Monday, September 14, 2009

Athena From Allentown Goes Crazy With the Calculator and Divines and Divides the Adjunct Salary Within a Penny Of Its Life.

In our department, a 3-credit class pays $3000 (give or take). Ok, so a 14-week semester times 3 credits is 42 hours of "work" (not really, because it's really 150 minutes a week, not 180.) $3000/42 hours is $71.40/hour. Pretty good, right?

Oh yeah, I forgot the final exam, that's a 2.5-hour period. $3000/44.5 hours = $67.42/hr. Awesome.

Wait, there are supposed to be office hours. Let's say someone keeps 2 hours a week per class. 44.5 + (14x2) = $41.38/hour. Wow, that's a pretty big hit, but still a good wage, right?

Dude probably gives what, three exams? so let's say four hours writing, a half hour photocopying, and three hours grading. (I probably actually spend more like ten hours grading an exam but we'll assume adjuncts give scantron exams. This time estimate leaves some room for recording grades to a spreadsheet and/or online course management software.) Be generous and call it 8 hours/exam, 24 hours total. Oh and the final, say another 8 hours, 32 total. That puts us up to 104.5 hours and we're down to $28.71/hr.

If the instructor holds review sessions for exams, add in 8 hours for that (2 hrs/exam). $3000/112.5 hr = $26.66/hr.

If the instructor actually answers student emails--well, I probably spend close to an hour a day on that; I have a very large number of students but a lot of my email traffic is "please see section X of the syllabus and get back to me." So how much time for this? Is 2 hours/week too much? That probably overlaps with office hours, so let's put in 1 hour/week or 14 hours. $3000/126.5 hr = $23.71/hr.

Crap, I didn't include any time for actually preparing for class. If it's a new course, give what, an hour prep for every hour of class? Two? Three? I could basically put in any amount of time on a new prep, but let's say a newbie has to spend three hours a week on prep (this counts reading, preparing lecture notes, writing a syllabus, preparing handouts, interacting with the course website, wheedling a copier code from the secretary, putting materials on reserve in the library, arguing with the bookstore about the text, etc etc.) That's probably a pretty lowball estimate, but whatever. That's another 42 hours on top of everything else... $3000/168.5 hours --no, scratch that, if we're estimating here anyway why are we still carrying around that 0.5 hour? Let's say 170 hours, and we get $17.60/hr.

Celia Monahan gets $2100/class; with the assumptions above she's making around $12 an hour. She probably spends more time on some things, less on others, than what I've outlined.

Another way to tally this would be to figure that 4 classes/semester is a full load, or 2 in summer. Then 10 classes/year gets you $30k (or it gets Celia $21k). Calculating out to a 40-hour workweek gives about the same numbers: $18-20/hr at $3k/class, under $12/hr at $2100/class. Yep, crap pay.

Lesson: adjunct pay can be absolutely great if you decide how many hours a week you're going to put into it, prioritize the tasks, and stop when that amount of time has been used each week. You want $50/hour? Then $2100/semester divided by $50/hour divided by 14 weeks/semester is 3 hours/week. That's it. You walk in, teach your class, and walk out. No grading, no photocopying, no handouts, no emails, no office hours.

Anything you do besides standing in front of a classroom cuts into your profit margin. You put in 6 hours/week instead of 3, you just gave yourself a 50% pay cut. Universities get away with this because just often enough, people do a good job in spite of being paid like undergrads. If everybody phoned it in, the students might finally up and revolt. Maybe. And maybe if everyone in the adjunct pool did a little math, there wouldn't be those rows and rows of people waiting to take over when Celia or Brynn turns down a job.