Back to School When Your Job is Contingent

Today is the last day to take the New Faculty Majority’s survey on contingent faculty appointments.

With the survey, the NFM is trying to get a snapshot of the back-to-school experiences of faculty on contingent appointments by asking about hiring practices, orientations or lack thereof, and access to basic tools like photocopying and curricular materials.

One question, “What is the timeline from the start of classes to the anticipated receipt of your first paycheck?” reminded me of my  worst back-to-school experience, when I was a first-year TA at a large public university. Because of a series of bureaucratic glitches, we did not receive our first paychecks until the end of the fall semester. This was not only incredibly frustrating and time-consuming to sort out, but it had financial consequences that lasted after the paycheck finally arrived, thanks to piled-up credit card debt and late fees on bills.

Readers (and here’s hoping that we have some), have you had similar experiences? What are conditions like at your institution(s) at the start of the term?

3 thoughts on “Back to School When Your Job is Contingent

  1. A well known recent example is East-West University,(Chicago) where faculty get no check until they turn in midterm grades and then no check till after final grades are in. This is one of the issues that sparked a now 2 year long organizing effort there, which their administration is resisting militantly (and illegally, according to the NLRB which has issued numerous complaints against them and rendered judgement on some already. Search for Faculty union East-West University and se the many articles. Finally, this sort of behavior (late payment of wages) is illegal in many states, including IL, but without an organization or union, this sort of wage theft is quite common.

  2. Faculty in such situations should look into state labor laws. A local institution decided unilaterally that adjuncts would no longer be paid at the first pay period of the term (they had been paid in 6 equal installments). They would instead be paid in 5 equal installments starting with the second pay period. This meant not only no pay for a month, but that the former first installments was now paid over the next 2 months instead of at the first opportunity.

    This was done because classes were often cancelled at the last minute, after the payroll had been made up and this resulted in the school having to seek reimbursement from the adjunct. Our AAUP chapter position was that the adjunct should be allowed to keep it as a preparation fee. This did not motivate administration. What did motive them to reverse the decision was our pointing out that state labor law required payment either on a bi-weekly or semi-monthly basis for most occupations. Thus, holding up pay for a month was illegal. There is a catch though. If the faculty member is an independent contractor rather than an employee, the school can pay when the job is done.

  3. When I started my second (tenure track) job, I did not get my first paycheck for several months. I was expecting the paycheck to be mailed to me or put in my department mailbox. The paychecks were accumulating at the secretary’s office, and no one bothered to tell me that they were there.

    In the decades since then I have switched to direct deposit (not available when I started) and they have instituted a policy of e-mailing people whenever there is a check (reimbursement, pay check, royalties, …) waiting for them in the office.

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