Adjuncts and Part-time Faculty at Emory

“Adjunctification,” or the increasing number of part-time faculty over full-time and tenured faculty, is a growing trend in United States colleges and universities. Since committing to a hiring policy that ensures the majority of its teachers have full time contracts, Emory appears to be resisting this trend, and EmoryUnite! appreciates the university’s commitment. Nonetheless, employment as an adjunct, or part-time teacher, is the reality for many Emory faculty.  Despite performing similar duties to full-time faculty, including teaching and mentoring students, part-time teachers have no permanent contracts, low pay, and little or no benefits.  These teachers bring years of professional experience and pedagogy to students in the Department of Theater and Dance teaching Acting Fundamentals, Introduction to the Theater, and Arts Administration, filling some of the most popular classes on campus, and in the Department of Music where they draw on their own extensive study and practice to teach as instrumentalists and vocal teachers. In the Language Departments, part-time faculty teach a significant proportion of the language classes (varying by department).


What Do Part-Time Faculty Earn at Emory?

The difficulties of Emory adjuncts are the difficulties of adjuncts everywhere. Though their expertise, training, and real-world experience may be equal to, or greater than, that of full-time faculty, adjuncts are hired as cheap labor. They are a cost-cutting measure in a university that charges upwards of $50,000 for undergraduate tuition per year, not including fees, room and board.  It would be reasonable then for students to expect that a significant portion of their tuition goes to the people teaching them.  Part-time faculty pay at Emory, however, ranges from $3,000/class for Graduate Student Instructors to $5500 for Instructors with a professional background equivalent to a full-time professor. (See: Compensation Guidelines for temporary and part-time faculty).  In fact, in at least one case, an Emory adjunct made so little that they qualified for Unemployment Insurance even while teaching at Emory University.

The adjunct job at Emory is classified as a Part-time Temporary Worker and thus provides no health insurance, no benefits, no job security, and no parking. This last item is a daily grievance. In order to offset low wages, adjuncts often have multiple contracts, rushing from teaching job to teaching job. With no parking, Emory adjuncts must pay for spaces out of their wages, or park in out of the way lots or across campus to avoid the fees.

Considering its hefty endowment and tuition fees, Emory pays its adjuncts much lower than its peers, and even lower than public universities such as Georgia Tech. At Duke University, a comparable R1 University also in the South, unionized part-time faculty have a contractual agreement with a tiered structure based on years of service. The Duke University contract guarantees at least $7650/class and access to the same university-sponsored healthcare as full time faculty.  These working conditions differ mightily from Emory part-time faculty whose stories are harrowing; for example, people who have been employed by the College for decades and have to ask, often unsuccessfully, for pay raises and benefits. In at least one instance, an adjunct's appeal for benefits required intervention from Emory's Council on Labor Relations.

Demands and Daily Duties of Part-time Faculty

Meanwhile, the duties of adjuncts are not dissimilar to that of permanent faculty; adjunct faculty prepare syllabi, lectures, assignments, and exams; they maintain ongoing communication with students, including keeping office hours; they write recommendation letters, and offer students advice and support; they attend faculty meetings and must be well-versed in department and college policy; and in the age of COVID, they must be versed in online instruction and able to transition students in and out of the in-person classroom with ease. They must also be on alert for students who are struggling in class, advising them of the proper channels to access for help, and in the case of Title 9 and other infractions, guide students to the proper sources. They must accommodate learning differences and be alert to the inclusion of all students. They must constantly adapt and re-adapt course requirements, syllabi, and learning sources. Any oversights in these areas are suffered by student and teacher alike, and adjunct teachers, employed as contract workers, do not have the protection of continued employment. Hence, the Modern Language Association recommends a minimum compensation of $11,500 for a standard 3-credit-hour semester course or $7,700 for a standard 3-credit-hour quarter or trimester course.

Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. When teachers are valued – when they feel secure and respected in their positions and when they are compensated adequately  – students benefit. How is Emory University fulfilling its mission to “create, preserve, teach, and apply knowledge in the service of humanity” when some of its very teachers are not even earning minimum wage?