Last week voters in the city of Albuquerque, by an unambiguous 2-1 margin, approved a $1 per hour increase in the minimum wage, taking it to $8.50 per hour and leaving little doubt about their feelings about the state of economic inequality that has come to define our nation. We wonder what the city electorate would think about the compensation for part-time faculty at Central New Mexico Community College.
A part-time faculty member with a Ph.D. in the school of Communication, Humanities and Social Sciences earns just under $2,800 per course section. It doesn’t make any difference whether the doctorate was earned 30 days earlier or whether it has been followed by 30 years of experience. CNM compensation does not recognize seniority, years of loyal service, or career accomplishments.
No part-time instructor has one scintilla of job security. They work semester-long contracts, with no assurance there will be courses to teach the following semester.
The administration likes to define part-time compensation as a function of only in-class hours with students, actual face time in a classroom, roughly 40 hours per course per semester. The calculation does not acknowledge time for course development, lesson planning, the preparation of student evaluations (tests, quizzes, essay assignments), grading those evaluations, course management duties, office hours, maintaining communication with students outside class, and for staying on top of the literature and other developments within one’s discipline(s).
The actual time spent outside the classroom varies widely. Clearly less is spent on a course that is largely unchanged from the previous semester or for multiple sections of the same course. But for a variety of reasons, usually financial necessity, it is not uncommon for part-timers to teach multiple sections of, say, three separate courses, which shreds those economies. Those are the semesters when $8.50 per hour might constitute a pay increase if every work-hour was compensated.
The average number of courses for part-time faculty, any distribution of compensation, is guarded like a state secret at CNM, but if a part-time CHSS faculty member with a Ph.D. were to teach 10 sections per year—and few get that many—the workload starts to look fulltime for a gross annual pay of $28,000. Many part-time faculty members work second jobs.
The part-timers we know at CNM are dedicated, conscientious professionals who enjoy their work and do it well. And let’s be honest, you must be committed to education to work for compensation this lousy and no job security.
CNM, like colleges and universities across the nation, survive on a contingent labor force in a market glutted with unemployed and under-employed professionals with advanced degrees. Administrators use those market realities to justify substandard compensation with a clear conscience. For students, it is powerful counterevidence to the endlessly parroted claim that a college education promises a good living. From our end, it is exploitation and we are willing to bet that any reasonable group of people, like the Albuquerque electorate, would agree.
Seamus O’Sullivan, Ph.D.
Robert Anderson, Ph.D.
Benay Blend, Ph.D.
Felecia Caton Garcia, Ph.D.
Marta Henrickson, Ph.D. (abd)
Diane R. Layden, Ph.D.
Geri Rhodes, Ph.D. (retired)
Andy Russell, Ph.D.