TU instructors, students acknowledge National Adjunct Walkout Day

By: Nilo Exar, Staff Writer

 

On Wednesday, Feb. 25, adjuncts at Towson from the English Language Center hosted a walkout in accordance with the first “National Adjunct Walkout Day” nationwide.

Faculty from Towson’s English Language Center, which provides classes and support for international students, began the walkout in the Loch Raven room of the University Union before marching with signs through the Liberal Arts building and into Freedom Square.

Adjuncts were protesting a lack of “equal pay, job security and higher salaries,” according to Monica Dominguez, an adjunct instructor in the English Language Center.

According to Dominguez, nationally, 70 percent of professors at colleges are adjunct faculty members, and said that same percentage, 70 percent, were adjuncts in the English department.

However, Maggie Reitz, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs said that the number was much lower for Towson.

“[In the 2014-2015 year], 31 percent of all class sections were taught by adjuncts, 2,882 class sections,” Reitz said.

Dominguez said that despite tuition increasing, colleges were moving to hire more adjuncts. Adjuncts are paid a lower salary than full-time professors and usually save a college or university money, since adjuncts are paid based on how many credit hours they teach. She also mentioned that there was no union or organization advocating for adjuncts rights on campus.

Despite this lower pay, adjuncts are tasked with performing the same duties as full-time professors and instructors.  Since they are usually capped at nine credit hours per semester, adjuncts often have to work at multiple institutions to make ends meet.

Sara Rose, who was a language specialist and instructor for the English Language Center from 1990 to 2012 with the exception of three years, said that it was often difficult for her to balance her time between all the institutions she taught at.

“Every place demands a lot on you… You have to do what [a full-time] instructor has to do and be torn between three or four places,” Rose said.

However, Reitz said that there are representatives from each college at the University that regularly meet with her and can bring forth concerns and that there are multiple events throughout the spring semester that she will be attending.  Reitz said that she thought there might be a disconnect between adjuncts and administration, as she thought some adjuncts might not know that there are ways to voice concerns with the administration.

“Adjuncts can contact the college dean to see who their representative is. Any time they see me around campus, they can come talk to me,” Reitz said.

The topic of adjunct payment is also a contentious issue in adjunct rights.  Dominguez said that she knew of adjuncts who were struggling to support themselves on adjunct-level pay.

“There are stories now of adjuncts that are homeless or on food stamps,” Dominguez said.

Adjuncts are paid a salary for each course they teach. Reitz said that payment of adjuncts had increased in past years, and that Towson University was in the middle of the pack when it came to adjunct payment. According to Reitz, adjuncts were paid $2,350 for a three-credit course in 2006, $2,500 in 2009, and $3,000 in 2012.  Reitz did note that because of budget cuts, payments may stall for adjuncts.

“Obviously this year when we’re having to cut our budget, it would be very difficult to do that. For this spring, we have 793 distinct people so it makes it hard to increase,” Reitz said.

Reitz also said that there are opportunities for adjunct advancement in place at Towson, and according to a document from Towson’s website, adjuncts who “have a consistent record of high-quality instruction” can reach “Adjunct II” level if they meet a set of requirements. These requirements include having taught three years and a cumulative 12 credit hours at the university and “a series of high-level performance evaluations.”

According to the same document, Adjunct II faculty are compensated 10 percent “above the base for Adjunct Faculty I.”

Rose said that despite the difficulties of being an adjunct, Towson was one of the only school that provided full-time employment opportunities for adjuncts in the ESL program.  However, she said more support for adjuncts is always welcome.

“I think there should be at least some benefits, more of a support system,” Rose said. “I stayed for the love of teaching, and I think that’s true of most adjuncts.”

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