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The Daily Tar Heel

Adjunct faculty push for fair pay

On the steps of Wilson Library, about three dozen people turned out Wednesday for a rally supporting higher pay for adjunct and fixed-term faculty members. They stood in solidarity with a nationwide movement called the Fight for $15K, a campaign aiming to win a $15,000 salary per course for non-tenured professors.

Their signs told the stories of faculty who often have little to no job security, no benefits, no office space and a salary at or below the federal poverty line.

“I was completely astonished that my professors make so little money,” said Richard Lindayen, a UNC sophomore.

“When you think of a professor, you think of someone who’s well off, who’s gone to a lot of school and gotten a Ph.D. and taken out loans — but who is able to pay them off.”

These contingent instructors do not have tenure, a distinction given to professors who fulfill teaching, research and service requirements in exchange for long-term job security. But these coveted positions are on the decline. At UNC, nearly two-thirds of faculty are off the tenure track.

“Apparently I’m an anachronism,” said Altha Cravey, a tenured geography professor. “I don’t exist anymore. People like me are not going to be hired anymore.”

Several adjuncts spoke at Wednesday’s rally — but when asked, they wouldn’t be identified by name for fear of retribution for speaking out.

“I’ve been told that in my department — which shall not be named — the adjunct pay has been the same since the (Bill) Clinton administration,” said one adjunct.

“I’ve been a part-time temporary faculty member for over 20 years at two different UNC campuses ... I have a Ph.D.; I have publications,” said another adjunct.

On Monday, several adjunct faculty members and allies met with Provost Jim Dean and asked him to grant protection to non-tenured professors who choose to speak out about their working conditions.

One adjunct noted that the environment for contingent faculty at UNC is not as difficult as it is at other campuses.

“But there are 16 UNC campuses and dozens of private colleges, many of them smaller, with adjunct and fixed-term faculty whose lives are described by these statistics,” she said.

Tenured faculty members and students applauded the work that adjuncts do inside and outside the classroom.

“Our professors can’t speak up about this like we can,” said Courtney Sams, a member of UNC Young Democrats. “But (the University) cannot kick us out for this because there will be no one to pay for the administrators’ six-figure salaries.”

The local chapter of SEIU Faculty Forward, a national campaign for adjunct faculty, sponsored the event. The group also circulated a petition with nearly 300 signatures that was delivered to the UNC Board of Governors last week.

As students continue to learn more about the low wages and working conditions that adjunct faculty face, Lindayen said he’s confident that the movement will gain steam on campus.

“It hits very close to home, especially for students.”

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