Adjuncts rally for better pay

BY CORY PORTER | APRIL 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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Close to 20 University of Iowa adjunct faculty members and supporters marched to Jessup Hall on Wednesday to share their struggles and deliver a petition with around 200 signatures to the Office of the President.

“People deserve a living wage … My partner and I are both adjunct professors attempting to get by, and there’s almost no support through our workplace,” Andres Carlstein, a UI creative-writing and science-writing adjunct assistant professor said.

The adjuncts who spoke on the steps of Jessup Hall shared similar beliefs — the wages they are paid aren’t enough to live on — and their demands were clear: they want $15,000 per course taught, security in their jobs, and the ability to organize.

In a 2012-13 report from the American Association of University Professors, adjunct faculty earned a median of $2,700 per course.

The march was part of a larger event in Johnson County and nationwide, in which adjunct professors, fast-food and temporary workers, and community advocates came together under the Fight for $15 and the Faculty Forward campaign.

The Faculty Forward campaign was nationally organized by the Service Employees International Union, and the Fight for $15 was organized locally by the Center for Worker Justice and the Iowa City Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO.

After marching to Jessup Hall, the adjunct faculty participating in the campaign convened at the Center for Worker Justice to meet and stand with other local workers from various fields demanding higher wages and more job security.

More than 100 schools participated in some sort of action on Wednesday, according to information from the Service Employees International Union.

The demand for adjunct facility to be paid $15,000 per course isn't a bargaining position, it's an aspirational number inspired by fast food workers' protests demanding a dramatic raise of $15 an hour.

Being a college professor used to be a middle-class job, but over the last few decades, many in the field have become part-time, low-wage employees.

When the marchers reached the steps of Jessup Hall, a few adjunct faculty stood up to share their stories.

Olivia Dunn, an adjunct English faculty member at Kirkwood, and a former assistant professor in the Rhetoric Department at UI, said she didn’t expect to make a lot of money after graduating from graduate school, but she had no idea how hard it would be to afford the bare essentials.

Getting in touch with other adjuncts who share her situation, she said, has given her hope.

“Finding out more about this movement, I realized I’m so not alone in this,” she said.

Ezran Sidran, an UI adjunct faculty member in computer science, said despite teaching the same exact classes before he had his Ph.D. and after, he lost his health care when he earned the degree.

“Getting a Ph.D. here was one of the silliest things I’ve ever done; it actually cost me health benefits,” he said.

UI Provost P. Barry Butler told The Daily Iowan in an email lecturers’ issues concerning their teaching duties were being represented by an ad-hoc committee that was appointed by the UI Faculty Senate.

Butler said the Faculty Council received a draft from the ad-hoc committee containing recommendations on six different areas concerning teaching duties for lecturers, including representation on compensation, faculty governance, hiring, promotion and retention practices, workloads, and professional development.

The Provost’s Office recently received this draft, Butler said, and will work with the Faculty Senate on each of these issues.

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