Rally attendees sign petition to try and reach Governor Brown
Events on college campuses across the San Diego region, as well as the rest of the nation, sought on Wednesday (February 25) to call attention to the plight of adjunct professors, part-time teachers who often find themselves shuttling between two or three campuses in order to pick up enough classes to eke out a living.
"The position that I have is defined as a 'temporary, part-time instructor,'" explained Ian Duckles, speaking Wednesday afternoon to a crowd in excess of 100 gathered in front of the student services building at Grossmont College in El Cajon. "A full-time professor is teaching about five classes a semester. I teach seven or eight, and yet somehow I'm classified as a part-time instructor. I don't think that accurately reflects the amount of time I spend in the classroom."
Duckles spends his time shuttling between jobs at Cuyamaca, Mesa, and Miramar Colleges, as well as the University of San Diego.
In recent decades, campuses across the country have been moving away from hiring full-time faculty, opting instead to fill openings with adjuncts who are not subject to the same rules concerning pay, benefits, or tenured employment. The number of classes taught by adjuncts, Duckles says, has risen from 3 percent in the early 1970s to nearly 70 percent today.
"I've been a community college student since the fall of 2011," said Mesa College student and American Federation of Teachers union intern Laura Baeza. "I'm about to transfer to a four-year university, and more than half of my teachers have been adjuncts.
"You can tell the difference between faculty teachers and adjuncts — their stress levels are higher, and visiting during office hours is difficult because they're running from one campus to another."
Still, students don't report a drop-off in the overall quality of their classroom experience when dealing with adjuncts, a fact advocates say justifies their calls for pay and benefits commensurate with their full-time peers.
"There is no statistically significant difference in how students evaluate part-time versus full-time professors," says Gregg Robinson, a full-time faculty member at Grossmont. "There is one significant difference, however. I looked at average income — let's assume they teach an average load of five classes, not considering [the effort of commuting between multiple campuses]. Their average income is about $30,000–$35,000 per year for that effort.
"That's less than a third of what I get paid for the exact same work. Meanwhile, the chancellor of this institution [Grossmont], gets paid about $285,000 per year."
The day of action was originally established by a pair of anonymous adjunct employees at San Jose State, who advocated a mass walkout by part-time teachers. Activities varied by region, with San Diego playing host to a series of rallies attended by as many as a thousand teachers and students, some of whom were enticed by the offer of extra credit for completing an assignment related to the events. Attendees were encouraged to sign letters to governor Jerry Brown asking for additional state funding to boost adjunct pay — around 500 were reported to have been collected.
"A good job has turned into a bad job at an amazing rate — one working generation," lamented Joe Barry, an adjunct professor at the University of Illinois and author of Reclaiming the Ivory Tower, which advocates for unionization and stronger protections for non-tenured teachers. "Unfortunately, it's my working generation."