I'm a 12-year part-time adjunct lecturer in the SUNY New Paltz Departments of Physics and Engineering, semi-retired after a 37-year career in industrial technology. The department chairs have been very good to me, for which I am grateful.
The pay, however, is ludicrous — I'm teaching four courses in this spring semester for $10,000. For a typical class size of 20 students, that works out to a per course instructional cost of $125 per student, or $500-625 for a typical semester course load of 4-5 courses taught exclusively by adjuncts (and they do teach over one-third of the courses at New Paltz). It might be logical for students and their parents to wonder where the balance of their $3,235 per semester tuition goes.
Why do I do it? Life has been good to me. I've worked hard and I feel that I have something of value to offer. It's an opportunity for me to professionally engage with some occasionally fantastic science and engineering students and faculty colleagues.
Yes, it's true that I also receive Social Security and pension checks, but my younger adjunct colleagues who are still struggling to raise families are not so fortunate. I'm forever thankful to the United University Professions (UUP) that I can purchase the full health care benefits offered, and partially paid for, by our employer.
And can you now imagine that the New Paltz college administration wants to save money by firing — whoops, "non-renewing" — the lowly paid adjuncts? To be replaced by an already hard working cadre of full-time faculty who could be forced to reduce time spent on serving students and their campus because of growing workloads?
Does this make sense to you?
Douglas A. Koop, Ph.D., is an adjunct lecturer in the departments of Physics and Engineering at SUNY New Paltz.