I am making waves in my department right now to raise the pay for adjuncts regardless of university policy or legislative decree. I am supported by some of my colleagues, but exactly what to do is yet undecided. My argument is this: We pay our adjuncts such a low rate that any time given by them toward their classes outside of class time lowers their pay toward the minimum wage. That, along with the need to work several jobs to make up for the paltry wages earned as adjuncts at our school, makes it prohibitive for adjunct faculty to commit to writing assignments and other projects which allow for critical thinking and the development of those skills. Our pay scale for part-time teachers promotes a memorization/regurgitation model of education (if you can call it that). Our students are not taught valuable skills, our programs are not motivated to develop toward more mature standards, and our students will not be equipped with the necessary skills to compete with graduates of better-funded universities.
The adjunct pay issue relates to several other issues of low quality at our college and, I would argue, is among the leading concerns for our institution. Others in my department are upset about adjunct pay for moral reasons; we should not be exploiting those people as we do. I have accentuated the argument that it harms our students and our institution because that seems to hold more water than the concern about exploiting people. I like the idea of using our concerns for our students and our programs as motivation for raising adjunct compensation rates for political reasons, but of course I would like to see them compensated appropriately simply for moral reasons as well. I think we need to address the adjunct issue for those reasons as well as others, but in the end any of our arguments should, in my opinion, always focus on the standards of quality for our students and our institution. That would also hold for academic freedom, full-time faculty ratios, protection of tenure, etc. It just seems to make more political sense.
Thanks for listening, but I must admit that I think there is little desire for quality education among our legislature and even our campus administrators. Critical thinking skills are looked down upon in our community and state, and our college has an anti-intellectual bias (sad as that is for a "university"), so there may be resistance to improving adjunct pay that goes beyond simply saving money. Still, we ought to pressure for change for several reasons, but the good of our students is one very good one. Peace!