More than 60 PSC members testified at the April 19, 2017 CUNY Board of Trustee hearing at the Borough Hall in Queens. Here is written testimony from some of them about the need to raise adjunct salaries to $7,000 per course.
Aaron Davitt, Doctoral Student at CUNY Graduate Center and Adjunct Lecturer at Guttman Community College
“I enjoy teaching and I appreciate the experience. However, the adjunct pay rate is abysmal and it just plain sucks. It is difficult to be a quality teacher when the pay is so low. I have to take on extra adjunct positions in order to ends meet, taking away from my ability to effectively teacher. Being a veteran teacher does not make this any easier—there are no tricks or tips that I have learned over the years in order to make this low pay rate bearable.” Read Davitt’s full testimony here.
Amy Greenberg, Adjunct Lecturer, Brooklyn College
“I have often found myself called a “practitioner” in a derogatory manner by certain full-time staff and there is an assumption that I am not knowledgeable in theory and only in practice, an assumption that is false. I have consistently kept up with best practices and current research and am fully capable of engaging in academic research and writing. I am proud to be considered an effective practitioner. It was my choice to devote my career to working with students both at the middle and high school levels, as well as at the college level. I think I speak for many adjuncts when I say that we always put our students first, not research. Our students are our clients and they deserve our full attention.” Read Greenberg’s full testimony here.
David Palazzo, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Hunter College
“Adjuncts are not part of the department in any meaningful manner. Yet, I routinely shape the future of students’ learning, engage them in how to navigate their studies, provide opportunities for advancement and achievement. But how effective can I really be if I have one foot in the department and one foot in another department? I operate on the assumption that the best education is one where there is a plethora of student-teacher interaction. This requires the latter actually has a presence on campus. Adjuncts do not have that presence. The perpetuation of reliance on adjunct-majority teaching is greatly detrimental to the learning environment of higher education.” Read Palazzo ‘s full testimony here.
Michael Batson, Adjunct Lecturer, College of Staten Island
“The average pay for a course is $3,400, which amounts to less than $25,000 if one were teaching a full-time load. This $3,400 covers not only the hours in the classroom, but the time preparing a course, creating a syllabus, grading assignments and exams, and importantly, meeting with students. While adjuncts share in the same proportion of talent and passion for our work as our full-time, tenured colleagues, we often teach under incredibly stressful conditions brought about by low pay and insecurity. Our parity of talent and passion should be matched by parity in pay.” Read Batson’s full testimony here.
Haley Bueschlen, Adjunct Assistant Professor, CSI CUNY
“Vampires are real.” Read Bueschlen’s full testimony here.
Stacey Engels, Adjunct Lecturer, Lehman College and Hunter College
“I spend many hours a week on lesson preparation and reading student work in addition to the time I spend in the classroom. When I began asking colleagues how they manage to grade twenty-five student essays four times a semester, in addition to all their other obligations, I learned they have developed systems that enable them to spend a fraction of the time I have been spending on each essay – literally a quarter to a fifteenth of the time I have dedicated to reviewing, correcting and commenting on student essays.” Read Engels’ full testimony here.
Felix Grezes, Adjunct Lecturer, Hunter College
“As a computer science adjunct lecturer, I want to be able to focus solely on my students and their work, but as a result of low wages, teaching can never be my top priority. To properly train my students, I need time to adapt my lectures and exams to their specifics needs.” Read Grezes’ full testimony here.
James Schlefer, Adjunct Lecturer, New York City College of Technology
“We work enthusiastically and with great sense of purpose and dedication for the students of this city, many of whom are the first in their families to attend college, with the goal of nurturing an educated, well-informed citizenry for the future. Frankly, our pay is far below what it should be given the time, effort and expertise we give for our teaching.” Read Schlefer’s full testimony here.
Jacqueline Berger, Adjunct Assistant Professor, New York City College of Technology
“In the year 2000, a friend, an adjunct, had tenure at FIT, a SUNY College. Adjuncts there were eligible for tenure. That tenure was accompanied by an annual salary increase of 10 dollars a contact hour. My friend had been at FIT for ten years. In the year 2000, she was earning 89 dollars a contact hour. In comparison, 17 years later, as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at NYC College of Technology, with 20 years of continual service, at the top of the salary scale, I earn 96 dollars and 38 cents per contact hour. The salary difference between the two colleges over a 17 year period is 7 dollars and 38 cents. It took CUNY 17 years to become competitive with the SUNY salary offerings for the year 2000.” Read Berger’s full testimony here.
Welker White, Adjunct Professor, Brooklyn College
“What I have had to do is make hard choices about how to give my students the best possible learning experience. I’m chagrined to admit that I have, in several of my courses, seriously scaled back the level of writing and research I’m asking my students to do. There is simply NO WAY that I can grade up to 26 papers, prep for class, answer emails and meet students privately, and then meet them on the weekends to watch and discuss plays. I will be honest and tell you that I am not able, with the meager compensation I currently receive from CUNY, to prepare these students to move out into the world as critical thinkers and engaged and caring citizens of the world. I yearn to do better. ” Read White’s full testimony here.
Richard Vetere, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Queens College
“I have written scripts for Paramount, Universal, ABC, CBS, and Disney, and yet what gives me the most satisfaction is helping students who come to Queens College from all over the world to learn how to write movies. And I’m treated like a seasonal worker by the Board of Trusties at CUNY. I’m hired semester-by-semester, and my pay, though I’ve been teaching nearly non-stop since 1983, is abysmal.” Read Vetere’s full testimony here.
Sharon Preiss, Adjunct Lecturer, Borough of Manhattan Community College
“I am an adjunct. At my current salary, with CUNY’s restrictions on the number of hours I can teach, the most money I could make a year is about $39,000. This is not what you would expect as the salary of a professional who’s tasked with performing such an important function for our students, not to mention the fact that it’s not even a livable wage in New York City. In order to make a living, then, every semester I teach for two different university systems, barely making enough money to get by.” Read Preiss’ full testimony here.
Susan Fountain, Adjunct Professor, CUNY School of Professional Studies
“I currently work three part-time jobs, but in 2015-16, I worked 5 different part-time jobs, my adjunct teaching being but one of them. Do you know what it is like to work for five different employers – to put notes next to your alarm clock to remind you of where to go when you wake up? To juggle the deadlines of multiple employers that come due at the same time, meaning some nights you don’t even bother to set that alarm clock because you know you won’t have time for sleep? To delay necessary medical care because your CUNY health insurance disappears if one of your two courses doesn’t run?” Read Fountain’s full testimony here.
Rita C. Tobin, Adjunct Assistant Professor, Hunter College
“My first teaching job, in 1975, was as an adjunct lecturer at Lehman College. I was paid $1,500 per course. In today’s dollars, that’s about $7,500. Today, with more than 60% of the CUNY teach staff working part-time, a beginning adjunct is paid only a little more than half of what I earned in 1975: a 60% salary reduction in real dollars.” Read Tobin’s full testimony here.