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Opinion: Don’t reduce adjunct faculty member pay

The School of Social Work announced a reduction in faculty pay starting next semester for adjunct/community faculty members. Instructors must accept the new pay scale by Nov. 7 to be able to teach in the spring.
Image by Sarah Mai

We, the undersigned, are community faculty (adjunct or contingent) teachers at the University of Minnesota. We teach in the School of Social Work’s Youth Studies Program. Recently, we received word via email the leadership of the School of Social Work (SSW) has decided to “simplify” the pay rate for adjunct teaching to $1500 per credit hour. That “simplification” represents a dramatic reduction in pay for the majority of 25 Youth Studies community faculty members.

Swift pushback on the part of the Youth Studies Program has resulted in a modified pay cut, starting with a base rate of $1,500 per credit for those who have taught up to four semesters in SSW. For instructors who have taught 5-11 semesters, they will receive $1,700 per credit. Instructors who have taught 12 or more semesters will receive $2,000 per credit. These still represent substantial cuts to faculty pay.

Our University (and institutions around the country) have been increasingly relying on adjunct teaching to address budget problems. About 73% of college classes in the U.S. are now taught by adjunct faculty. We are contract employees who have no benefits, no job security and no bargaining nor decision-making power.

We were told the deep cuts to our pay are due to a budget deficit for the SSW. We have asked for–and not received (nor have our department heads)–details about the deficit and what other cuts are under consideration.

The national average pay for adjunct faculty is dismal: $1300 per credit hour taught, so $1500/credit hour may seem reasonable. However, for those depending on their pay to live, which is most of us, a full load of teaching at $1,500 would net $27,000 annually before taxes and without benefits.

We have been given an ultimatum to accept the new pay scale by Nov. 7 for employment next semester. Many of us will not. This will do damage to our program and our students. We currently have a very experienced, stable and diverse community faculty. We are a great value at the current pay scale. Our most experienced and high-paid community faculty make less than $30/hour (again, without benefits). We are not overpaid.

The Director of the School of Social Work has stated that her “emphasis is on remaining a viable school.” The irony is that viability depends upon quality of education at the classroom level. Those of us who have been teaching for years for very modest wages are appalled to the point of protest at a severe cut to the lowest paid among us. We are the ones who teach and make the program excellent for students. This excellence can be demonstrated with hard data. We protest the inequity, lack of transparency or process, heavy-handedness and near-sightedness of this decision.

It is beyond ironic that this is happening in our celebrated School of Social Work.


Roz Anderson, Community Faculty

Jena Brune, Community Faculty

Molly Cooney, Community Faculty

Mark Costello, Community Faculty

Katie Erickson, Community Faculty

Gabrielle Grier, Community Faculty

KC Harrison, Professional and Administrative Faculty

John Marboe, Community Faculty

Deborah Moore, Interim Director of Undergraduate Studies and Professional and Administrative Faculty

Jessi Oliver-Tebben, Community Faculty

Jenna Sethi, Community Faculty

Amy Syvertsen, Community Faculty

Julie Tilsen, Community Faculty

Kenny Turck, Community Faculty

Jennifer Witt, Teaching Specialist

Nathan Whittaker, Teaching Specialist


The authors of this essay are teaching faculty in the Youth Studies Program of the UMN School of Social Work.

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