Congress Gives Attention to College Adjunct Controversy
February 12, 2014
Maria C. Maisto, an adjunct professor at Cuyahoga Community College and leader of the adjunct advocacy group New Faculty Majority appeared before Congress last fall to address colleges’ responses to the Affordable Care Act. Her time there has resulted in a larger look at higher education’s relationship with and reliance on adjunct professors, now making up seventy percent of all instructors at the college level. Ms. Maisto first got the attention of Rep. George Miller when she tackled institutions reducing adjunct hours to below thirty in order to avoid providing benefits. Mr. Miller, leading member of the Committee on Education and the Workforce expressed an interest in working with Ms. Maisto in order to bring dilemmas faced by adjuncts to the forefront. One way to accomplish this was to set up an online forum where adjuncts could share their stories. At the end of the forum, 850 adjunct faculty members from forty-one states relayed the details of their adjunct careers, including pay and benefit information.
The resulting paper entitled “The Just-In-Time Professor” states, “The contingent faculty trend appears to mirror trends in the general labor market toward a flexible, ‘just-in-time’ workforce, with lower compensation and unpredictable schedules for what were once considered middle-class jobs. The trend should be of concern to policymakers both because of what it means for the living standards and work lives of those individuals we expect to educate the next generation of scientists, entrepreneurs, and other highly skilled workers, and what it may mean for the quality of higher education itself.” Ms. Maisto’s work with Rep. Miller led to her invitation to appear at the hearing and testify.
In a time when the parties are still entrenched in a battle over the Affordable Care Act, the plight of adjuncts could present a common ground that enables cross-party cooperation. During Ms. Maisto’s presentation at the hearing, both parties took note and had follow-up questions. Ms. Maisto said “On both sides of the aisle, there was acknowledgement of the issue. It was obvious the hearing wasn’t going to solve their differences over the ACA, but they were smart enough to see that this is another issue that… they’re going to have to pay attention to.”
“We have to stop hiding in the shadows,” said Maisto, who claims her fellow adjuncts are paid roughly $8 an hour at Cuyahoga. “We have to not be ashamed to tell our stories.”
Read NPR’s recent piece on the current plight of the adjunct professor in America.