OPINION – Five years ago while I was an undergraduate, I wrote a scholarship essay in which I shared an anecdote of a time at the gym while running on a treadmill. As I looked around at my fellow gym-mates covered in sweat with determined expressions engraved upon their faces, I realized we were giving our all yet, ultimately, going nowhere. I likened this experience to my life up to that point: I had worked at dead-end jobs, eking out an existence for my family, giving my all yet going nowhere.
I then made the connection that education was my pathway off my treadmill and that I made the sacrifices necessary – accumulating mountains of student debt, taking time away from family, overcoming personal insecurity – because I could not bear to run on my treadmill yet another day.
Furthermore, I promised the scholarship committee that I would teach with passion and poise, treating my students with the utmost respect, serving them with tireless devotion, and helping them step off their own treadmills, just as my former teachers had helped me.
Here I am five years later, two of which have been spent teaching as an adjunct at Dixie State University, and my earlier romantic view of education and my role in the system has suffered a fatal blow.
This year, the administration of Dixie State – without consulting faculty – raised class sizes campus-wide. Therefore, when I started fall semester this year, my class sizes were 10 percent larger than I had anticipated when I agreed to teach my current workload.
Although the university did raise wages, the increased class sizes essentially negated the increased earnings, and despite the increased class sizes, students still clambered to be added into already overflowing classes, often languishing for months on wait lists.
But the troubling aspects of higher education for 40 percent of the faculty on the Dixie State campus do not end there. The dismal plight of the college adjunct has been voiced in national publications such as the Washington Post, “Adjunct professors get poverty-level wages. Should their pay quintuple?” and Huffington Post, “9 Reasons Why Being An Adjunct Faculty Member Is Terrible.”
Additionally, adjuncts endure the condescending and even occasionally hostile attitudes embraced by some of their tenured colleagues, such as Catherine Stukel’s as expressed in her contemptuous letter to the editor published on the Chronicles of Higher Education website in which she asks, “Is That Whining Adjunct Someone We Want Teaching Our Young?”
Fortunately, not all tenured faculty share Ms. Stukel’s view, and the spectrum of opinion also extends from indifferent to empathetic, with many opposing reliance upon underpaid adjunct labor in lieu of hiring full-time, non-tenure-track faculty.
Regarding the particular conditions adjuncts face at Dixie State, they are required to possess, at minimum, a master’s degree (or be enrolled in a graduate program) and have limited opportunity for advancement with little hope of making a livable wage or procuring benefits. They are limited to teaching 10 credits or less per semester, so as to exempt them from receiving benefits assured in the Affordable Care Act.
At DSU’s current rate of $650 per credit hour, any adjunct fortunate enough to teach 10 credits (due to course structures, usually only 8 to 9 credits are possible), then that adjunct will be compensated $6,500 for the semester, a meager $13,000 annually, roughly equivalent to the annual sum of the student loan payments I will soon begin making.
Indeed, if a solution to this quandary will be instituted, it must be demanded by the adjuncts themselves, for as long as people are willing to accept the status quo and receive far less compensation than they are worth, administration will unabashedly let them.
And so here I stand today, five years after penning my heartfelt scholarship essay, assessing my current situation, and I discover, alas, I have stepped off of one treadmill only to step onto another. So I will bid the world of higher education Adieu! at the end of this semester, for as much as I would like to be part of a solution, I cannot bear to run on my treadmill yet another semester.
Submitted by Stephanie Millett, English Department instructor, Dixie State University
Letters to the editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or contributors and are published “as is” without edit. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them; they do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News
- Dixie Forum reconvenes with lecture on law, war
- Dixie State anticipates bachelor’s program in exercise science, proposes new facility
- Dixie name revisited as Dixie State professor calls for name change
- Dixie State executive vice president steps down, returns to classroom
- Film treasures abound in Utah’s ‘Little Hollywood’
Email: [email protected]
Letters to the Editor are not the product of St. George News, its editors, staff or news contributors. The matters stated and opinions given are the responsibility of the person submitting them. They do not reflect the product or opinion of St. George News and are given only light edit for technical style and formatting.