Monday, November 23, 2015

A letter to my students as I leave adjunct teaching

I’ll miss you. If you don’t believe me, ask any of my former students. Or ask my husband who has had to put up with my moping and my bouts of tears these past few weeks as the semester winds down to an end.

It’s not you; it’s me. I can’t teach for poverty wages and zero benefits any longer. The university administrators have taken advantage of my need to mentor long enough. Knowing that teaching is a calling, administrators have carved out a fiefdom in which they exploit this need of ours to teach, while paying themselves fabulous salaries and bonuses (see "UNH justifies bonuses for administrators" HERE).

I have taught scriptwriting, media writing, and Image & Sound
since January 2004 (with a year off for health reasons). 
After ten years of teaching for the university, I am paid $1000 per credit—a sum I’ve reached after having to ask for my raise every other year.  The last time I asked for a raise, I was told via email that this was “the upper limit of the UNHM adjunct pay scale.” A few weeks later I learned of a colleague who was offered almost double that amount—$1950 a credit—to teach his first class.

When I began, I didn’t even make minimum wage for all the hours I worked. About four years ago I finally climbed past that lofty ambition, and now make about $14 to $17 an hour each week, depending on how much grading I have, how many extra emails I need to respond to, and how many times I need to meet with students.

I thought my time here would eventually be rewarded with an offer of full-time employment. I was wrong, and should have known better. Why would the university administrators offer me benefits and a livable wage if I’m obviously willing to work for almost nothing? Why buy the tree if you can get the apples for free?

I’m uncertain of my future since I thought I was working toward it this past decade. But I am certain of my advice to you: Do not pursue advanced degrees with the thought that you will teach at a college or university one day. If the university’s administrators have made anything clear, it is this: Faculty members are not valued; they can be bought for a couple thousand dollars and zero benefits. It’s an unlivable wage. To administrators, it’s an unspeakable wage, for you won’t hear it from them.

Therefore, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is this: Ask your professor if she or he is an adjunct. If so, ask if they make a livable wage. When they’ve stopped laughing or crying or both, ask what you can do to help in the struggle to pay adjunct faculty a fair and livable wage with benefits. Then do it, whether it takes the form of a picket line, a letter to the editor, a petition to administration, an email to your legislator, sharing a handout I've prepared (available HERE), or what have you. It won’t be easy, but it will be much appreciated.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

On set for the noon newscast

Enjoyed yesterday's visit to WMUR with my students of the discovery course Image and Sound. While the class is comprised of students from across many majors at UNH Manchester, everyone enjoyed the tour--even those who aren't currently studying video production. Led by Production Manager Peter McKay, who is also a director at the station, we were shown the room where the reporters and producers work, the editing and sound booths, the production booth, and the studios. We were even permitted to stand inside the studio during the live broadcast, which means we'll never see the news in the same way again. Thanks to everyone at WMUR for making us feel welcome! 

News Anchor Sean McDonald and Meteorologist Kevin Skarupa
discuss the upcoming holiday weekend forecast. 
Every production begins with lights. These
are energy-efficient LEDs.

Meteorologist Kevin Skarupa motions to
the weather pattern that is crossing
New England. How does he do it?
A touch of magic may be involved! 

News Anchor Sean McDonald learns how to make brandy apple and
peppered-peach-filled pound cake from chefs Jillian Lemay and Pat Brideau
of Kingswood Regional High School during Cook's Corner.
You can watch the clip via WMUR's website HERE.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Some stories need prompting

Looking forward to traveling to UMASS Amherst tomorrow night to see the debut of "Prompt," a short film based on the screenplay I wrote earlier this year.

The script was selected as one of five shorts filmed as part of the Women Only Project sponsored by Counterfeit Cow Productions. The parameters of the original call for screenplays was one location, two to four women characters, and five pages max. Scripts also had to be penned by women.

Because the project was women-centered, I felt it was a safe place to share my story of when I was raped as an undergrad, became pregnant, and had to make a difficult choice that was right for me at the time.

When the call for entries landed in my inbox, this type of story had made the news once more. Frustrated as I listened to the call for restrictions on women's choices and freedoms yet again, I decided it was the perfect time to dramatize some of what had happened to me. It is my hope that in sharing my story I may help someone get the mental help they need in a timely manner, instead of suffering in silence for years.

And now I look forward to seeing the screen story unfold in which a radio interview with the imagined me plays in the background, giving a young co-ed the strength to confide in someone. No one should have to go through this sort of thing alone, which is why I am also pleased to attend the screening with my BFF. Films are better with friends. Especially debut screenings of your own short stories.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

New England Contingents United Plans First Unconference to Bring Adjunct Faculty Together

Contingent, also known as adjunct, faculty from New England are invited to join in the first unconference sponsored by the newly formed New England Contingents United—or NECUnited—Saturday, October 17, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Holiday Inn on North Main Street in Concord, NH. Though the event is free, attendees are asked to RSVP so an accurate headcount will assist with set-up and coffee orders; to RSVP please visit

The organizers of the NECUnited Unconference hope to bring together adjunct faculty from around New England with the theme “Connections,” which emphasizes that adjuncts are not alone. Far from it, since most colleges and universities now fill 70 percent or more of their teaching positions with adjunct instructors. Adjunct faculty are contract workers paid low wages for their services with no benefits and no guarantee of work semester to semester. The national average compensation is just $2,700 per three-credit course—a rate so low that it means about a quarter of adjunct faculty must rely upon public assistance to survive.

The unconference offers an open meeting where people interested in higher education and contingent/adjunct workforce issues can come together in sessions proposed on the spot. An unconference is to a conference what a seminar is to a lecture, what a house party is to a church wedding, or what a pick-up game is to a varsity game: it’s more informal and participatory.

The organizers decided to host an unconference rather than a traditional conference for many reasons, including that the agenda is decided the morning of the unconference, rather than being set beforehand by a committee. This means that the issues that are most important to attendees can be addressed and discussed during participatory breakout sessions. By leaning on the knowledge base of those in attendance rather than hiring speakers, an unconference also keeps costs low.

Organizers anticipate some discussions to revolve around union forming and ongoing negotiation strategies, which has led to the invitation of union organizers, including representatives from SEA/SEIU and from AAUP, as well as faculty members who serve as union representatives. The documentary “Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Faculty” will also be screened, should enough participants wish to view it.

NECUnited organizers include adjunct faculty from NHTI and the state’s Community College System of NH, Keene State, UNH, UNH-Manchester, and PSU, as well as lecturers from UNH. More information about the Saturday, Oct. 17th NECUnited Unconference at the Concord, NH, Holiday Inn, is available at  

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Servant Class of Adjunct Professors Reveals the Shame of American Universities and Colleges One Article and Blog Post at a Time

Thanks to Amy Rebecca Williams of the Facebook group Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Faculty for finding this June 16, 2014 gem of an article: "The Teaching Class" by Rachel Reiderer, published in Guernica, a magazine of art and politics.
Why it matters still: More than ever adjuncts are relied upon to teach a majority of classes at universities and colleges across the country. These folks, most of whom have studied and earned advanced degrees in their fields, are paid a per-class rate that is at or below minimum wage, and does not usually include pay for class preps pre-term, which--when a class is canceled due to low enrollment--means that they receive zero pay for having ordered books, written a syllabus, and prepared the first couple weeks of classes. I have been not paid for my work on several occasions and now limit myself to ten hours of work pre-term, which means that I scramble to recover the first couple weeks of classes, as I am doing now.

Adjuncts also do not receive benefits. Health? No. College reimbursement for self, spouse/partner, child? No. Matching retirement contributions? No.

When students require after-hours assistance, adjuncts are not compensated for their time. Yet, most willingly give it. When we are asked to write recommendations, most of us eagerly accept, though again there is no compensation. When we are required to attend training sessions, many colleges do not pay for our time; when I ask about it, as I do every time I am faced with this demand, I am threatened with the pulling of my class assignment from one of the universities where I teach.

I am lucky. I have a husband who supports my choice to leave adjunct teaching at the end of 2015--to take my life back from the disheartening higher ed system that has created a servant class of teachers. I will miss the students, and a couple of my colleagues, but not the abuse. Never the abuse.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Upstairs, Downstairs: Colleges & Universities Create a Servant Class of Part-Time Professors

This weekend I enjoyed a lively discussion with folks at the World Fellowship Center where I presented on the state of adjunct abuse by colleges and universities in this country and in our state. Until I can flesh out my bullet points into a cohesive blog post--or several posts--I invite you to enjoy some of my slides (which I didn't share with my audience since we sat in adirondack chairs on the lawn that looked out over Mount Chocorua).