As college students, there are countless stressors that we encounter in our daily lives, whether they’re school related or not. Our commutes to school, our lack of sleep, or the amount of homework that piles up on our desks each night. But as we go through our days, we tend to forget that professors, fully grown adults who have once been where we are, face plenty of struggles as well. A huge stressor, especially for adjunct professors, is their low annual income. While this topic has become increasingly well known these days, there hasn’t been much action taken toward fixing the issue. However, the City University of New York (CUNY) and The Professional Staff Congress (PSC) systems are working to help ease that burden by implementing new contracts that directly target the weak spots of the faculty-employment system.
Recently, CUNY and PSC, who represent the staff and faculty at CUNY, came to a tentative agreement on a new contract that would improve the conditions of the staff and faculty who work at CUNY. According to a press release, the agreement is mostly beneficial for adjuncts, both as workers and service-providers. “The agreement provides wage gains for adjunct and full-time faculty, and further professionalizes the work of part-time faculty at CUNY. The accord restructures the workload of adjunct faculty to enable them to devote more time to… advising, holding office hours, and engaging in professional development and other activities that play a key role in students’ success.” If the contract is approved by the CUNY Board of Trustees and the PSC unions membership, the contract would last from December 1, 2019 through February 28, 2023.
Professor Alex Reichl is a tenured political science professor at Queens College. He has taught at several schools in the CUNY system for almost 20 years now. He began teaching at Hunter College in the 1990s, as a part-time employee, but was not on track for tenure because he was teaching back when there was an ongoing budget crisis. When asked if, during that time, professor salaries had increased at all, he answered that it has. There have been maybe three or four new contracts, but despite those, there had been some issues as well. Sometimes a contract would expire and a fight would ensue, resulting in some professors having to work with no contract at all. Professor Reichl explained that despite having no contract, they had to follow the rules of the contract that expired anyways.
When asked how a salary increase would affect him, professor Reichl responded that he would appreciate the extra money, but the salary increase would have an astronomically bigger impact on adjunct professors. Adjunct professors are not full-time faculty, and are therefore only paid per class rather than at a set income. They are also not considered on track for tenure, so their positions have less stability. In other words, they have to worry more about keeping their jobs in times of budget or hiring crises. Hopefully, with the passing of this new contract, the hard work of CUNY professors and staff will be recognized.