Technical details. In December of 2014, we surveyed 1119 people who were on a list as working in adjunct teaching and non-teaching titles. We received 455 responses, at least a 40% response rate. About 10 questionnaires were eliminated because the person wasn’t an adjunct. In one case where an accurate list of adjuncts was provided, the Business School (63 adjuncts in Spring 2015), there was a 39.7% rate of response (25 Business School adjuncts responded).
Because the list was not perfect—it included an unknown number of people who did not respond because they no longer worked at CSI or no longer worked as adjuncts—it is possible that overall as many as 50% of the adjuncts at CSI responded. Several questionnaires were eliminated because the respondent reported not being an adjunct,
The survey had some limitations and analysis is not complete. It was a first-time effort by volunteers, using Survey Monkey. Some of the percentages reported below are based on the entire population of people in adjunct teaching and non-teaching titles, including those with a full-time job. Therefore, percentages may be underestimates on some issues.
Demographics. Half of the respondents had a Master degree, representing the largest group of respondents, the adjunct lecturers. In addition, nearly a third (120) had a PhD, MFA, or other terminal degree, only 9 of whom were full-time CSI faculty/staff who teach an overload at their adjunct pay rate. Non-teaching adjuncts accounted for 33 of the respondents. Women were 58.6% of respondents, and from a quick analysis of samples of the part-time and full-time faculty lists, it appears that women are similarly over-represented in general among faculty on campus. In age, respondents were spread all the way from their early twenties to 75 and above. Interestingly, there was a cluster of 55 people who are saving the University money on health insurance because they are 65 and above and eligible for Medicare.
Outstanding results. The issues that stood out as important to CSI adjuncts were pay, job security, and collegiality (broadly defined). High percentages of respondents wanted a significant raise, an end to uncertainty about whether they’d be reappointed, and inclusion in the life of the college.
Half of the respondents said they would like a full-time teaching job. Another 30% said they would like a regular part-time teaching job. Yet most seemed pessimistic about the chances that the system would change and were focused instead on ways to improve the existing situation. For example, 71% thought adjuncts should be allowed to teach more than 9 credits on the CSI campus. In the comments, respondents suggested having more courses available to adjuncts, preference for adjuncts rather than full-time faculty for summer courses, and an end to CUNY’s opposition to unemployment insurance for adjuncts.
Pay. A majority of adjuncts want a significant pay increase. There were two versions of this option, and together they were by far the most frequently selected as favorite choice. Asked another way, 86% of respondents said pay was a “very important” contract issue.
While it is often said that most people working in adjunct positions do not need to be paid more for this work, in our survey almost 70% said the pay from this adjunct position at CSI was “very important” to their livelihood. In addition, 60% said other people depended on them for a substantial portion of their support. While it is true that a majority of CSI adjuncts also have another source of income, 36% said that this job at CSI is their primary source of income!
Half of the respondents (201 people) said that during their time working as an adjunct they had experienced trouble with their living expenses during the unpaid summer and/or winter breaks. Among the most popular suggestions for how to address this problem were the following:
- the college should provide paid work or paid training during the breaks between terms
- adjuncts should be paid for course preparation
- the pay rate should be increased sufficiently so that adjuncts would be able to survive the summer just like regular K-12 or college teachers
- those who committed to teaching the next term should be given a stipend during the preceding break
- the college should not oppose people’s applications for unemployment insurance.
The pay is so low that several people qualified for public assistance or food stamps during the past year. Yet almost 90% have one or more additional sources of income, most commonly other part time jobs (40%). One of the few other part time jobs that can be coordinated with this kind of changing schedule is another part time teaching job, which likely also is underpaid, resulting in an excessive workload for professional educators trying to cobble together a living wage. As many as 16% are collecting a pension, and 14% are self-employed. A fortunate 34% of adjuncts also have full-time jobs (at CUNY or elsewhere), though several of them said their full-time jobs paid poorly. More than half the respondents said there was another wage earner in the household. (It would be interesting to survey those other members of adjuncts’ households on their feelings about subsidizing CUNY’s “low-paid adjunct labor” habit.)
Job security. The vast majority (81%) want job security and an end to the system where they never know if they’ll be working again in the next term. In one question, slightly more people ranked job security their #1 concern and pay equity #2 than vice versa. The issue of job security was important to adjuncts with full-time jobs as well, for many of them depend on this as part of household income.
While fewer than a quarter had had a class canceled within the last month before the beginning of the term, a full three-quarters said they would like to be paid for the course if it were canceled this late.
Health insurance. Out of 411 who answered this question, 71 have the adjunct health insurance plan and 248 have health insurance from another source. That leaves 92 with no health insurance; 57 say they don’t have it because they aren’t working enough hours and 36 say they have not worked enough previous terms. (It is important to note that even those with the adjunct health insurance plan have no coverage for their dependents.)
Specific policy suggestions. A question listed several policies that have been suggested to improve the situation of adjuncts. The highest ranking policies were the two focused on raising pay to per-course equity with those doing similar work.
|% ranking as “favorite idea”||Policy suggestion|
|Raising the minimum beginning rate for a 3-credit course to $5,000 (endorsed by CUNY and SUNY faculty unions) or $7,230 (recommended by the Modern Language Association in 2010).|
|Increasing the pay rate for all adjunct titles annually until per-course parity is reached with the pay rate of a full-time lecturer.|
|Awarding adjuncts a Certificate of Continuous Employment (similar to tenure) in the adjunct title after 5 years (out of the past 7 years) in the same department and a successful review by the department.|
These “pay equity” choices outranked the Certificate of Continuous Employment, which is word-for-word the specific policy on job security now being negotiated by the PSC for those who have worked 10 semesters. In an unfortunate oversight, the survey didn’t list a policy option of “regularization” after 2 semesters, which has been won at Vancouver Community College in British Columbia. So we don’t know how many adjuncts would have chosen as their favorite or second favorite idea a form of job security that would also apply to the 60% of adjuncts who haven’t served 10 semesters.
Collegiality, inclusion, and respect. In many ways, adjuncts expressed a desire to participate in the collegiality and intellectual life of the college. Of the teaching adjuncts, 90% said that academic freedom was either “extremely important” or “very important” to them. Many respondents reported going to meetings, trainings and activities. Others said they cannot be as involved on campus as they wish, for a variety of reasons. Yet 40% said a voice in governance was “very important” to them.
One excuse often heard for paying adjunct faculty so little in comparison with tenure-track faculty is that only tenure track faculty do research. However, 30% of adjuncts in this survey said they are conducting their own research and 41% said that support for research and travel to conferences was “very important.” Several adjunct faculty reiterated in written comments how important it is for the university and the students that faculty conduct research. Some complained about feeling isolated and disconnected from the college and from colleagues.
The respect issue is a big one. Comments were allowed on many of the questions, and many people took this opportunity to share sarcastic observations about the way we are treated.
Office space. Almost no adjunct had a desk of his/her own, much less a private office, unless it was an adjunct with a full-time job at the campus who was teaching a course as an adjunct at night. What’s worse, at least 19 wrote in that they had no office space at all.
Conclusion. Faculty working conditions are student learning conditions. And 68% of respondents agreed with the statement, “With better pay and working conditions I would be able to do a better job in my adjunct position.” Anecdotally, some of those who disagreed or were neutral on that question objected to any implication that they were not already doing their very best in the job despite the suboptimal pay and working conditions.