Last Wednesday, on the first National Adjunct Walkout Day, unsatisfied instructors around the country stormed out of their classrooms, wielded signs demanding better treatment and staged alternative protests like teach-ins and rallies. They were rallying against poor job security and low wages. But at Yale, adjuncts seem to have stayed put.
All 10 non-ladder faculty members — instructors at Yale who were not hired with the opportunity for tenure — interviewed said they were unaware of any demonstrations for National Adjunct Walkout Day at Yale, perhaps because of the different role non-ladder faculty play at Yale compared to other campuses. At most institutions, adjunct professors are part-time, non-tenure track laborers with little job security and often unlivable wages. These roles are frequently filled by young academics who have recently finished graduate school.
But in the Yale Faculty of Arts and Sciences, non-ladder faculty are “individuals with special qualifications who play important roles in the teaching … but who may not be fully engaged in the research activities characteristic of ladder faculty,” according to the Faculty Handbook.
The instructors included among the non-ladder faculty represent a broad swath of potential appointments — including professor adjunct, associate professor adjunct and assistant professor adjunct, lecturer, senior lecturer, lector, senior lector and Gibbs assistant professor.
This school year, there are 15 adjunct professors in the FAS and 462 tenured faculty.
PLAYING THE NAME GAME
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said the University is working on titling issues, adding that the title of adjunct professor differs between FAS and the professional schools, and the goal is to reach a point where the nomenclature is consistent. FAS Dean Tamar Gendler, who Holloway said is leading the charge on these efforts, did not return request for comment.
Nine adjunct professors expressed satisfaction with their positions, citing good experiences at Yale and in their departments.
Jay Emerson, an adjunct professor of statistics, said he contributes to his department in many diverse ways. For example, Emerson serves on committees, advises Ph.D. students and even serves as director of graduate studies — roles that adjuncts at other institutions would be unlikely to fill. And unlike many adjuncts who enjoy only very brief tenures, adjunct professor of chemical and environmental engineering Yehia Khalil has been at Yale for 23 years.
Theater Studies adjunct professor Murray Biggs said Yale’s conception of adjunct provides a process for hiring adjuncts who have unique abilities but may not fit into traditional ladder norms.
While Yale’s adjuncts may not face the problems of their peers in name at other institutions, other instructors on campus cited some grievances.
Lecturers and lectors at Yale, for example, teach on contract, the longest of which must be renewed every five years. Lecturers’ salaries are significantly lower than even assistant professors. This year, lecturers are paid an average of $80,624 annually while full professors make $198,383 on average.
Still, Ruth Koizim, a senior lector in the French Department, said that while it can be stressful and disruptive to have her contract renewed every three years — a process which includes multiple visits to her class to observe her teaching — in general, her payment and insurance situation is good. However, she said many non-ladder faculty have far less comfortable situations.
“[The people] teaching one or two classes, those are the real adjuncts,” she said. “Their lives are really precarious.”
Still, Koizim noted that even senior lectors have fewer privileges than tenured faculty. For example, tenured professors have always been allowed free lunches in dining halls during the week, and this offer was only extended to lectors and lecturers a few years ago.
Other non-ladder faculty also described a clear hierarchy in departmental politics.
James Berger, a senior lecturer in American Studies and English, noted that there are large distinctions between serving as a lecturer and as a full professor, as he formerly did at Hofstra University.
“I miss a little bit being in the thick of departmental policy-making,” Berger said. “I’m not involved in hiring decisions, not involved in curricular decisions, not involved in the life of the department. It frees up my time — [departmental politics] are time consuming. But it was also sort of fun.”
WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES
Berger also said much of the work done by adjuncts in the traditional sense is done by graduate students at Yale. The University could not survive without their work, just as most other institutions could not survive without adjuncts, he said.
Brittany Angarola GRD ’17, the Cell Biology Department’s Graduate Student Assembly representative, said that while she does not have the grievances of some adjuncts, she knows that there is greater concern about teaching positions in other disciplines. Recently, humanities graduate students have expressed concerns about finding teaching jobs and reduced funding rates.
Aaron Greenberg GRD ’18, chair of the unrecognized graduate student union Graduate Employees and Students Organization, said graduate students share many concerns of adjunct professors at other institutions. GESO’s priorities also align with those of many adjunct groups who hope to unionize.
The University’s upcoming expansion will only exacerbate these problems, Greenberg added, citing GESO’s recent report on the topic. Faculty members expressed similar sentiments.
“Yale is definitely moving in the direction of more and more part-time people, with the prospect of the new residential colleges, and statements on the part of the University that they’ve hired all the professors they need,” Koizim said. “Someone’s going to have to teach all those students.”
Holloway said the University is cognizant of the increased teaching demand that will accompany the opening of the colleges, and is working to address these problems. While the University will not grow its ladder faculty — as it already grew in advance of the opening of the new colleges — Gendler is focused on how Yale will adjust other instructional staffing, he added.
Over 7,000 people liked the National Adjunct Walkout Day page on Facebook.