As a measure of just how bad things have gotten for part-time, non-tenured faculty members, consider this: Washtenaw Community College, in Michigan, has a plan to turn them, quite literally, into temps. And the move, which sounds like a professional insult, will be a financial step up.
Under the plan, the adjunct professors, who teach 40 percent of the college's classes, will be pushed off of the college payroll and handed over to a temporary-services agency, which will help them land teaching jobs when and if they are needed. No benefits, of course. The public college stands to save from $800,000 to $1 million annually.
But the move should actually put more money in the teachers' pockets. In the first place, they aren't getting benefits now, so nothing changes there. Also, Michigan law mandates that the college contribute 16 percent of the salary of each employee to a public pension fund, while the staff member contributes 3 percent (soon to rise to 6 percent), explains Inside Higher Ed. Since part-timers almost never vest in the pension--qualify for receiving benefits--they never see their contributions again. The college has promised to raise adjuncts' salaries by 3 percent, if the plan goes through, using the money it saves on its own retirement contributions (the 16 percent).
Last year, another community college in Michigan floated the same idea, but dropped it after a national outcry from advocates for adjuncts. These critics said that, if anything, the administrators should be helping adjuncts get access to the retirement pension they were helping pay for, however small the portion.
The author is solely responsible for the content.
Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.
Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.
Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.
Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.
Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."
Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.
Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.