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Editorials | Opinion

Editorial: Adjunct faculty in a funk as system disparity reigns

Not all lectures are created equal — a sobering fact every student has experienced first-hand during hours of captivity in that “pointless” general education class, pondering other subject matter more worthy of scholarly attentiveness.

But such a statement offers far more facets than can be found in the margins of student notebooks or the blackened bubbles on course evaluation forms. Course discrepancy also happens to leave a stain on a majority of paychecks nationally, even in the University of Maine System.

Part-time or adjunct faculty members account for 47 percent of all higher education faculty in the United States, according to the American Federation of Teachers, a national teachers union affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

Here, among the University of Maine System, part-time professors who teach a total of 12 credits in a calendar year will earn a salary of $12,348 on average; meanwhile, full-time faculty members at UMaine specifically (other universities within the system vary) will receive, on average, a compensation of $76,030.

Egalitarianism evidently doesn’t come easy in educational circles.

Whereas distinctions are much deserved by those who assume a full-time role at a university in contrast with those who have yet to acquire more privileged offices, the imbalance at work nationwide regarding part-time faculty is offensive in its severity.

The Maine Part-Time Faculty Association, the union for part-time faculty at the seven University of Maine System campuses, has been volleying contract proposals with the system office, desperately attempting to acquire some sort of added benefit or pay raise for the workers it represents.

But as both full-time and part-time faculty have been going about their business without a contract since June 30, 2011, PATFA’s efforts have become futile and its chances of winning concessions, at the moment, appear to be beyond the reach of its bargaining power.

A nearly $64,000 difference makes for a heck of a stretch, especially when adjunct faculty are instructing many undergraduate courses alongside their full-time counterparts. The stalemate established over the past months between both faculty unions and the system isn’t showing any signs of budging, yet the issue must be presented across the board.

A nasty disparity is at play here — people are getting the slip from their pay stubs and they aren’t being offered opportunities to advance in their careers. Who is to blame? The natural inclination is to condemn the Man or the system, but regulations only allow institutions so much sway in matters such as these.

It’s a sticky situation indeed, but one we mustn’t ignore. The first step to alleviating an issue is educating those it affects.

So next time you’re holed up in that classroom enduring an endless lecture on quantum physics, Virginia Woolf or mathematical functions and dub it worthless, know that you may not be far off in your classification.

Perhaps taking note on the assumed lesser value of perfectly decent instructors may encourage you to take actual notes on their preachings.