The Unpaid Adjunct Ad That Wasn't (?)

March 20, 2019

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign got skewered on social media Tuesday for advertising “0 percent, [full-time equivalent], unpaid” adjunct faculty positions in social work, human behavior and social environment, and related areas. Minimum requirements included a master’s degree in social work and prior teaching experience. Duties included preparing and teaching classes weekly.

The online job ad said that an adjunct search committee will screen applicants to determine whether they are a “good fit” for the program and, “If considered to teach future courses, salary will be offered.” Many readers understood the ad to mean that adjuncts would have to initially teach for free, as a kind of audition for additional courses -- and a salary. And they criticized Illinois for apparently exploiting a bad academic job market for free labor. Illinois wouldn’t be the only institution accused of doing so. Last year, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale asked its professors to ask alumni to assist with faculty work.

Illinois quickly changed the ad to clarify that applicants will merely apply to be included in a pool of preapproved faculty candidates -- not to work for free, it says. Steven Anderson, dean of Illinois’s School of Social Work, explained via email that the original post was “soliciting applicants who would be given 0 percent appointments in the school and therefore vetted and available to teach specific courses in the future as the school needed.”

If chosen to teach, candidates will be paid at a level determined by experience, course load and according to standard campus and school policies, Anderson said. "We value and competitively compensate all of those who are chosen to teach in the School of Social Work." The school "apologized for any confusion," he added.

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