Adjunct faculty make sacrifices to share their knowledge

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A full-time professor at Boise State receives benefits, is on track to receive their tenure —or already has it— and are paid more than their counterparts, adjunct faculty. Adjunct professors are allowed to teach a maximum of 11 credits per semester, whereas full-time faculty teach over 12 credits. 

Adjunct faculty who are teaching for the first time at Boise State and have taught fewer than three classes in the past three years are paid $1,066 per credit. 

An opportunity to have a $41 increase is allotted to adjunct when they have taught more than three courses in three years, receive a master’s degree or an equivalent experience and have received satisfactory student and departmental evaluations. Those that meet the requirements then receive a raise to $1,107 per credit, according to the Human Resources department.

Currently, there are 590 adjunct faculty members and 833 full-time employees at Boise State. The role of any professor, adjunct or full-time, is to take the knowledge they have on a specific subject and teach it to the next generation.

Lana Kuchta is a lecturer in the English department and has worked at Boise State for 14 years. During her first 10 years, she taught as an adjunct professor and has been a lecturer for the last four. 

“I mean, their original purpose of adjunct labor was to have somebody who was an expert in a field, just share that knowledge and teach that class, but they had other jobs and they would teach it as a night class or something like that,” Kuchta said. “Universities have relied more and more heavily on this adjunct labor, which has created I don’t know in my mind an ethical dilemma.” 

Sam Heidelberg, a junior English education major, has had good experiences with adjunct professors in the past and credited her University Foundations (UF) 200 professor with making her care about that class.

“She really brought a lot of passion, engagement and expertise to the class,” Heidelberg said. “I felt that it was structured in a way that was engaging and different and kind of broke the mold a little bit compared to other entry level classes I have had.”

The average salary for an adjunct compared to a full-time professor are highly diverse in range. An adjunct makes about $3,500 per course, or $20,000 to $25,000 yearly. A full-time professor can make anywhere between $50,000 to over $100,000 and the same goes for Boise State faculty.

“Adjunct pay is ridiculously low, I’m not gonna lie about that,” Kuchta said. “I am very fortunate that I have a husband who makes money and can pick up the slack where my income doesn’t make enough.” 

Most adjuncts are unable to live off their salary, and oftentimes take on one or more jobs to subsidize the income they are not receiving. Kuchta worked as an adjunct for the College of Western Idaho and Boise State for one year raking in 21 credits in total before she decided to stay at Boise State. 

“And at that point, part of the decision to just keep adjuncting versus giving it up entirely was because it did give me a flexible schedule to be around when I was raising my kids,” Kuchta said.

Kuchta decided raising her children and adjuncting would be enough with help from her husband’s salary and insurance. It was not necessarily a fair trade concerning earnings, but one she made and acknowledges.

By hiring adjunct faculty members, the university can save money and be able to have more teachers for entry level course that most first-year students have to take. Jonathan Lashley works for the Idaho State Board of Education as the Associate Chief Academic Officer, he worked as a staff member for Boise State’s Office of Information Technology (OIT) Department. 

Lashley was an example of another way the university works to have adjuncts teach classes. As a full-time staff member in OIT, he was also able to adjunct for first-year writing and taught English 101 and 102. 

“I would say in terms of developing course work, designing and delivering those courses, they [adjunct]are not inferior to a full-time faculty member or assistant or full professor,” Lashley said. “If anything, what the difference is that in traditional faculty roles those on the tenure track or secure tenure, the life of an academic is occupied with not only teaching and service but also scholarship and research.”

Bob Casper works full-time as a staff member for the Instructional Design Consultant for the Instructional Design and Educational Assessment (IDEA) shop and receives the same benefits as a full-time professor does. Casper began teaching developmental workshop courses and was eventually asked to teach a web development class as an adjunct. 

“I only teach at Boise State, but I have friends and coworkers who teach and I know some People who drive two hours, twice a week, down to Twin [Falls] to teach a face-to-face class at the College of Southern Idaho and drive back,” Casper said.

The hope for most adjuncts is to earn enough experience to eventually become a full-time professor. Casper outlined how people will teach from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to make ends meet while building their resume, all in the hopes of receiving benefits that are allotted to professors

“They’re experts in their field, and if we brought and hired these people on campus and we’re saying, ‘You’re an expert,’ and they’re contributing something,” Heidelberg said. “We should give them basic benefits.”

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