The Cost of Griz Nation

by lizard

When I wrote about UM’s enrollment problem, I made a snarky comment about the plans to build a 3 million dollar athlete study center.

Why, you may be asking, should 3 million dollars be spent to build a space solely for athletes to study? Will this help stupid football players, like Matt Hermanson, avoid going to jail for criminal mischief? Doubtful. But it will help Allie Parks and the onerous trips she has to make all the way across campus, which like totally sucks:

Junior Allie Parks, a member of the cross-country and track teams, said that she has been studying in the library or at home, which can be difficult because of her demanding practice schedule.

“It just kind of sucks, when I am trying to get stuff done and have to go all the way across campus after weights in the morning, then back for practice again later,” said Parks, an environmental studies major. “And there is nowhere to print our papers and homework off.”

It’s great to have nice, new spaces to study and learn, but the quality of a college education should be more about the caliber of the faculty, not the caliber of the buildings, and colleges across the nation have been exploiting part-time professors, called adjuncts, for years.

To emphasize that point, an NPR story describes how The Sad Death of an Adjunct Professor Sparks a Labor Debate. From the link:

Last spring, months before her death, Vojtko showed up at a meeting between adjunct professors at Duquesne University and the union officials who had been trying to organize them. The professors are trying to organize a union affiliated with the United Steelworkers.

Daniel Kovalik, senior counsel to the Steelworkers union, says Vojtko was distraught. “She had cancer; she had very high medical bills,” Kovalik says.

After 25 years of teaching French at Duquesne, the university had not renewed her contract. As a part-time professor, she had been earning about $10,000 a year, and had no health insurance.

“She didn’t want charity,” Kovalik says. “She thought that after working 25 years for Duquesne that she was owed a living wage and some sort of retirement and benefits.”

Vojtko died Sept. 1 after a heart attack at the age of 83, destitute and nearly homeless.

And how much do administrators make? Here’s more:

Today, these itinerant teachers make up a whopping 75 percent of college instructors, with their average pay between $20,000 and $25,000 annually.

The shift toward adjunct teachers has helped institutions save lots of money. But Duquesne Provost Tim Austin says it’s unfair to cast his school as “heartless and greedy.”

“First of all, I don’t accept that the arrangements that we make with part-timers are dictated by cost savings,” Austin says.

Second, says Austin, Duquesne pays adjunct professors more than most institutions.

“The least that an adjunct professor could be paid is $3,500 for a course, $7,000 for a given semester,” he says. “Whether those are appropriate in a yet larger context is … a matter that the academic world has not yet found a decisive answer.”

The answer is staring university leaders in the face, says Maria Maisto, head of New Faculty Majority, which advocates for adjunct professors: Pay college presidents and coaches less, and part-time professors more.

“If education is really at the heart of what we do, then there’s absolutely no excuse for not putting the bulk of the resources into what happens in the classroom,” Maisto says.

But that’s not what institutions are doing, she says.

Yep, that is definitely what they are doing, and it will only get worse:

When Robin Pflugrad signed his three-year contract in 2010 for $155,000 per year, it made him the 10th highest paid coach at the FCS level, with the other nine at schools east of the Mississippi River. That has since changed, and the increases are headed our way. North Dakota State head football coach Craig Bohl had a base salary of almost $200,000 last year, and with incentives, reached more than $260,000. Others are following and feeling the need and pressure to make somewhat competitive offers to the coaches they currently employee.

These trends will continue because sports programs are apparently more of a priority than educators. Freshman, you will figure this out pretty quickly as you sit in class rooms taught by adjuncts on food stamps and disgruntled grad students teaching 100-level courses to mitigate the debt load they’ll be carrying.

Go Griz!

  1. System-wide, adjuncts are not just “part-time” slaves. Many work over 40 hours/week. As “research” siphons off more and more tenured faculty from the classroom, grad students and adjuncts are asked to do more for less. Pay rates fall below minimum wage in some cases.

    And there’s the revolving-door-retirement-scam to consider. Tenured profs play “interim” director, often badly, to boost pay, and boost retirement pay while searching for replacement administrators.

    Students have become incedental to the University industry.

  2. jack ruby

    How did the 85 year old professor not have medicare?

  3. James Maxie

    If professors could be fired for bad performance the way college coaches, and even college athletes are we’d have an argument. But instead, professors are protected. Athletes and their coaches enjoy no such protection.

  4. James Maxie

    Moreover, if you don’t think athletics have an impact on a university’s revenue I suggest you track Boise St.’s enrollment numbers over the last ten years as it relates to their success on the football field. It’s definitely an eye-opener.

  5. One would think that track and cross-country athlete Allie Parks would relish the jog between classes and the library and the Adams Center. Sounds like a good workout to me.

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