Where is the Support for Adjuncts?

Adjunct faculty at the University of Minnesota have partnered with the Service Employees International Union in an attempt to form a union, but why?

Adjuncts at the University teach many classes in every department at the University and they believe they are not being fairly compensated for it. Some adjuncts work several jobs on top of teaching courses at the University just to afford to pay the bills..

The average salary for a professor in 2013 was around $135,000, while the average pay for adjuncts during the same year was around $48,000. A difference of $83,000, according to a report by the Minnesota Daily.

While the University of Minnesota pays its professors higher salaries than other Big 10 schools, it pays faculty based on what they bring to the school, according to the Minnesota Daily. The professors hired on top salaries are often teaching in departments like math and engineering, fields that are in high demand when compared to the arts.

An adjunct teaching position is very similar to that of a professor, but adjuncts, by a dictionary definition “are a thing added to something else as a supplementary rather than an essential part.”

That definition is simply not true in the case of adjunct teaching positions at the University. Thousands of classes are taught by adjuncts, who receive little to no fringe benefits, significantly lower pay than professors, and less than adequate facilities in which to work. Some adjuncts around the nation report having no office to work in.

These positions are contract based and usually only last one year. Teachers must reapply to keep their jobs. One adjunct faculty member on the University of Minnesota Academics United webpage, a site dedicated to advocacy on the issue, says he has worked for the University for 10 years entirely on one-year contracts.

Unionization of the adjunct faculty would allow adjuncts to fight for better pay and benefits as one voice, rather than a disorganized collection of disgruntled employees.

This is not just an epidemic in Minnesota, it is happening across the nation. The state of Louisiana is facing massive budget cuts, and adjuncts are getting hit by these cuts harder than most. As budget cuts become increasingly common, tuition rates rise, and more spending goes toward other things, there is only so much money remaining in the budget for paying teaching staff.

-Matthew Weber