Democratic Lawmaker Wants Adjuncts to Share Their Stories

November 20, 2013

A senior member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee wants to hear more about adjunct professors' working conditions. Through an "eForum" announced Tuesday, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) will investigate the effect of increased employment of adjunct faculty on their quality of life, as well as on student learning. In a news release, Miller said there was a "huge lack of understanding" about what it means to be adjunct.

“We should all be alarmed about what’s been happening to higher education labor over the last couple decades,” he said. “Tuition keeps skyrocketing. Yet the people doing the bulk of the work educating college students are getting less and less compensation. There are adjuncts who make between $2,000 and $3,000 per course for a semester, with no benefits. There are adjuncts on food stamps. I think the Congress should be taking a serious look at this phenomenon.”

Miller asked adjuncts to share their stories on the forum website, answering the following questions:

  • For how long have you worked as a contingent faculty or instructor?
  • How would you describe the working conditions of contingent faculty and instructors at your college or university, including matters like compensation, benefits, opportunities for growth and advancement, job stability, and administrative and professional support?
  • How do those conditions help or hinder your ability to earn a living and have a stable and successful career in higher education? What impact, if any, do those working conditions have on students or higher education generally?
  • How do those working conditions help or hinder your ability to do your job, or how do they otherwise affect students in achieving their educational goals?

Miller was among several lawmakers who last week expressed interest in hearing more about adjunct employment issues during a committee hearing on the effects of the Affordable Care Act on higher education. Their comments came following testimony by Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, a national adjunct advocacy organization. She spoke about how many institutions have cut their maximum course loads for adjuncts ahead of the health care law taking effect, to avoid having to offer coverage to adjuncts qualifying as full-time employees, or pay a fine (as highlighted in Inside Higher Ed's recent survey of campus human resources officers. In an email, Maisto said she was "thrilled" that Miller had followed up so quickly with the eForum announcement.

"I think that this will be a terrific way for the committee to collect more information confirming what I testified about last week -- the appalling conditions of adjunct and contingent faculty and the repercussions for students and for the country, especially as the cost of college is skyrocketing," she said. "Of course we have volumes and volumes of stories and research, as well, and we will be happy to share that with the committee."

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