Wednesday, September 16, 2009

And junk

I don't think it is too much for me to ask that, whereever I teach, I get to sit in an office that has a computer compatible with my responsibilities. Let me build up to this point.

This is the start of my fifth year as an adjunct professor in the greater Washington, DC metro area. To date, I have had three grueling semesters: one teaching five classes and an independent study between three schools; one where I taught from 9am-7pm, between two campuses, twice weekly (in addition to other courses on other days); and last semester when I taught four courses between four schools.

The onus for these schedules is a shared responsibility, but the initial responsibility is mine. I chose to begin teaching, and I chose to say yes to teaching the number of courses.

The shared aspect is two-fold. The First is from schools bouncing around their schedules, but I have little comprehension for how departments, schools and registrars piece everything together. Based on my experience at Iowa State University, I could expect certain classes to meet at certain times. Their schedules functioned almost like clockwork -- at least they did in the College of Design. But, it always seemed, without fail, that there were 9 am bio, soc, or psych 101 classes M/W/F. the Second is due to the pittance all schools in greater DC pay their adjuncts.

As a student, I did not know there was a difference between the various rankings, because they all had the same in-class responsibility of instruction and grading the products of students. We did not know of or perceive the title of "Lecturer," and few if any of us knew the difference between Assistant and Associate professor, or how they differed from Full Professors. The concept of tenure was, at best, fuzzy.

When I was a junior I was in the check-out lane of a grocery store (Hy-Vee) and the clerk one aisle over was my professor from my 3D design studies course. The long story short: she was an adjunct, teaching one or two classes a semester, and Hy-Vee paid much better than the university.

What does being an adjunct professor mean? The responsibilities are simple: teach class, hold office hours, grade work, give grades. This differes from the responsibilities of full-time professors, who are required to sit on department, school andinstitution (college/university) committees and meetings. Depending on the institution, there can be many. Adjuncts are not required to become parts of committees or attend meetings, and if they do the only compensation may be a pat on the back. It also might be ire.

The compensation for teaching is a low monetary stipend; there are no other benefits (healthcare, dental, 401K)

To give an idea of the disparity, it is not uncommon for an assistant professor to work a 3/2 (three classes fall, two classes spring) or 3/3 schedule and earn between $38,000 and $55,000, + benefits, depending on the location. ($38K seems low, but recently a small school (maybe a Community College) in MD offered a one-year appointment for someone to chair the art department, run the gallery, coordinate adjunct faculty, and teach a 4/4 schedule for $35K. I'll wager the applicant pool was easy to sift through.)

I was told a few years ago that the best pay in DC, for an adjunct, was $5,000/class at Georgetown. Most schools around The District offer $900 - $1200 per credit hour. No school offers benefits.

Some schools offer offices for their adjunct faculty. At three of the schools (four departments) where I teach, the adjunct faculty get to share an office. One department has a large room with multiple computers and desks; one department provides a shared office with several faculty members, and access to one of a handful of computers, depending on what kind of course the professor is assigned the computers work in the office or don't work in the office (the offices are in different buildings; one department has a room with two desks, one computer, and ample shelving; one department has a computer that barely works in a room that can almost fit the desk, the chair, and the adjunct faculty member (if he places the chair on the desk). One school has a lounge for faculty, but they never give the code to adjuncts. One school does not offer an office, but there is a coffee shop in the student union.

Anymore, if I am asked to teach a class I am asked to teach digital art.

Students are not required to attend office hours, but I am. Depending on the institution, I may be there from one to two hours. This is a great time to get work done for the course, either via the creation of documents (assignments, tutorial notes, etc), or via the grading of completed student work. However, if the equipment is not working, or if the computer does not have the Adobe Creative Suite, then I have several options available to me: check e-mail and twiddle thumbs.

Of course, I could always blog about my troubles.

Class starts in ten minutes.

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