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Adjunct Faculty At Idaho Universities Protest For Better Pay And Benefits

Travis Smith
Boise State Public Radio
Adjunct faculty gather signatures in suport of a raise on Boise State University's campus.

Instructors at the University of Idaho and Boise State University and colleges around the country are protesting pay and working conditions for part-time faculty. National Adjunct Walk Out Day is meant to highlight the trend in higher education of relying on lower-paid, adjunct instructors who work from semester to semester.

A petition being circulated online and on Boise State’s campus Wednesday reads:

"$17,000 is not a livable wage, yet this is the average annual salary for an Adjunct Instructor at Boise State teaching a 3/3 schedule, or nine credits both Fall and Spring (.75 FTE). Adjuncts now comprise approximately 50% of faculty at Boise State. Adjuncts teach approximately 50% of the course load at Boise State. Adjuncts are not allowed to be at full-time status, are permanently temporary, and do not receive benefits like insurance or retirement."

Dana Hathaway teaches philosophy classes at Boise State. She walked out of class today but she took her students with her; she says it was an appropriate activity for a class called Moral Problems.

“We’re going to be reading a chapter talking about the ways in which social structure promote poverty and promote wealth,” Hathaway says. “In talking about those as it relates to instructor pay, is a perfect segue into practical ethics. We’re demonstrating about ethical issues.”

The petition Hathaway and others are promoting continues:

"If we value education, we must necessarily value instruction. Teacher working conditions are student learning conditions. Boise State adjunct faculty deserve better: just compensation and fair treatment. Give Boise State adjuncts a meaningful raise! We ask that a minimum salary for adjuncts per course start at $4,700, which would result in an annual salary of $28,200 for a 3/3 schedule. Still wildly low, but within range of relative fairness."

University of Idaho writing instructor and protest organizer Jeff Jones says temporary teachers there are not asking for higher pay. They want job security in the form of nine month contracts, as well as benefits.

“We have to forego going to the doctor because we don’t have medical insurance,” Jones says. [If] we go to the ER, we have to go on public assistance. This isn’t how you want your instructors to live at a research institution.”

U of I part-time instructors today had a “grade in.” The graded papers in a prominent public area on the Moscow campus and spoke to students.  Wednesday afternoon they marched to the university's administration building to deliver what they’re calling a "declaration of inequity." Organizers say 31 people participated in the march.

University officials in Moscow responded to today's protests with this statement: “We value the contributions of every faculty member, and appreciate how they contribute to the quality of instruction that is part of a transformative University of Idaho student experience. Currently 69 percent of faculty at UI are in tenure-track positions. We’re continually assessing how we can make our university a better place to work and learn, and encourage the dialogue.”

Boise State sent this statement about Wednesday’s adjunct walk out:

"Boise State University recognizes the value and impact that adjunct faculty have on our campus and our students. These highly qualified faculty members have academic and professional credentials that enrich Boise State's signature education experience. And while many adjunct faculty members are experienced working professionals who have decided to lend their expertise and insight to the next generation of students one class at a time, others are committed to teaching and seek to teach as many courses as possible each year. Boise State is working to convert as many of these teachers as financially feasible into full-time lecturers, and has doubled these full-time faculty lines from 72.5 in Fall 2008 to 147.4 in Fall 2014. In fact, this effort has been among Boise State's top priorities in seeking additional state funding to eliminate course bottlenecks and other barriers that can keep students from finishing their degrees on time and on budget. For two years in a row, this has been one of Boise State's top requests from the Legislature." - Boise State

Update 5:15p.m. When this story was originally published the U of I march had not taken place. This story has been updated with the results of that march.

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @cotterelladam

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