Since I started working as a grievance counselor for adjuncts in the CUNY system, I have noticed a pattern regarding the types of questions we respond to Monday through Friday. These are the top five questions we hear, with basic answers. Anyone with more questions is encouraged to contact a grievance counselor at the PSC office for more information.
1) How do I know what salary step I should be on, and when do I get increases?
Answer: When first hired as a teaching adjunct, a determination is made regarding the appropriate pay schedule (adjunct lecturer, adjunct assistant professor, adjunct associate professor, adjunct professor) and appropriate salary step within that schedule. This can be discussed with the college before you are initially hired. Most often, adjuncts are first hired at the lowest salary step of the appropriate schedule (salary schedules can be found at the PSC’s website. Adjuncts are entitled to a step increase after teaching at CUNY for six semesters (including summers) university-wide within a three-year period. The union advises adjuncts to notify human resources at each college where they teach when they are eligible for a step increase because individual college HR offices do not track an adjunct’s employment at other colleges and CUNY fails to track this centrally.
2) How much can I teach in total in the CUNY system, and why is there a limitation on it?
Answer: The limit is up to nine hours at one college, regardless of the number of courses, and one course of up to 6 hours at a second college. The non-teaching equivalent is up to 225 hours at one college and up to 150 hours at the second. A very limited number of waivers of this provision are provided by CUNY to each college and may be granted by the college at its discretion. These rules limit CUNY’s ability to hire adjuncts as de facto full-time staff without the attendant full-time rights and benefits. Different requirements apply in summer.
3) When am I eligible for health insurance and Welfare Fund benefits?
Answer: Adjuncts become eligible for health insurance and Welfare Fund benefits when they have taught at least one class in the previous two consecutive semesters and are teaching six or more hours in the current semester (excluding summers). If an adjunct continues to teach at least six hours per semester, health insurance will be retained. Non-teaching Adjuncts (NTAs) qualify for health insurance in their third semester of working at least 15 hours per week. In order to receive health insurance and Welfare Fund benefits, adjuncts must also certify that they are not eligible for other primary health insurance.
4) When should I receive notification of reappointment, and if I’m not reappointed, what are my options?
Answer: If you are on a semester appointment, you must receive written notification of appointment or non-reappointment by December 1 for the following spring and by May 1 for the following fall. If you have taught six consecutive semesters (excluding summers) in the same department at the same college, you are entitled to a one-year appointment and must receive written notification of appointment or non-reappointment by May 15 for the following academic year. Under the contract’s pilot program, if you qualify for a three-year appointment, you must receive a comprehensive review by the Department P&B and be notified of appointment or non-reappointment by May 15 for the following three academic years.
If you do not receive written notification by the contractually mandated date, notify an adjunct grievance counselor right away.
Every written notification of appointment must contain an adjunct’s title, the duration of the appointment and hourly rate. If you believe any of those items are incorrect, notify an adjunct counselor right away.
If you receive notification that you have been non-reappointed, notify an adjunct counselor immediately. Recourse in the event of non-reappointment is limited by contract and by precedent set in previous arbitration decisions. A grievance counselor can explain your options and help determine the best course of action, which can include grievance, informal complaint and direct discussion with the Chair.
5) Do I have to be evaluated/observed every semester?
Answer: Adjuncts must receive a yearly evaluation in their first four semesters of service, and must be observed in the classroom at least once each semester in their first 10 semesters of service. Subsequently, they may be evaluated/observed at their own request or at the request of their Chair. For adjuncts anticipating becoming eligible for a three-year appointment, it is important to have a strong record of evaluations and observations for the comprehensive review required by the Department P&B. See Article 18 for more details about this important provision in the PSC-CUNY contract.