WSU adjunct professors discuss their work, wages

Adjunct vs Tenured Wages-01
Graphic by Brett Ferrin

According to a report by the U.S. House of Representatives, the number of adjunct professors at higher education institutions has been increasing since 1970. Currently, adjunct professors make up 50 percent of all instructors.

Three of the four professors interviewed believe adjuncts, part-time professors who have real-life experience in a subject area, at Weber State University are not treated the same as regular staff members.

“Adjuncts are considered by some as second-class citizens,” said Brent Warnock, a communications adjunct instructor. “Adjuncts do not have their own offices and do not get to participate in full-time staff activities.”

However, Stacey Tyler, an adjunct instructor in the communications department, said she does not necessarily feel that way. She said she believes she has been treated fairly, respectfully and kindly by other professors.

The WSU website states adjunct instructors teach on a one-time semester basis only, and teaching one semester does not guarantee employment for any future semesters.

In the report by the House of Representatives, 264 adjunct instructors were asked about job stability, and 95 percent said they felt they had no stability.

Adjunct professors receive the same benefits as students and are also allowed to take as many classes at the university as they teach without paying tuition.

“The biggest benefit is the flexibility for adjuncts,” said Marilyn McKinnon, an adjunct communications instructor. “If I have something going on, I can tell the department I cannot work this semester.”

Buck Kolz, an English adjunct instructor, said he believes the main disadvantage for adjunct instructors is the class-hour cap.

“The class-hour cap for the department of arts and humanities is set at 21 credit hours a year,” Kolz said. “If an adjunct teaches more than six credit hours a semester, it requires special approval from the dean.”

McKinnon said she believes some of the biggest issues for herself are low wages, lack of communication between the department and adjuncts, and textbooks.

According to Utah’s Right to Know website, WSU’s highest full-time professor receives approximately $220,000 a year. The highest-paid adjunct professor at WSU receives approximately $51,000 a year, though the majority make significantly less than that.

Kolz and Warnock said they do not see how a person could raise a family on the amount of money adjuncts make on campus.

“Personally, even if I taught the full 21 credit hours, I would still only make $20,000 a year,” Warnock said. “If I factor in preparation time, time spent with students and time teaching, I probably only make minimum wage.”

Kolz, McKinnon, Tyler and Warnock all said that, for those who love to teach and want to share their knowledge from their careers, being an adjunct is a great second job.

“I am a mother of three; for me, this is the best of both worlds,” Tyler said.“I can spend most of my time at home, but I also get some time to teach. For me it is a win-win.”

Warnock said he made his living off of running companies worth millions of dollars, and now he enjoys sharing this knowledge with his students.

McKinnon said her work with The Salt Lake Tribune has enabled her to teach her classes things she has known all her career. She also said she believes being an adjunct instructor has made her better at her career.

“The practical knowledge and experience most adjunct professors have was gained in real life, which is just as valuable as a Ph.D., if not more,” Warnock said. “Weber State adjuncts make more per credit hour than the adjuncts at Salt Lake Community College. There are about three times more adjuncts at SLCC than at Weber State.”

At SLCC, the highest-paid full-time professor makes approximately $149,000, and the highest-paid adjunct instructor makes approximately $69,000. The University of Utah’s highest-paid full-time professor makes approximately $1,450,000, and the highest-paid adjunct makes approximately $313,000. However, several make significantly lower wages than that.

“I made a fuss at the University of Utah before I left about the pay; I had been teaching there for 15 years and had never been given a raise,” McKinnon said. “There were several people in that group at the University of Utah.”