Non-Tenured Professors: A love for teaching, a lack of funds

Previously published by The Campus

City University of New York adjuncts are compensated around the same amount as part-time minimum wage workers in NYC. When examining how a nation, state, and city value higher education, it is inherently imperative to look at the ways the system is treating those that enrich that environment.

In the CUNY system, adjuncts are nontenure- track professors. As such, they have little to no job security and are often transient employees.

Yet, they keep on teaching. Despite low wages and career instability, adjuncts, teaching assistants, and graduate teaching assistants persist in educating at CUNY’s flagship university: The City College of New York.

“I don’t like being an adjunct, but I like teaching,” Derek Ludovici, an International Studies adjunct, shared.

Ludovici further noted, “What I don’t like about being an adjunct is the lack of security, both the low pay, around $3000 a course, and no real career path. Adjuncts are completely contingent labor and rarely get professorships in schools they work in throughout grad school.” This assertion must be viewed at the very least as frustratingly ironic, as 81% of all CUNY adjuncts would accept a full-time teaching position if offered, according to The Professional Staff Congress, a union that represents 30,000 faculty and staff at CUNY.

Ludovici, who recounted, “A normal day for me is a long day,” is a graduate student, teaches several courses, and works at the Graduate Center.

He is not alone in his exhaustion. In fact, over half of adjuncts “work several jobs to make ends meet,” as reported by PSC. If they choose not to, they have barely enough to thrive in the city. An often overlooked point is that being an adjunct in and of itself is a full time job.

Yun Yang, Visiting Assistant Professor, holds this sentiment. “I am not paid enough. Because the time we spend is not only the time of lecturing, but also the time of preparing and grading. Especially grading will cost much time and it is boring.” Teaching the course Differential Equations, Yang, like most of her colleagues, hopes to continue educating. “I think I have talent in teaching. It is my calling to be a professor in the future,” she gleamed.

Even those who are compensated at higher rates than adjuncts empathize with their counterparts.

Christopher Devlin Brown is a Philosophy graduate student at the CUNY Graduate Center. Brown has been teaching with CUNY for multiple years.

Specializing in philosophy of the mind, Brown enjoys teaching, whether or not his students become philosophical masterminds. “I think their critical thinking skills develop regardless of whether they learned philosophy see these human beings become better at thinking in front of me.”

Brown receives his funding from a fellowship through the Graduate Center philosophy program. Adding to the particularities, Brown does not buy anything frivolous, purchasing only rent, food, and other necessities. He joked, “Why would I even buy things, I don’t know?”

Considering the above, Brown nonetheless concluded, “I wouldn’t complain about the amount of money I make, but adjuncts in general make a bit less than me actually and they really should be paid more.”

There are two main organizations leading the movement to pay adjuncts, specifically those employed by CUNY, more sustainably: PSC and The Adjunct Project. The former, as alluded to above, is “dedicated to advancing the professional lives of its members, enhancing their terms and conditions of employment, and maintaining the strength of the nation’s largest, oldest and most visible urban public university,” as worded on their website,

The latter, located at The Graduate Center on 5th Avenue, works to “raise consciousness about academic labor issues inside and outside CUNY, educate GC adjuncts about ways to address these issues, and activate GC student workers to improve their collective position as workers at CUNY,” expounded upon on their website

PSC and The Adjunct Project’s premiere campaign is “$7K per Course,” which advocates for more than doubling current adjunct’s paycheck. On 7K Advocacy Day on April 24, dozens of adjuncts traveled to Albany to lobby on their own behalf. If this legislation proceeds, CUNY adjuncts will make between $14,000 and $28,000, starkly below the lowest middle class income in NYC, $47,867, as reported by CNN.

With demands on the table, hearts aflame, and a rising generation to educate, both adjuncts and allies are steadfast in raising their voices and their wages.

Design by Carmen Quang

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