Dear Dr. Tripathi,
One week ago, I received an offer letter to teach at UB, after several months of emails, phone conversations, course planning and preparation efforts, and new course development including the creation of a new undergraduate seminar on globalization and culture—all without any details or clarity on the terms of employment that I would eventually be offered, and without any compensation for my ongoing work over the summer months. It was thus with some relief, though much disappointment, that a formal letter of offer to teach was finally available on August 22, 2017—quite a long journey from the March 28, 2017 email (“Testing the waters on possible teaching”) that I very enthusiastically received five months earlier.
Until receipt of the letter of offer of 22nd August, I was without any clarity on the compensation and benefits to be provided for teaching, or even the number of courses that would ultimately available (which even then remained uncertain given the “cancellation without compensation” policy based on enrollment levels that I was only informed of in my 22nd August letter of offer, after having asked for such clarity since late July, and a full 12 days after my last request on this matter that sent to the Chair of my department on 10th August). This very slow process, the lack of detail provided (on compensation, benefits, enrollment level requirements, and what would be the actual number of courses taught), the lack library and blackboard/UBLearns access over these five months, and the very last-minute arrival of a formal offer letter in the afternoon of August 22nd (less than one week before the start of classes and about a day and a half before the contact’s start day on the 24th of August), raise many questions regarding the issue of timely, accurate, and respectful notice regarding employment terms, as does my working for several months without compensation while financing out-of-pocket the acquisition of books and materials owing to my lack of access to UBLearns, UB library electronic resources, or even notes from the tenure-track professor I would be replacing, who promised to send me such notes in early August but who in the end did not.
This was a very time- and work-intensive period during which I was asked to create a new course from scratch on globalization (with much enthusiasm, I may add), while preparing to teach it on the very incalculable probability it might (or might not) be approved, added to the course catalog, and attracted a sufficient number of enrolled students in time for the fall semester—in addition to preparing to teach the tenure-track professor I would be replacing’s two courses (one graduate, and one undergraduate, seminar) with no access to UBLearns, UB library during the entire summer owing to the lack of a formal teaching appointment for me during this period, which left me ineligible for access to UBLearns and the library when in greatest need for such access for course preparation (an unfortunate “catch-22” that greatly increased the time and expense required on my behalf in order to prepare for teaching that consumed most of the summer, and cost me over $600 out-of-pocket).
During this time, the Chair sent me many emails providing many explanation for the delay (i.e., the wheels of bureaucracy moving slowly, or the need for syllabus revisions starting in June and continuing through August), while at the same time expecting me to be prepared to teach up to three courses without any formal commitment or contractual details on compensation and benefits, or even a finalized number of courses that would ultimately be offered (which could have been three up until August 19th, then either two, one or zero after August 22nd depending upon enrollment levels), while requiring my preparation for all three courses without any compensation over the summer through the 19th of August, and my continued preparation of the remaining two courses after the 22nd not knowing if indeed it would be zero, one or two classes as a result of enrollment numbers)—providing me no formal details until less than a week before classes start, and even then, the number of courses (down from three to two on August 19th, the first clarification on the number of courses, despite an earlier email on August 9th notifying me all three courses were approved and indicating a contract was forthcoming the next day (“Good news. I have approval for your three courses. Your contract will be emailed to you tomorrow.”), only to be superseded by an email indicating a detail of indeterminate length the next day (“Me again. Apparently I won’t be able to get the appointment letter out today. But it will be coming. Ah bureaucracy.”); followed a week later with a re-affirmation of the Chair’s forthcoming intention (presented more as a hope, so less certain than previously) to offer three courses, on August 19th (“I hope to have final approval for this 3rd course for you and we can issue the contract to you for three courses soon after. I know this is dragging on, but as it now stops, we don’t want to be issuing two contracts (one for two and then another for one more) and are hoping to consolidate for three in one.”); but then, just three days later on August 22nd I was ultimately notified that only two courses would be offered—and that even those would be subject to enrollment limitations that could result in their cancellation with my not being compensated at all, even after all my work over so many months! All the while, it was expected that I would prepare for these courses and relocate back to Buffalo, without any employment certainty whatsoever, and with the very real risk I might not be compensated in full or at all!
What About Equal Pay for Equal Work?
Being philosophically and morally committed to the principle of equal pay for equal work, it remained impossible for me to consent to being paid any less than that received by the tenure-track professor I would be replacing, whom I would have been replacing this fall. To value my work so much less than his seemed to be both very disrespectful and inherently discriminatory. We both would be teaching the same material, requiring the same advanced knowledge and mastery of the assigned materials; we each would invest the same number of class room hours, while I would likely be required to spend significantly more time preparing for classes (including the devotion of my entire summer to course prep and the acquisition of assigned course materials at significant out-of-pocket cost owing to my lack of access to UBLearns and the UB library system caused by the slow formalization of my appointment two months later, leaving me ineligible for a UBLearns or library account during this period). Both myself and the tenure-track professor I would be replacing are published authors, with the tenure-track professor I would be replacing having one book in print, compared to my dozen published books (many in the stacks at Lockwood).
The Chair kindly demonstrated his faith and belief these many months that I bring to the department expertise and experience suitable for teaching both graduate and undergraduate students, as illustrated by his many kind emails since March as well as his very kind support of my courtesy appointment at the rank of Research Associate Professor, and as such it is quite logical to conclude that am equally deserving of a fair wage and benefits for the work, at least comparable to the tenure-track Assistant Professor I would be replacing’s wage and benefits package, despite my having a far more extensive publishing record. Despite our comparable skill and expertise, there appeared a very gross pay discrepancy—with the tenure-track professor I would be replacing earning $65,176 for a 10-month academic year with two courses per term plus research supervision, for around $16,177 per course with full benefits and no loss of income or benefits should enrollments fall below the required levels, compared to $4,250 per course for me, with no protection of my very low, below-poverty income from the very real risk of course cancellation due to enrollment levels—in which case I would also lose eligibility for health insurance, which is available as a benefit only to instructors who teach at least two courses per semester, and of which nothing was mentioned whatsoever in my letter of offer, requiring me to search and discover such details for myself (but without any formal assurance that I will be provided this important benefit).
To value my work at one-quarter of the tenure-track professor I would be replacing’s value, when the burden placed upon me is much greater (including the possible loss of half or all of my income and my eligibility for health insurance if enrollments are below seven for the graduate seminar and 21 for the undergraduate seminar), is most unfair. With the graduate seminar showing five enrolled students in the week before classes started, this risk was especially worrisome since it would require a 40% surge in enrollment to meet its minimum threshold. Ironically, the class had only three enrolled students early in the summer when I was first asked to teach it. As the Chair described it in his offer letter: “This offer is contingent upon the availability of funds and the enrollment of a satisfactory number of students. The College of Arts and Sciences policy stipulates that undergraduate courses must have a minimum of 21 students enrolled and graduate courses must have a minimum of 7 students enrolled in order to be offered. If the minimum number of students is not met, the College reserves the right to cancel the courses (without compensation).”
The threat to cancel classes for which I prepared all summer, at the request of the Chair of the department, struck me as discriminatory. No mention of this possibility was made during the several months of work performed over the summer. The number of students had not been an issue, and presumably is not a factor in the determination of the wage or benefits of the faculty member I would replace for the fall term. Am I being discriminated against because of my age? That tenure-lines are available primarily to younger scholars would suggest that the terms of employment made available to me, with all the faults described herein, could be rooted in systemic age-discrimination that is inherent in the tenure system. If it is not due to my age, then why am I being valued so much less than the tenure-track professor I would be replacing, while expected to work for several months without any compensation at all, only to be presented with a letter of offer that felt so discriminatory, promising so little while demanding so much?
Indeed, it is extremely unfair that I am valued at just one-quarter the value of the tenure-track professor I would be replacing, whatever the underlying bias is, even if it is because he is on a tenure-line and thereby treated to a different, better, more generous set of rules that violates the principle of equal pay for equal work. I may not be as young as the tenure-track professor I would be replacing, but to discriminate against me when it was my expertise, skill, experience, and extensive research and publications that led to my courtesy appointment as a Research Associate Professor with the Chair’s support, appears to violate state and federal laws with respect to discrimination, not to mention underlying natural law and human rights laws protecting equality in the work place. While I cannot know the motives for the double-standard, my fear that it is a systemic bias across UB and the SUNY and such a pervasive and extensive pattern of discrimination of such a large, exploited, and vulnerable group of individuals who are hired as adjuncts, often at the last minute, and subjected to very poor treatment and inhumane terms of employment as a result, requires a just remedy. Have they been “typecast” into roles as supporting actors on the academic stage, and not the leading men and women who earn the lucrative, six-figure salaries despite their competence, hard work, and dedication? The issue of discrimination against adjuncts must be addressed and fairly resolved.
Academic Enslavement: Working with No Compensation, Contract, or Commitment!
Because I waited all summer without a contract, while nonetheless required to work (itself a morally and legally dubious practice the should not be allowed and appears to be in violation of state and federal employment laws), preparing for teaching and acquiring assigned materials at significant out-of-pocket cost while also creating a new course without any compensation whatsoever—as I was expected to not only prepare to teach all three courses (only two of which were ultimately offered but under the threat of imminent cancellation due to enrollment), but to also design the third class from scratch without compensation or any formal commitment of future compensation; I was, in effect, required to work without compensation, benefits, or the security of a contract which meant to work not only for free but without assurance that a future contract would be forthcoming or that contract would provide a just and livable wage commensurate with my skills, experience, academic rank, and publications.
This sort of servitude is unlawful, exploitative, and discriminatory given the pay and benefits received by other members of the department while creating new courses includes both a wage and benefits, while the assignment for me to create a new course without compensation or benefits was based on only an implicit and uncommitted suggestion of possible future employment, subject to various approvals, only after which all my unpaid work might be later compensated; this is also a morally and legally dubious practice.
Little Administrative Support
Because I was not provided with a formal contract when the position was first presented to me by the Chair earlier this summer, when my actual, if not compensated, work began, I was informed by the department that I could not yet get a UBLearns account or even access UB library electronic materials until after my position as a teacher was formalized and I was entered into the system—this meant I could not benefit from all of the UBLearns materials available, and had to track down individual books, chapters and articles without the benefit of library access or UBLearns access—not only slowing my preparation and acquisition of assigned materials down significantly (requiring several weeks of effort on my part to acquire dozens of books and more than 1,750 pages of articles and chapters), but in the end costing me over $600 out-of-pocket to acquire copies of these materials, with the exception of a small number of items I could not acquire that the department kindly helped me access from the UB library system. Further, the tenure-track professor I would be replacing promised to provide me with notes (in the absence of presentation slides, which he does not use) upon his return in early August, but in the end never sent these to me—this would have greatly helped me gain more understanding of what he taught in class, and what his goals were for each week.
A Broken Tenure System? Rewarding the Abandonment of Students
Additionally, it appears the tenure-track professor I would be replacing’s decision not to teach this fall came late — after his courses were committed to last spring for the coming fall semester. This appears to have the morally dubious effect of rewarding the tenure-track professor I would be replacing for abandoning his classes (and his many students who enrolled in his courses) to put his own research first before his teaching — and his subsequent limited assistance to me indicates a less than enthusiastic willingness to help bring me up to speed during the limited time available over the summer months, when there remained much time for him to share with me his knowledge of his teaching plan and his expectations for each course.
This appears to be symptomatic of an inherent flaw in the tenure system that rewards selected scholars for not helping their colleagues, nor even ensuring the very best educational experience for their students, and instead which encourages placing their own research interests before the interests of their students—while offloading their teaching burden to adjunct instructors who are, like myself, offered very little compensation, provided little administrative support, and who have no assurances of future work (as stipulated explicitly in the letter of offer)—making them economically vulnerable and easily exploited, and who in the end receive very little compensation or benefit from their Herculean efforts.
Across UB, and other SUNY campuses, there are countless adjuncts like myself exploited in this manner with low pay and high demands, last-minute contracts at unfavorable terms, and strict and seemingly arbitrary enrollment limits that can result in their impoverishment—while scholars on tenure lines are rewarded for their more self-serving behaviors with higher salaries and much more secure benefits. This creates a discriminatory work environment with a double-standard that appears to be as immoral as it is unlawful, protecting favored employees’ health and wellbeing while exposing others to the risk of sickness, injury and consequent financial ruin from a lack of health insurance. Sometimes, less experienced instructors are expected to endure long periods as adjuncts to gain experience (this is sometimes referred to as the “foot in the door disease”), living in state of protracted poverty as a result, while others ascend on the tenure track, avoiding poverty and receiving health benefits, yet in my case, I am a very senior scholar, widely published, and at the (courtesy) rank of Research Associate Professor. So the discrimination I am experiencing is very obvious, but no worse than that endured in the more subtle cases where age- and experience-based discrimination leaves many scholars in protracted states of servitude, waiting for that last-minute offer to teach at a very low wage (with their benefits at risk due to enrollment requirements), while their tenure-line colleagues are treated more favorably, unfairly so.
The tenure-track professor I would be replacing appears to be rewarded for abandoning his students in pursuit of his own research interests; yet I, a (courtesy) Research Associate Professor, am expected to not only put aside my own research all summer (and presumably all fall as well), but to work with no contract, no pay, and no benefits during the summer period in order to prepare to teach courses with little support and with $600 in out-of-pocket costs for materials before the teaching commitment was even formalized less than one week before classes started and less than two days before the contract term was to begin, very little time to make an informed and important decision (and due to enrollment issues and thresholds, with no certainty on the ultimate details regarding numbers of courses to be taught and consequently no certainty on the wage or benefits). Working without compensation is always a violation of state and federal labor laws, comparable to forms of historic servitude that are both illegal and immoral, a topic that is ironically addressed in the graduate seminar I had prepared to teach. Working without accurate details on compensation or benefits is likely also in violation of labor laws and should not be allowed, particularly so close to the start of both the contract term (less than two days hence) and classes (less than one week hence).
A Last Minute Offer: Much Too Little and Far Too Late
To then be provided with an offer at the last minute, on August 22, less than a week before classes start on August 28 and less than two days before the start date of the contact on the 24th, and thus expected to relocate on very short notice, with no housing provided, facing the risk of homelessness as a result of the short time frame and low (and still uncertain) compensation level, and the many pressures of relocating, finding a new home, securing a lease, and moving into that home on such short notice (and with such a low and still uncertain level of compensation), is also quite unreasonable and onerous in the brief time that remained before the first day of classes and briefer time before the contract’s start date.
The offered compensation level, which the Chair called a “stipend” rather than a wage (perhaps because it is an unlivable wage and is thus euphemistically described as something different from a wage), of just $8,500 for a five-month term, is well less than the cost of a six-month lease—leaving no money for food or, should it be needed, medicine. And this would be halved to only $4,250 if just one of the two courses ended up below the enrollment threshold to be offered—the graduate seminar, which the Chair said required seven students to be offered, had only three students enrolled at the time he contacted me about teaching, increasing to four over the summer, and then standing at five in the final days before classes started—still two students too few to be offered according to the offer letter the Chair sent to me. And yet, I’ve been expected to prepare to teach this course nonetheless, with no security, no guarantee that my work would be compensated if the enrollment did not reach seven and no forewarning that cancellation was even a possibility.
The Chair allowed the situation of my remaining in the dark, without information on the compensation level, benefits, or whether there would be protection from the risk of low enrollment, to continue all summer long right up to the start of the semester, with numerous delays for numerous reasons (“bureaucracy moves slow” or revisions to the new course syllabus), while not providing me with any clarity at all on the compensation, benefits, or any other details of the contract while nonetheless expecting me to relocate to Buffalo, and secure housing (including make a financial commitment to a lease), and to then move into that housing, and to be ready to start teaching on August 28, all without a contract or even details of a forthcoming contract, and without any financial clarity whatsoever on the compensation that would be provided until 22 August (and even then without certainty on that compensation due to enrollment issues).
Contracts are bilateral, mutual agreements between employers and employees requiring the consent of both parties. With no contract, there can be no mutuality of agreement. And yet it was presumed I would consent to work for free all summer long, and then to accept whatever wage the Chair offered at the very final hour while allowing the tenure-track professor I would be replacing to take the semester off, presumably with full pay and benefits as is allowed for half-year sabbaticals. The tenure-track professor I would be replacing had the benefit of a finalized decision in June authorizing his sabbatical leave, yet I have been subjected to months of involuntary servitude without a contract, pay or benefits since then, and without the same timely, accurate and respectful notice regarding my employment status (which was not presented to me until August 22, months after the work began and less than one week before the start of classes, and even then without final clarity). The tenure-track professor I would be replacing has been, in essence, paid not to work—while I was expected to work without pay, just to allow the tenure-track professor I would be replacing to pursue his own research plans while I was expected to put my own research on hold in order to prepare to teach his classes, and to continue to defer my research while teaching his classes, for only a small fraction of the compensation level he receives. This is a double-standard, and is also a discriminatory practice showing favoritism to the tenure-track professor I would be replacing while exposing me to much risk (economic and health), uncertainty (regarding the terms of employment as well as the number of courses that would ultimately be offered owing to the enrollment issue), and exploitation (uncompensated labor).
This appears to violate state and federal laws regarding discrimination; fair and equal compensation and contracts; and timely, accurate and proper notice regarding employment status, compensation and benefits. I asked the Department about the unresolved contract issue on 28 July, in the hopes things could be finalized in a timely, accurate and respectful manner, noting my need to budget for housing before relocating. I asked the Chair on 10 August about the status of my contract, the compensation and benefits package, and the possible risks associated with low enrollment (not wanting to relocate to find myself under- or un-employed due to enrollment issues after having incurred the high cost and many onerous risks and disruptions of relocation), but the Chair only vaguely and without commitment replie that this would be revealed at a later date, when the Chair likely already knew or should have known the answers with regard to UB policy on benefits and on enrollment levels required to avoid course cancellation, and on the issue of compensation in the event of such cancellation. To defer answers all summer long, and to avoid providing me with this important information on August 10 when specifically asked, waiting until August 22, was itself a failure to provide me with timely, accurate or respectful notice of the compensation, benefits, and other necessary contractual details, even though I was expected to start working months earlier, when I was asked to create a new course syllabus by the Chair, and to commence preparation to teach the tenure-track professor I would be replacing’s undergraduate and graduate seminars, so that he could take the fall semester off from his teaching while nonetheless receiving his full pay and benefits.
Extreme Income Inequality, Enrollment Flux, and Adjunct Exploitation
With the offer letter not provided until less than one week before the start of classes, I must wonder: why take so long, and why refuse to share such important policy, financial and contractual details over such an extended period during which work was required to be performed? The Chair described by email a desire to offer me a combined contract for all three courses once the new globalization and culture course was approved, but in the end, only offered me the tenure-track professor I would be replacing’s two courses, for which contractual details should have been available much sooner. Was this an intended “pressure-tactic” to impose a low and unlivable wage upon me while hoping the very short time frame provided for a final decision would inhibit my freedom of choice, since despite our conversation taking place over many months, the actual offer was provided just days before classes began?
In the days before classes started, I had 23 students enrolled in the undergraduate seminar, and 5 enrolled in the graduate seminar, for a total of 28 students—and yet according to the Chair’s offer letter, the latter will be cancelled for falling below the minimum of 7 resulting in a total salary (or what the Chair calls a “stipend”) of $4,250 over 5 months, and no health benefits for the 5-month term. However, had there been 21 students enrolled in the undergraduate seminar and 7 enrolled in the graduate seminar, which would satisfy the minimum enrollment thresholds that the Chair described in his offer letter, I would have the same total of 28 students, yet my salary would be $8,500 plus health benefits. This suggests a further arbitrariness and injustice with regard to enrollment requirements that would unnecessarily lead to my impoverishment and loss of benefits.
While my offer letter indicated that my graduate seminar would not be offered if its enrollment was under 7 (and that my undergraduate seminar would be cancelled if its enrollment was under 21), I remain somewhat confused by this policy and see little wisdom in it. First, as noted above, both of my classes would have been offered without any doubt if enrollment of the grad seminar was 7 and the undergraduate was 21, with me still teaching a total of 28 students, and being paid just under $304 per student ($303.57 to be precise). But if enrollment for the graduate seminar was only 5 (as it stood in the final week before classes), and the undergrad seminar was 23 (as it stood in the week before classes), the total would still be 28 students (and still $303.57 per student). But with the specter of cancellation of my graduate seminar for having only 5 students (as the Chair’s offer letter states would happen, as the UB rules he cited stipulate a graduate course cannot be offered with under 7 enrolled students), my total wage (what the Chair calls a “stipend”) would drop to $4,250, and with that I would now be paid only $181.34 per student, substantially less of a wage (or what the Chair calls a “stipend”) arising from the (seemingly likely, and clearly threatened) cancellation of the graduate seminar that I’ve prepared all summer to teach (and for which I spent most of that $600 out-of-pocket to acquire books, chapters and articles assigned.) That original $8,500 was already less than the cost of an apartment (for a minimum six-month lease near campus) in Amherst, excluding utilities, leaving nothing left over for food or medicine. Half of that again ($4,250) is so much less livable than the already unlivable wage represented by $8,500 that there is no proper way to describe it other than as an impoverishment.
This cruel math doesn’t make any sense to me: why cancel (or even threaten to cancel) if the total number of students is the same (i.e., 28 total) and my cost-per-student is unchanged ($303.57) regardless of the balance between graduate and undergraduate students? Why the arbitrariness of these enrollment thresholds, when this leads invariably to the impoverishment of the instructor (and the loss of their health benefits)? This is so illogical, when one considers that tenured professors earn in general in excess of $100,000 per year with full benefits regardless of their course load. The Chair’s salary of $156,000 last year was so far in excess of this $8,500 “stipend” or the even-lower $4,250 that could result, or even the potential $0.00 that I might end up receiving under the terms the Chair offered me less than one week before the start of classes leaving me unable to find affordable housing while still being able to eat (or treat any medical condition that might arise). Hardly a compelling financial package, especially all these months after my conversation with the Chair started!
And because UB only provides health insurance to instructors who teach two classes per semester, cancelling the grad seminar for having insufficient enrollment of five students would have the very catastrophic financial effect of reducing my salary in half while at the same time rendering me ineligible for health insurance (itself worth more than the “stipend” offered). The implicit threat to cut my health insurance and my wage in this scenario (a quite likely eventuality according to the enrollment levels as well as the terms described in the Chair’s offer letter) to the even-less-livable $4,250 (or potentially $0) for the entire semester was just too cruel, too cold-hearted, to consent to.
An Unlivable Wage for an Unacceptable Risk vs. an Exorbitant Wage with No Risk at All
Indeed, that the Chair expected me to relocate back to Buffalo just days before classes started, for even the full “stipend” reflected in the unlivable, low wage of $8,500 while threatening me with the very real risk that this could and likely would be reduced to an even-less-livable (or even-more-unlivable) $4,250 or potentially even $0 if the undergrad seminar was also cancelled (at 23 students, it stood only two students above the minimum threshold that was described in the offer letter) along with the loss of my health insurance should either my graduate seminar end up with fewer than 7 students, my undergraduate seminar with fewer than 21, or both—was unreasonable, placing me in a position of much financial and potential health risk.
Why keep me in the dark about my contract’s terms or compensation level all summer long, and yet expect me to start working for free without compensation or benefits in June? Does this lengthy period with no contract, while requiring me to prepare for the fall teaching, and to create a brand new class on globalization and culture, and to purchase books and acquire articles and chapters in the absence of UBLearns or UB library electronic access, and to endure the very limited support from the tenure-track professor I would be replacing who never sent his class notes to assist me despite his assurance that he would by early August, while putting aside my own research to prepare to teach for the department, indicate a willful attempt to “bulldoze” me into accepting a lower wage than I deserve based upon my many years of scholarship, my rank (albeit a courtesy and non-tenure line appointment) and to endure the risks associated with short-term employment (no promise of continued teaching, as explicitly noted in the letter of offer), the high costs associated with relocation (including the risks of entering into a lease without compensation or contractual clarity, and with the omnipresent risk of course cancellation and income and health benefits loss), as well as the worrisome specter of homelessness in the absence of sufficient time to secure housing (owing to the lengthy period over the summer without a contract during which no details were provided to me on the compensation that would be provided, making a timely relocation economically impossible)? Add to this the fact the offer letter does not protect me from the economic risks of class cancellation if my graduate seminar has an enrollment less than 7, and/or my undergraduate seminar has an enrollment less than 21, which would cause me to lose my health insurance not to mention either half or all of my income—when I would be at risk of harm to my health from the very moment I began my relocation through the very end of the semester, including exposure to pathogens on campus during flu season—raises many, many deep and troubling concerns relating to discriminatory work practices, double-standards, income inequality, and exploitation.
These issues are most worrisome—and if we consider how widespread these practices could be at UB and across the SUNY system, they become even more alarming given the extensive nature of the exploitation of adjuncts by tenured and tenure-line faculty and those who stand aligned with them, all who earn high salaries with generous benefits packages in contrast to adjuncts who are always at risk.
Saying No to Wage Discrimination at UB: It’s Time for Equal Pay for Equal Work!
For me to have been willing to accept the offer, it required many improvements, all requiring sufficient time to work out. I had been asking about the terms of the contract since July, and specifically asked the Chair about the compensation, benefits and enrollment requirements on August 10th to which he replied, “The questions will/should be answered in the offer letter. Indeed, getting these things pinned down is the latest hold up. But soon all will be clear.”
To accept the employment offer, I would have required a fair wage that was no less than that received by the tenure-track professor I would be replacing while also compensating me for my out-of-pocket costs I’ve borne, as well as my months of work without compensation. Further, I would have required a guarantee that the full compensation agreed to would be provided regardless of final enrollments, and that my health benefits would likewise be provided for the duration of the teaching appointment (ideally, health benefits would have started the moment the work was required in June when I began work on syllabi and on acquiring assigned course materials). Otherwise, the Chair was, in essence, asking me to live in poverty, face the specter of even worse poverty in the event one or both classes were cancelled, while being placed in both economic and health peril from the very real risk of losing my health insurance and my compensation as described in his offer letter, all so the tenure-track professor I would be replacing could—with his approval—abandon his own students on short notice to pursue his own research this fall, while being paid fairly and with full benefits.
These alternate terms would have been more agreeable, fair, consistent with state and federal labor laws, and compatible with the duties expected of me, including the responsibilities I had these past months without compensation. But what the Chair offered did not come close—and struck me as both discriminatory and exploitative. I am thus very concerned with how I was treated these past months, and hope the issues I raise herein can be addressed so they do not recur.
While the above observations may appear to be critical, they reflect my full attention and thought this past week while considering the letter of offer I received one week ago, and also my long love and respect for UB, where I wrote many of my books over the past decade, and where I see so much hope and promise. If only UB would not engage in such discriminatory and exploitative treatment of adjunct faculty (and candidates for adjunct positions), while perpetuating such extreme and unfair income inequality compared to those less vulnerable tenure-line faculty, who seem to be treated to a different, better, and more generous set of rules.
With my most sincere appreciation,
It’s time for equal pay for equal work!
End the exploitation of adjuncts at UB!