I teach English at APSU as an adjunct instructor – one of the 323 instructors at APSU that are contracted on a course-by-course basis with shockingly low pay, no health/retirement benefits, no job security, inadequate work space, unwieldy schedules, and little to no departmental regard. Despite teaching for 10 years at this institution, I am still a third-class citizen, an outcast, of which most students are unaware.
I heard the call to teach when I was younger, but it took me 30 years to heed it. This was in large part because I had to be OK with an annual pay cut from $145K in the corporate marketing world to $20K, which I don’t regret. After all, given my love of literature and a broad base of experience in public speaking and cross-cultural relations, teaching came naturally to me, and my student evaluations prove my dedication and skill in the profession.
Factoring in prep, grading, and student meetings, most conscientious English instructors agree that they put in at least ten hours of work each week for each three-hour course they teach. Hence, teaching four courses in a semester is a 40 hour/week job, but without the living wage, health care benefits and basic human respect. In fact, pay for adjunct faculty in Tennessee hasn’t been raised statewide in over 20 years, and colleges are becoming increasingly dependent on our cheap labor. By conservative estimates, adjunct instructors make up over one third of all faculty at Tennessee public higher education institutions (at APSU that number is 47%).
As administrators in higher ed pursue quantitative, top-line growth, the quality of academics suffers. I’ve worked this full-time schedule at APSU for the last ten years as an adjunct instructor because I love teaching, but enough is enough. We need to act to stop and reverse this dangerous trend of running universities as businesses and treating educators like they are disposable. In the Tennessee legislature right now, there is a bill (HB 707 / SB 775) that would raise the minimum pay for adjuncts to $1000 per credit hour, bringing us in line with the national average – an important first step in correcting years of injustice. If you care about quality higher education in Tennessee and the future of our students, please call your representatives to support this bill.
Languages & Literature