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At Hamline University, one of the many private schools that use adjuncts, temporary instructors now outnumber full-timers 195 to 184, according to school officials. Reynolds, the associate provost, notes that full-time professors still teach most of the courses and have more contact with students. But he admits he’s troubled by the trend.
“I really am incredibly sympathetic,” said Reynolds, who was once an adjunct himself. “There are many adjuncts who are quite exceptional teachers,” he added. “If there weren’t a surplus of labor, you couldn’t pay so weakly for it.”
Yet he predicts it will be difficult to change course. With colleges under pressure to restrain costs, “trying to improve the conditions for part-time employees is not going to be at the top of the list.”
Todd Ricker, a union organizer for Adjunct Action, dismisses the idea that colleges can’t afford to treat adjuncts better. “As professors are paid less and less, has tuition gone down?” he said. “No, it’s gotten higher and higher.” He and others say it’s a matter of priorities.
“People aren’t asking for astronomical salaries,” Maisto said. “They’re asking for fair wages to do work that they think and they hope is valued by society.”
Even now, many adjuncts are too frightened to speak out for fear they’ll lose their jobs, Winkler-Morey said. But she said she’s hoping that will change.
A few weeks ago, one of Winkler-Morey’s students confided that she was thinking about becoming a professor, she said. As her teacher, she admits, she was pained by her own reaction.
“I can’t recommend it to my students,” she said. “I can’t advise this working-class person to be me. She needs a real job.”
Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384