By Michael Hill
“What do we want? Respect! When do we want it? Now!”
Rutgers University’s adjunct professors and their supporters chanted outside the room where the school’s negotiators could hear them and choose not to see them at the Busch Student Center.
The union representing the adjunct – or part-time lecturers – says their numbers have nearly doubled in 20 years to roughly 1,500 at Rutgers, but they make less than what their full-time counterparts make for the same work.
“It’s also a way for the university to save money. The return on investment for a part-time lecturer at Rutgers is extraordinary,” said Teresa Politano, President of the Rutgers part-time Union.
David Hughes represents the full-time faculty and says at Rutgers, teaching is taking a back seat to athletics.
“So, they’re saying over in this ghetto here we’re going to do our teaching. That’s not fair to students,” Hughes said.
Statistics over the last 10 to 20 years point to a growing trend in the employment of adjunct or part-time professors with low pay, no benefits and no job security.
As of last semester, Kean University employed 402 full-time faculty and 945 adjunct professors – more than twice as many.
In 1994, adjunct professors made up 5.4 percent of Stockton University’s faculty. Today, adjuncts make up more than half the total faculty at the university.
“It’s the Uber economy where everything is freelance,” Politano said.
Stockton University says full-time faculty teach 70 percent of Stockton’s courses, and adjunct professors – who typically teach one course a semester – do have a role.
“They meet the same qualifications. They’re experts in their field and the students get the opportunity to have both full-time faculty and people who are working in the field, which I think is a really great opportunity for them. It keeps our classes small, it keeps our tuition low,” Davenport said.
“I would say they’re very valued members of our community, but there is the very cold hard reality of economics,” said Michael Klein, who is the Executive Director of the New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities, which includes Kean and Stockton.
American Federation of Teachers Executive Sue Tardi says 90 percent of adjuncts surveyed want the opportunity to climb the career ladder to full-time. Tardi says the schools are exploiting adjuncts.
“It’s a term I don’t like to use, but they’re frequently referred to as the salve labor class, the new slave labor class,” Tardi said.
For now, Rutgers’ growing number of adjuncts say they want respect and parity from the bargaining table.