Here’s a creative but effective educational and organizing tool that our colleagues in the AAUP chapter at Front Range Community College in Colorado have published and which merits the broadest distribution: The Adjunct Cookbook, described as “48 pages of foodbank-friendly concoctions,” including “No Bucks Coffee Drinks,” “The Frappes of Wrath,” as well as “high-fat, lo-fat, and no-fat salary breakdowns.” The book is designed to expose adjunct working conditions and pay at the college’s four campuses and across the country. Recipes calling for beef scraps, bruised tomatoes, orange peelings and chicken bones point to a workforce living on the edge. “Cracked Windshield” is a mint drink based on cracked Lifesaver candies. And while I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read the book myself, it sure sounds like a delicious approach to the issue.
“We hope that the book helps [adjuncts] realize they have not failed, but that the system has failed them,” said Caprice Lawless, president of the chapter, a member of AAUP’s national Committee on Community Colleges, and an adjunct instructor of English who contributed to the project. According to the chapter, adjunct pay in the Colorado Community College System “qualifies most of them for food stamps, food banks, Medicaid, etc.”
Suzanne Hudson, an AAUP leader and adjunct faculty member at the University of Colorado, Boulder, writes this morning on the Colorado Conference website that “the text is a primer in how the Colorado Community College System (CCCS) is slicing, dicing and shredding collegiate-level teaching. Many pages of research, audit charts and budget breakdowns document what the authors say is a recipe for catastrophe for the 163,000 Colorado students looking to those colleges for learning.”
“The authors believe that once teachers and students get the books home to read the recipes, they will discover many startling facts about their college. Most of those facts are public information, albeit well-hidden information, about a bloated administration consuming most of the $576 million in CCCS annual revenues,” Hudson adds.
Inside Higher Ed published a short item on the cookbook this morning and apparently sought a response to it from Front Range President Andrew Dorsey, who didn’t comment directly but according to the report reported that “Front Range adjuncts earn from $735 to $1,119 per credit hour, based on experience and other factors, and deliver about 60 percent of instruction.” Apparently Dorsey thinks this is perfectly adequate. But if one assumes that a full-time teaching load is 15 credit-hours a semester (a quite common workload in community colleges) at two semesters a year this rate comes to an annual full-time salary range of $22,050 — $33,570. (The 2014 federal poverty level is set at $23,850 for a family of four.) This is hardly the level of compensation one might expect from a professional position that requires, one assumes, at minimum an M.A. degree. No doubt many adjunct faculty in the CCCS also have Ph.D’s or are in the process of completing that advanced degree.
I suspect, of course, that few adjuncts at Front Range actually work a full load — at least at a single institution. But even if they did, what does it say about a system of higher education willing to pay such minimal compensation to those who teach 60% of the classes? Community colleges have long been seen as a primary vehicle for rising from poverty into the middle class or otherwise improving one’s economic position. What message does it send to the students entering those colleges when they discover that their instructors make less than the students themselves may already be earning at, say, a local Starbuck’s?
So, now I want you to do what I just did: point your cursor HERE and click to order your own copy of The Adjunct Cookbook, a bargain at just $7.50, and after you’ve enjoyed and perhaps learned from it share it with colleagues, full-time and part-time. (According to Hudson’s post, the first edition is already sold out, but I’m sure they will soon be printing more.) And our Front Range colleagues haven’t copyrighted their work because they want folks elsewhere to use their effort as a model.