Adjunct teachers to Bklyn College: Pay us more or students will suffer

Fed up: Teachers and students participated in a “grade-in” outside the Brooklyn College president’s office on Tuesday, demanding a doubling of their pay per course to $7,000, on par with the average salary for full-time staff.
Brooklyn Paper
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Call it a lesson in negotiation.

Brooklyn College students will suffer if city and state officials do not raise the salaries of its part-time adjunct professors, dozens of faculty members warned during a recent protest.

“I don’t get compensated for what I do outside the classroom, and as a result my students suffer,” said two-year adjunct English teacher Alyssa Northrop, who said she also works as a private tutor in order to make ends meet.

Northrop — who joined some 40 fellow teachers, staff, students, and union leaders at a Dec. 11 protest on the Flatbush campus — said she used to do a lot more for her pupils, but began to cut back on the time she invested in them because the college refused to invest more in her as an educator.

“I can’t give them all the comments that I want to give them, and I have a limit of how much time I lesson plan,” she said. “I limit myself to an hour of lesson planning for every class, which sometimes isn’t enough.”

The group rallied outside the office of Brooklyn College President Michelle Anderson, demanding adjunct professors’ pay be doubled from the current median salary of roughly $3,500 per three-credit course, to a minimum of $7,000 per three-credit course.

Most of the protestors work as adjunct faculty at the college, and those teachers conducted a so-called “grade in” as part of the demonstration, during which they publicly corrected assignments as a way to show how much additional work they do without extra pay, according to a union leader who helped organize the rally.

“We’re asking adjunct faculty to do their work out in public to show the amount of labor they do without being fairly compensated for it,” said James Davis, the Brooklyn College chapter chair of the Professional Staff Congress, the City University of New York’s faculty-and-staff union.

Davis, who is also a full-time English professor at the college, is part of the union’s bargaining team that is in negotiations with CUNY management on a new contract for university staff, which would update the current employment and salary terms set back in 2010, he said.

But any new contract must first be signed off on by both Mayor DeBlasio and Gov. Cuomo, because the city’s public-university system is funded by both the local and state governments.

Another adjunct Brooklyn College professor of seven years said the union must authorize a strike if CUNY leaders do not institute the new $7,000-per-three-credit course salary.

“We hope that the board of trustees backs down and finds the money, we don’t want to go on strike, we want to do our jobs but we can’t keep doing them under these deteriorating conditions,” Tom Watters said at the protest.

Some 843 adjunct professors currently teach at Brooklyn College, compared to some 506 full-time educators, a difference in staffing that is consistent across the city’s public-university system, the professor and union leader said.

Adjunct lecturers can teach up to nine credits per semester, or three courses, on one CUNY campus, and an additional course at another location, amounting to a total annual median income of $28,000, according to Davis.

But full-time staffers at the lowest title and salary teach four courses per semester and make about $46,000 annually, compensation that can rise to an annual maximum of $82,700, and comes with a number of benefits packages, he said.

And raising Brooklyn College’s adjunct professors’ pay per three-credit course to $7,000 won’t only bring their salaries closer to those of their full-time colleagues, but would also bring CUNY’s compensation for part-time teachers closer to that of private city colleges, such as New York and Columbia universities, Davis said.

The union leader pointed fingers at former Mayor Bloomberg and Gov. Cuomo for the system’s failure to allocate more cash to adjunct lecturers’ salaries during negotiations for the 2010 contract, but said he is hopeful the state’s newly elected Democratic Legislature will push DeBlasio and Cuomo to provide more funds for the professors.

“Even though we still have the same governor, the composition of the state Senate has changed, and several of the new senators are true progressives who know about the higher-education system and the exploitative adjunct system,” Davis said.

A CUNY spokesman declined to answer this newspaper’s questions about the system’s ongoing negotiations with the union.

“Negotiations with the PSC are underway. We will negotiate at the bargaining table, not in the press,” said Frank Sobrino.

Brooklyn College spokesman Jason Carey declined to comment.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.
Updated 8:45 am, December 17, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Cathleen Hoo-Wong from Chinatown says:
Spoiled Americans! Bring in Chinese - teach class much cheaper! Teach many hours! American can go take lunch break - eat cheeseburger!!! Chinese eat noodle lunch which teaching class!!!
Dec. 18, 2018, 6:23 am
Midge from Mill Basin says:
Adjunct instructors at CUNY have lost ground over the last 40 years. I taught two sections of English in the fall of 1978 at Kingsborough, and I made $1400 a class for a class that met four hours a week from the first week of September to early December 1978 (a twelve-week term). Then I taught a six week winter class at KCC for another $1400 from early January to mid-February. In early February, I was offered and took two sections of remedial writing at Brooklyn College, again paying $1400 a class. So I taught five classes (four credits each) at CUNY in 1978-79 and made $7000. That may not sound like much (it's what the adjuncts want now for a single course), but if you go to the CPI Inflation Calculator, you'll see that $1400 back then is now worth $6031. Which means I made over $30,000 in 2018 dollars for teaching five classes -- a lot better than CUNY adjuncts currently make or are likely to make under a new contract. They need to leave for better jobs like I did. Only an idiot would make a career out of being an adjunct. If they are smart enough to teach at Brooklyn College, they are smart enough to get a decent job in finance or tech or some other industry/field that pays better. When nobody wants to be an adjunct, then CUNY and other schools (hey, some of the private colleges pay even less, though places like NYU, Columbia, Fordham, The School of Visual Arts, The New School pay more) will raise their salaries. If they can find adjuncts who work for $3400 a class, CUNY will pay them only that much. And if you can't get out, adjuncts, don't work hard! Be easy, give everyone A's, get good student evaluations, don't rock the boat and above all, don't work too hard. Pick up seven, eight or nine classes a year at CUNY and private college and you can make a decent salary. Goof off! Your students won't mind as long as they all get As and B+s.
Dec. 18, 2018, 10:54 am
Mathematician from Brooklyn says:
If they go into tech or finance they will have to work 80 hours a week instead of 8.
Dec. 19, 2018, 2:38 pm
Tom from Brooklyn says:
Midge wrote: "If they are smart enough to teach at Brooklyn College, they are smart enough to get a decent job in finance or tech or some other industry/field that pays better." So the solution is to replace adjuncts with people not as smart as current ones and...the students will be taught by less and less qualified instructors? Sounds like a great way to run a university. "If they can find adjuncts who work for $3400 a class, CUNY will pay them only that much." We have a different solution: $7K or Strike.
Dec. 19, 2018, 10:34 pm
Frederick K Lang from Upper West Side says:
Midge’s advice to CUNY adjuncts who “can’t get out” sounds familiar. Be easy, give everyone As and Bs, don't work too hard: I was a tenured professor at Brooklyn College, and that’s what I was told. When I refused to go along, I was persecuted by my chair, the then provost, and the then president, who had served as chancellor. I had been the recipient of a Tow Professorship for excellence in teaching and scholarship. But it made no difference. Finally, I was forced to retire by the then vice-chancellor for legal affairs, though I hadn’t as yet reached retirement age. Where was PSC-CUNY in all this? The leadership not only refused to help me, but did all in their power to hinder me. So much for thirty years of paying dues. Remember the tagline for the movie Serpico, something like “The most dangerous man in the city, an honest cop”? The most dangerous person in CUNY is an honest teacher. Make no bones about it: to keep their jobs, CUNY adjuncts and their tenured colleagues are all committing academic fraud, and they have their union's endorsement. Frederick K. Lang Professor Emeritus Department of English Brooklyn College, CUNY Tow Professor, 1996-1997
Dec. 20, 2018, 3:42 pm
Andrea from Inwood says:
Hey Mathematician from Brooklyn, Do you really have your head so far up your a** that you think professors only work when they're in class? On average, professors prepare for 2-4 hours per hour in class. Since you're a mathematician you shouldn't have to be walked through this, but I'll do it anyway. If a professor has 8 hours of in-class time, that's 16-32 hours of prep time, plus the 8 hours in class, plus the hours spent grading.
Jan. 14, 2019, 11:19 pm
Andrea from Inwood says:
PS, Mathematician from Brooklyn, that accounts only for teaching time and does not take into account the research adjuncts must perform in order to publish and ever have a prayer at a real full-time job.
Jan. 14, 2019, 11:21 pm

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