in two days in the simulation
lab). While I do not have the administrative duties like the lead instructor, I work in
collaboration with her and also meet the needs of the students who are taking the
classes I teach. I know that my earnings are below those of a tenure track full time
instructor. I do what I do for the love of the profession and the students, but I also
realize that what I do is worth more than I am earning. It is time for the administration
and the board of trustees to recognize the hard work that nursing instructors (full and
part-time) do. We have every right to earn a competitive wage.
I keep thinking about stories that have happened as adjuncts, and one (of many)
that come to mind for me is that it took an extra three years to get my five-year
review. So for eight years I was kept below the threshold for getting benefits. I
was told it was an oversight. I’ve also been told that some people should
probably consider other options in terms of employment, and yet, I’m still here.
Over the years, I’ve had people evaluate me and never write up a review, telling
me it’s coming, and then after three attempts to get it, nothing. I’ve also had
really good reviews from some who aren’t part of the inner circle, and once VP
Tim Cook came into my classroom and joined the conversation and afterwards
told me, it was one of the best classes he’d been in for a long time, so I don’t
know what to think. I suck. I’m great. All I know is I’m an idiot for sticking around.
But I love teaching, so here I am.