Adjunct professors at Georgetown University now face an uncertain future after the passing of the Oct. 31 expiration of their collective bargaining contract with the university.

Georgetown must recognize adjunct professors’ immense contributions by paying them a wage that is livable given the high cost of living in the Washington, D.C. area and by granting them access to health care and other resources.

The university’s failure to adequately cooperate with adjuncts indicates its lack of respect and consideration for our adjunct professors.

Though the university declined to give official statistics on how many adjuncts it employs, estimates by adjunct professors indicate that they comprise over half of all professors on the main campus — more than 1,000 individuals.

Given the sheer number of adjuncts and the significant proportion of the teaching faculty they represent, improving the treatment of adjunct professors must continue to be an urgent priority.

A 2017 study by SmartAsset, a personal finance company, estimated that D.C. residents have to earn $103,543 annually to live comfortably.

Even at the current average rate of $7,750 per three-credit course, it is difficult for adjuncts to reach this threshold working only at Georgetown. Teaching four three-credit classes for two semesters, much more than most full-time professors teach, would earn an adjunct $62,000 a year, at this average rate.

As a result, many adjuncts must piece together multiple part-time jobs — often, multiple positions as adjunct professors — to earn a living.

The wage provided under the current contract is simply unlivable, as Bonnie Morris, a former adjunct professor in the women and gender studies program, argued in an op-ed in The Hoya last semester. Moreover, the university’s final offer in the renegotiation promises few improvements.

This editorial board has raised the issue of adjunct faculty pay before, calling on the university in April to “sustain negotiations and cooperation to ensure its faculty makes strides toward greater equality” (“Value Faculty, Protect Union,” The Hoya, April 21, 2017, A2).

Yet, six months after this call to action and four months after the contract’s original June 30 expiration date, the university has not fully addressed adjuncts’ concerns.

Efforts to renegotiate the contract stalled for five months, largely due to the university’s failure to adequately address adjuncts’ concerns.

A group of six adjunct faculty members delivered a petition Oct. 27 to the office of University President John J. DeGioia, calling for higher wages and increased access to health care and other resources.

The university’s meager final offer was disseminated Wednesday, promising an increase in the minimum rate of pay for adjuncts, a bonus to adjuncts who have worked at Georgetown longer than five years and the formation of a committee to explore adjuncts’ current access to health care benefits.

Yet, the final offer provides no expansion of access to health care or other resources and paltry wage increases for the average adjunct.

Adjuncts at Georgetown currently earn an average rate of $7,750 per three-credit course, according to data from The Chronicle of Higher Education. Though the university’s final offer will bump the minimum rate of compensation up from $4,700 per three-credit course to $7,000 — a change it proudly touts as a 50 percent increase — this increase will likely not affect as many adjuncts as much as the university seems to hope, as it is below what the average adjunct earns.

Low pay is just one data point in a continuing trend in which the university expects many of the same contributions from adjunct as full-time professors and yet fails to adequately support them.

For example, adjuncts are expected to hold office hours for their students, but their access to office space depends entirely on the resources of each department. Many adjuncts hold their office hours in Lauinger Library. At the very least, there must be a standardized minimum access to university resources across departments.

Similarly, neither the current contract nor the university’s new proposal offer adjunct professors a way to gain medical or health benefits. As a university committed to fully caring for each individual on this campus, it is inexcusable to neglect such necessary resources for adjuncts.

On the whole, the university should take steps to address the concerns that have been raised about their state of adjunct professors, including the low wages compared to the cost of living and overall limited access to resources. If not, the university fails to uphold the value of cura personalis — the commitment to care wholly for each individual — by which it claims to live.

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2 Comments

  1. What Georgetown needs to do is stop hiring adjunct faculty and start actually investing in their departments by hiring tenure track faculty. Is it a pipe dream? Maybe, but the current model just isn’t sustainable. Hurts professors, hurts students, hurts the profession, and hurts the institution.

  2. Who were the adjuncts, what did the petition say, and were they authorized by the union to represent the rest of the adjuncts? Adjuncts I’ve talked to are not aware of this.

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