Miami University has received a lot of press lately; some laudable and some lamentable.
What has not received any public scrutiny is perhaps Miami's best-kept secret: how much (or little) Miami pays adjunct faculty, meaning faculty members who are paid on a per course basis.
Miami adjunct pay in the Humanities hovers around $2,400 per three-hour course each semester, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education's Adjunct Project..
Assuming an adjunct teaches three courses in the fall and spring, it amounts to $7,200 per semester, or $14,400 a year, which might qualify them for food stamps and other government assistance.
Compare Miami's meager stipend to other four-year public colleges in Ohio: Ohio State pays women's studies adjuncts $4,683 per semester course and $4,000 for all adjuncts at its branch campuses in Lima and Marion. Ohio University's compensation is $2,900 for all courses, and the University of Cincinnati gives it history adjuncts $2,900. Even these higher figures still amount to paltry paychecks.
In light of the fact that Miami has the distinction of being the most expensive public university in Ohio, with an in-state tuition of $14,287.00, this discrepancy is as incomprehensible as "voodoo economics."
Adjunct academics are highly educated and effective teachers. Most have Ph.Ds. Those not in tenure-track positions comprise over 60 percent of faculty teaching on all Miami campuses, a figure on par with national averages. Given their numbers, they are most likely responsible for Miami's consistent reputation as one of the top four-year liberal arts institutions in the country.
Yet, adjuncts are often treated with disdain by their ivory-tower colleagues and administrators, creating a caste and class system that should be anathema to any institution of higher learning. They oftentimes work on a per-semester contract, with little advance notice as to whether they will be re-hired or let go.
They lack job security, benefits or in some cases even an office.
They rarely participate in shared governance or on search committees, are not included in regular university e-mails and typically must cobble together multiple positions at two or even three different institutions just to ensure a livable wage.
This past Wednesday, college faculty nationwide engaged in a "National Adjunct Walkout Day" to bring attention to the abysmal working conditions of part-time professors. There was no one-day walkout at Miami on Wednesday.
Most adjuncts have adopted vows of silence about their situation, acutely aware that they belong to a cheap, replaceable labor pool. They are, in effect, the "scabs of academia."
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But this is the perfect "teachable moment" to share and educate all Miami stakeholders, especially students and their parents, who pay tuition and fees that are definitely not trickling down to most of their instructors.
The time is now to practice one of the four goals of Miami's Liberal Education Plan: to "reflect and act."
Dr. Susan A. Eacker
Visiting Assistant Professor