Hats off to the Washington Post.
First, the not-so-good part. The Post just published a somewhat mindless article by a former writer, Colman McCarthy, now an employee of the Center for Teaching Peace. He teaches peace studies at several schools as an adjunct.
Unhappy about the low pay of adjuncts (the national median is $3,000 per course), McCarthy advocates that adjuncts be paid $15,000 per class. That would be great, if money grew on trees. His suggestion:
Start with cuts to presidential salaries, which are at all-time highs. Annual pay packages from $500,000 to more than $1 million are common.
I’m not opposed to cutting presidents’ salaries, but, frankly, how many adjuncts would that pay for? This is just rhetorical fluff.
At the bottom of the article, however, the Post links to related articles, including one by David C. Levy, a “career-long academic and former university chancellor” (at the New School). His 2012 column discusses the debate over why tuition continues to rise. He writes:
Overlooked in the debate are reforms for outmoded employment policies that overcompensate faculty for inefficient teaching schedules.
And he goes on to discuss “inefficient teaching schedules.” Back when faculty were poorly paid (early in the twentieth century) generous work weeks made sense, but things have changed.
Though faculty salaries now mirror those of most upper-middle-class Americans working 40 hours for 50 weeks, they continue to pay for teaching time of nine to 15 hours per week for 30 weeks, making possible a month-long winter break, a week off in the spring and a summer vacation from mid-May until September.
Furthermore, while conceivably such teaching loads might be legitimate for top universities focused on research, they know no such limits:
Unfortunately, the salaries and the workloads applied to the highest echelons of faculty have been grafted onto colleges whose primary mission is teaching, not research. These include many state colleges, virtually all community colleges and hundreds of private institutions. For example, Maryland’s Montgomery College (an excellent two-year community college) reports its average full professor’s salary as $88,000, based on a workload of 15 hours of teaching for 30 weeks. Faculty members are also expected to keep office hours for three hours a week.
Now, that article raises some important questions!