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Long commutes, low pay: secret lives of adjunct faculty

Professor Hikmet Loe discusses the role of Native Americans in author Carleton Watkins’ new book with the Environment and Space of Art Honors class in Converse 209 on Jan. 31. Loe is the adjunct faculty coordinator at Westminster College and said most adjuncts continue to teach despite low pay and commute time because they are passionate about teaching. (Photo by John Perri)

Paula Collmar, a Westminster College foreign language adjunct professor of 11 years, was on her way to teach her 8 a.m. French translation class at the University of Utah. Traffic was bad that morning and at a standstill. Collmar accidentally rolled back into the car behind her.

Collmar pulled over into the next available parking lot to check the damage with the person she ran into. The woman happened to be having a bad morning. The woman got out of her car and started threatening to call the police. Collmar said there was little to no damage to either vehicle. The woman proceeded to call the police. Collmar and the women waited an hour for the police to arrive.

Colmar was late to her 8 a.m. class and said she walked into class with tears in her eyes over the ordeal.

Only 12 students had waited for Collmar arrive for class.

Traffic, long commutes, and low pay are just some of the challenges that face adjunct faculty.

Adjunct faculty are professors not on the tenure track. They are hired by a college or university to teach part-time and often have other teaching jobs and/or full-time jobs.  

More than 30,000 adjuncts who are teaching part-time have a full-time job along with their adjunct teaching, according to the American Association of University Professors.

The majority of adjuncts at Westminster fall under this category said Adjunct Faculty Coordinator Hikmet Loe. Westminster faculty is made of 35 percent adjuncts Loe said.

Lack of job security, or not knowing if you will have a job in the future, is one challenge adjuncts face, Loe said.

“The anxiety of not knowing, from term to term, if one is going to be hired back,” Loe said. “It’s really a very short-term looking situation.”

Adjunct professor Matt Riding explains way advertising influences society to his evening class in Malouf 112 on Jan. 23. Riding is part time professor under the adjunct program at Westminster College in addition to his full-time job at an advertising firm. (Photo by John Perri)

According to the American Association of Professors, an adjunct salary usually ranges between $20,000 from $25,000 working full time. On the most extreme scale, adjuncts are getting paid as little as $1,000 to $5,000 per 3 credits, according to a survey reported on by the Houston Chronicle.

Westminster adjuncts are paid per credit hour each term based upon their former teaching experience. They are paid monthly throughout the semester for a total of four times Loe said.

Matt Mays said, on top of financial concerns, balancing life is another challenge that some adjunct face.

“Being an adjunct, it’s obviously not your primary profession,” said Mays, who taught at Westminster during spring 2018 and fall 2019. “It’s not your primary means of supporting yourself or supporting your family. So, the balancing act [is] between your primary occupation also with family needs, throwing adjunct teaching into the mix and making sure you put in as much into it as it deserves. ”

Matt Riding, a five-year adjunct at Westminster, agreed finding balance with a full-time job can be difficult. Riding said he especially struggled his first year on the job.

“I was underestimating the time of the commitment into it,” Riding said. “I was working a lot in the job and then transitioning and changing my mindset into teaching was pretty challenging. Preparing lessons, discussions, writing assignments, developing the curriculum.”

Despite the challenges that adjuncts face, many said they teach because it gives them freedom and flexibility Paula Collmar said.

“I love what I do,” Collmar said. “If you don’t like what you do then life is miserable.”

Adjuncts going into this position know they are not going to be well paid they do it for the love of teaching Loe said.

“The reason people are here, and they are adjuncting, is because they love teaching,” Loe said. “That’s it that passion is a good thing that overrides.”

Collmar said her students were the key to making her terrible morning better.

“The students were just delightful about it,” Collmar said.

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John Perri
John Perri is a senior communication major and a huge New England Patriots fan. Perri was raised in downtown Boston but currently lives in Utah for now. He loves to talk to strangers, so if you see him come say “hi!”

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