Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Campus Equity Week Issue #1: Towards Equity in Compensation for Contingent Faculty

Paying part-time contingent faculty substantially less than other faculty in other positions that require comparable work, responsibilities, and qualifications is arbitrary, unsustainable, and unfair.

Every group that has ever studied these issues has concluded that the end goal should be some form of equity.  For instance:
  • NCTE: Compensation, per course, for part-time faculty should never be lower than the per-course compensation for tenure-line faculty with comparable experience, duties, and credentials.
  • AHA/OAH: Fair salaries, proportional to tenured and tenure-track faculty compensation for comparable teaching, advising and service work.
  • AAUP: Positions that require comparable work, responsibilities, and qualifications should be comparably compensated.
  • AFT: Part-time/adjunct faculty should be paid a salary proportionate to that paid full-time tenured faculty of the same qualifications for doing the same work.
SUNY Fredonia is not alone among colleges and universities in being a long way from achieving this kind of campus equity.  The only real questions remaining are:  what form should that equity take? how close can we afford to get to it right now? what long-term plan can we develop for achieving it?

While different campuses might answer these questions in different ways, Fredonia should take its cue from the contract governing terms and conditions of employment for faculty and professionals in the SUNY system.  According to the 2007-2011 Agreement between the State of New York and United University Professions, the salary minima for every full-time rank are:
  • Instructor: $32,945
  • Lecturer/Assistant Professor: $37,706
  • Associate Professor: $44,608
  • Professor: $55,283
Supposing that a 4/4 (24-credit) teaching load is the normal full-time course load for faculty who do not have any service or research expectations (and hence that tenure-stream faculty with lower teaching loads than 4/4 are replacing the courses they otherwise would have been teaching with their service and research), then we arrive at the following minimum rates of compensation per credit hour for each full-time rank:
  • Instructor: $1373/credit hour
  • Lecturer/Assistant Professor: $1571/credit hour (+$198/CH or +14.4%)
  • Associate Professor: $1859/credit hour (+$288/CH or +18.3%)
  • Professor: $2303/credit hour (+$444/CH or +23.9%)
When the 2011-2016 Agreement is published, expect those minima to rise about 2%.  However, for the purposes of establishing a university-wide floor for starting part-time contingent faculty compensation, the Lecturer’s minimum is most relevant, as Lecturers are not required to do any service or research.  It is difficult to understand what would justify the difference in compensation between a full-time contingent faculty member with a Lecturer’s appointment and a part-time contingent faculty member with some other rank or title.  Supposing Lecturers receive higher compensation because of a real difference in their expertise and hence in the kinds of courses they are assigned to teach, how large should that premium be relative to a minimum for starting part-time contingent faculty members?

How have other SUNY schools answered that question?  For the 2011-2012 academic year, SUNY Cortland’s university-wide floor was $863/credit hour, according to the most recent version of their Handbook for Academic and Professional Part-Time Employees that we could find.  At Cortland, then, Lecturers received a premium of $708/credit hour, or about 82%!  In March 2013, SUNY Oswego’s Provost announced the following university-wide floor agreement:  $950/credit hour (retroactive to the start of Spring 2013), $984/credit hour (effective Fall 2013), $1018/credit hour (effective Fall 2014). Currently at Oswego, then, the premium is $587/credit hour, or nearly 60%!  (At Oswego, by the way, an adjunct hired in 1992 made $770/credit hour; in March 2012, the Oswego UUP Chapter pointed out that if that amount were adjusted only for the rate of inflation over the previous 20 years, an adjunct hired in 2012 would make $1249/credit hour.)

When you consider that the 2007-2011 Agreement posits a premium for full professors relative to starting assistant professors of $732/credit hour, or about 46.6%, then equity starts to cut both ways.  The lower you set the university-wide floor for starting part-time contingent faculty, the more unfair the Agreement seems to those in the tenure stream!

Nobody doubts SUNY salaries are low across the board.  After all, the Modern Language Association recommends a floor of $2363/credit hour for the 2013-2014 academic year, which is more than the current floor for full professors.  The Mayday $5K! Campaign proposes a floor of $1667/credit hour, which is more than the current floor for assistant professors.  Clearly SUNY, the Division of Budget, and the Governor would have to agree to raise compensation rates for all faculty if they were to accept floors this high for part-time contingent faculty members.  But there's nothing stopping individual SUNY campuses from deciding on their own, right now, to set their own university-wide floors at some fraction of the $1571/credit hour floor for full-time lecturers.

As campus leaders work together to determine what that fraction should be, they should keep in mind that the national average for part-time faculty compensation is about $996/credit hour, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s Adjunct Project.  In 2010, the median for contingent faculty in the Mid East was $1000/credit hour, the median for contingent faculty represented by a union was $1033/credit hour, and the median for contingent faculty represented by a union and working at Master’s-level institutions was $1200/credit hour, according to the Coalition on the Academic Workforce’s June 2012 Portrait of Part-Time Faculty Workers (p. 11 and Tables 24 and 25).

Also worth considering is what percentage of the overall campus budget, of the budget for Academic Affairs, of the adjunct budget, and of the fixed adjunct budget it would cost the campus to move to different university-wide floors in a given year and/or over several years.  Every estimate the leaders of the Fredonia Chapter of United University Professions have run suggests that doing the right thing for the most vulnerable and underpaid members of the bargaining unit and university will have a miniscule impact on these budgets.

Further Resources

  • SUNY Cortland, Handbook for Academic and Professional Part-Time Employees
  • SUNY Oswego Provost Memo, “Adjunct Base and Extra Service Funding” (8 March 2013)
  • SUNY Oswego UUP Chapter, “The Case for Increasing Adjunct Salaries” (26 March 2012)
Professional Associations
Other Organizations

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