Tell Vice President Biden: Don't Blame Faculty for the High Cost of College; Majority Are Underpaid and Unsupported
  • Petitioned Dr. Jill Biden

This petition was delivered to:

Faculty Member, Northern Virginia Community College
Dr. Jill Biden
Secretary of Education
Arne Duncan
Commissioner for the National Center for Education Statistics
Jack Buckley
Vice President of the United States
Joe Biden
Secretary of Labor
Hilda Solis
Senior VP, American Council on Education
Terry W. Hartle
U.S. House of Representatives
U.S. Senate

Tell Vice President Biden: Don't Blame Faculty for the High Cost of College; Majority Are Underpaid and Unsupported

    1. Petition by

      New Faculty Majority

      Akron, OH

Friday the 13th, 2012 was truly an unlucky day for college faculty when Vice President Joe Biden characterized them as supposedly overpaid and a major reason for the high cost of college. In fact, the majority of college and university professors in America, commonly known as adjuncts, now work as perpetually temporary, part-time laborers for poverty level wages, little to no eligibility for paid sick leave or health benefits, and almost no access to the basic tools of the profession, such as offices in which to meet students or computers on which to do their work. One college administrator has even admitted that "Wal-Mart is a more honest employer of part-time employees than are most colleges and universities," and that higher education has created a faculty comprising “a highly educated working poor.”

Mr. Biden claimed that “[s]alaries for college professors have escalated significantly” to $100,000. In fact, what has escalated is the number of these so-called “part-time” faculty, who together with graduate students constitute over 60.5% of the teaching faculty (often 80% at community colleges). Their average pay is $25,000 or less per year for having the same teaching loads and teaching responsibilities as their full-time colleagues. The number of part time faculty has grown by more than 280% between 1975 and 2009.

While some adjuncts are high profile, highly compensated professionals teaching on the side like then-Senator Biden when he taught at Widener University Law School, the more common profile of the adjunct is someone who can only truly afford to teach if s/he has independent income and who would not be able to repay any student loan debt on an adjunct salary alone (or get access to loan forgiveness programs because adjuncts are classified as “part time”). Adjuncts are treated like academic day laborers (remember the Doonesbury cartoons in the 90s?) but unlike other seasonal workers they are often denied unemployment insurance in between academic terms.

Adjuncts cannot support a family or attain middle class status based on the compensation structure currently in place at colleges and universities, so most are dependent on their families for economic support, and some even rely on public assistance. Yet they are dedicated professionals charged with teaching critical first and second year and remedial courses, so this means the most vulnerable students are most likely to get the least supported professors.

If only Vice President Biden had gotten some facts to share with those concerned parents and students! According to the Delta Cost Project, a nonprofit organization that has studied college costs, “over time there has been a gradual shift of resources away from instruction and towards general administrative and academic infrastructure.” It also reports that “institutions enrolling the most students spend the least on their education.”

Fortunately the news from Pennsylvania is not all bad;  Vice President Biden was right to say that “money is going into things that have nothing to do with student advancement.” And he was right to advise his audience to “challenge authority” and “not to accept orthodoxy” when faced with situations that need to be changed. Take his advice and sign this petition in order to demand that policymakers educate themselves about college faculty working conditions, work to stop colleges from exploiting faculty, and meet with advocates for adjunct faculty.  Remember:  faculty working conditions are student learning conditions!

Recent signatures

    News

    1. Reached 1,500 signatures
    2. Great letter from AAUP to VP Joe Biden; Students: Chance to Talk to Biden!

      New Faculty Majority
      Petition Organizer

      See the AAUP's letter to the VP at http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/newsroom/2012webhighlight/Biden.htm. Ask AAUP to spread word re this petition!
      Vice President Biden is in LA for the weekend and will be on Ryan Seacrest's radio show Monday. He's asking students to call in. Students -- tell him that faculty working conditions are student learning conditions!

    3. Reached 750 signatures
    4. Another Immediate Opportunity To Communicate This Message to White House!

      New Faculty Majority
      Petition Organizer

      Our friends at MomsRising.org want people to join them virtually at the White House tomorrow (Thursday), January 19th at 9AM PDT/12PM EDT to talk about the future of unemployment insurance and other priorites for families. TELL MOMSRISING TO TELL THE WHITE HOUSE to STOP BLAMING FACULTY FOR THE HIGH COST OF COLLEGE! Simply follow the hashtag #MomsatWH on twitter or go to the MomsRising page on Facebook. Remember: Faculty Working Conditions Are Student Learning Conditions!!

    5. Reached 500 signatures
    6. Change in petition title for clarity

      New Faculty Majority
      Petition Organizer

      We've changed the title of our petition and the first line of the description for the sake of clarity. Thanks to all the full-time faculty who have shown their support!

    7. Reached 50 signatures

    Supporters

    Reasons for signing

    • John DeGennaro ENCINITAS, CA
      • about 2 years ago

      I am an adjunct instructor who is a casualty of a broken system and I am tired of being blamed for entitlements that never see their way into my bank account, I can't even support myself and my daughter as a single dad because my classes continue to be cut for reasons that are unfathomable to me. I have two masters degrees and can't find teaching work.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • David Van Ness FLAGSTAFF, AZ
      • about 2 years ago

      Spent 9 years as an adjunct teaching 7 courses 4 semesters a year for around 20,000 and living at my parents

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
      • about 2 years ago

      I'm an adjunct professor with a PhD teaching 6 courses a semester to make ends barely meet for my family.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Danielle Ringhoff HELLERTOWN, PA
      • over 2 years ago

      I am signing this petition because I have been an adjunct faculty member and have experienced the low pay for my PhD credentials. It is not for lack of trying to find a full time position.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:
    • Coleman Baker FORT WORTH, TX
      • over 2 years ago

      Because I am an adjunct faculty member at 3 institutions and make less than 20,000 a year.

      REPORT THIS COMMENT:

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