Adjunct Matters | Adjuncts Matter by Eric De Sena

In this edition of FTConnect, I want to present a call for American colleges and universities to consider the concept of Equal Pay for Equal Work.

Adjunct faculty are here to stay. The 30-year trend at American colleges and universities has been to cut costs by reducing the number of full-time faculty and relying upon an abundance of cheap labor, namely adjuncts. By hiring up to 75% of their faculty as adjuncts, administrators and trustees do not need to worry about salaries and benefits and can, therefore, allocate funds in other areas.
Granted, some adjuncts do not need the income. They hold full-time, often lucrative positions, and teach a course or two in their field. Many of us, however, are professional academics. We hold terminal degrees in our field. We’ve led or participated in important projects that have resulted in publications. We’ve had a variety of teaching and administrative roles. But in this gig-economy, holding a Ph.D., having published dozens of articles and books, and having presented lectures at illustrious institutes is meaningless. There are fewer and fewer full-time jobs. But this is our life; this is our calling; this is our passion. So, we accept being adjunct faculty.

As an adjunct in the professional academic category, I am doing about as well as I can. Four colleges in the lower Hudson Valley region routinely ask me to teach courses in the Humanities. My course load stands at 6-8 courses per semester. While this sounds impressive, let’s do some math. Say I manage to teach 16 classes per year. 16 x $3700 (average payment at the 4 colleges) = $59,200. My rent in White Plains is $2100 per month, which wipes out more than half of my net earnings. Add to this utilities, car, food, incidentals, and recreation (ha!). I am in the red. Thank goodness my wife works, but even with her salary, we are only treading water.

College administrators and trustees across the USA need to act and consider adjunct faculty in their vision of equity! We deserve equal pay for equal work. If for financial reasons it is not viable to hire 150 new full-time professors in a snap, at least pay adjuncts at a more equitable rate. We are valuable. Not only do we provide quality education for our students, we assist students in many ways. When we see students struggle, we lend support or direct them to an office on campus that can help. We give students career advice, and we write letters of recommendation. Many of us also volunteer to serve on committees. In short, we offer everything that full-timers offer, yet our pay rates are about half of what full-time faculty earn per course.

We are not greedy. We simply deserve to be able to lead dignified lives and care for our families. If tomorrow my colleges paid me $7000 per course, I would not continue to teach 16 classes per year, although $112,000 is tempting. As an adjunct who cares about the quality of what I do in and beyond the classroom, I would drastically reduce the number of classes I need to teach.

Equal pay for equal work is not impossible. It involves a simple decision – Yes! The Faculty Wellness Committee at one college where I serve as an adjunct recently conducted a survey. Apparently, the administration was so moved by the responses of adjuncts that a decision was made to increase our compensation by 20% (twenty, not two) over the course of the next year. In Spring 2023, we are already earning 10% more, and in Fall 2023 we will see another 10% increase.

While the pay rates of all faculty are currently being negotiated by the WCCFT, I would like the Administration of WCC to seriously consider the compensation of adjuncts. Consider a significant pay raise as an investment, not as an added expense. By investing in adjunct faculty, we can invest more in our students, and, hence, students at WCC will achieve greater academic success!

In solidarity,

Eric C. De Sena
WCCFT Adjunct Representative
Member of the WCCFT Negotiation Team

Please reach out to Eric De Sena at for any union-related concerns and/or to send me news items for future issues of FTConnect.