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Adjunct Faculty Demand More Pay, Security

Mar 1, 2015

Eric Webb-Fiske asks students to sign a petition, calling for better wages and more security for adjunct faculty.
Credit Daylina Miller / WUSF News

On Wednesday, Eric Webb-Fiske canceled two classes to participate in National Adjunct Walkout Day.

Webb-Fiske, an adjunct instructor at Hillsborough Community College and a graduate assistant at USF, stood in front of USF's Marshall Student Center, trying to get students to sign a petition that calls for better pay and more security for adjunct faculty. 

"A lot of other faculty and a lot of students don't understand how little a lot of adjunct [faculty] get paid and how precarious their situation is," he said. "Not knowing if they're going to have a job next semester at all."

For example, Webb-Fiske said he was scheduled to teach a summer course, but it was canceled with only one day's notice due to a lack of enrollment. He had to scramble to find a part-time job to make ends meet. 

In addition to the lack of job security, adjunct instructors are paid less than their full-time, tenured counterparts. 

Becky Killik, who organized the protest at the USF campus which attracted about 20 adjunct faculty and students, remembered her toughest financial situation. 

"When I was a graduate assistant at USF, I had to be on food stamps, because I wasn't being paid enough," she said. "I've spoken to several adjuncts on campus who are asking me how to apply for food stamps, because they make nothing." 

Killik said the average pay for adjunct faculty is about $2,500 per course. Ideally, she would like that amount to increase to $15,000. But ultimately, Killik worries about who will teach future generations when wages are so low. 

"They're teaching our future leaders of America. What does that say about the quality of education that will have to result from this? When you don't give teachers the respect they deserve, it hurts education," she said. 

Webb-Fiske thinks colleges and universities should assess how they're spending their money. 

"We need to re-prioritize where our colleges and universities are spending their money," he says. "The money is there." 

In an e-mail, USF public affairs coordinator Adam Freeman wrote that the university has 1,425 adjunct faculty. In comparison, the university has 1,813 full time faculty.