Editorial: Tufts should further support adjuncts

As negotiations begin for a new contract between the part-time faculty union, represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Tufts administration, Tufts should continue to increase the wages and benefits for part-time faculty and create more tenure-track positions.

The most recent contract, negotiated in 2014, is due to expire on June 30, according to a March 27 Daily article. Included in it were substantive increases in wages and benefits. However, the salaries and benefits of part-time faculty still lag significantly behind those of full-time faculty despite the two often teaching the same number of classes. According to a Oct. 27, 2014 Boston Globe article, adjunct faculty at Tufts make a minimum of $7,300 per course. Given that faculty members cannot realistically teach more than three courses a semester, their annual pay is less than half that of the average associate professor at Tufts, which was about $100,000 in 2015, according to crowdsourced data from the The Chronicle of Higher Education.

These differences in pay and benefits matter. Since adjuncts are paid per class, there is a strong incentive to take on many classes to make as much money as possible. The Delphi Project on the Changing Faculty and Student Success, a group of education experts headed by the Pullias Center for Higher Education at the University of Southern California in partnership with the Association of American College and Universities, finds that higher reliance on non-tenure-track faculty and on part-time faculty has led to “diminished graduation and retention rates … [and] reduced faculty-student interaction.”

As a university that prides itself on cutting-edge research and student-faculty collaboration, Tufts should re-invest in its faculty. Providing higher pay and more tenure-track positions would encourage more high-quality faculty to work at Tufts in the long run. Creating more tenure-track positions would give previously adjunct faculty the time, resources and freedom to pursue more academic projects and research.

It can also be difficult for students and faculty to develop close relationships with adjunct professors. The faculty member’s position at the university is uncertain, and adjunct faculty may leave during the student’s time at the university. This prevents students and faculty from forming bonds that ignite intellectual and academic growth in students.

Additionally, raising pay for adjuncts would help Tufts better recruit talent from other universities. A university is only as good as its faculty, and by increasing the quality of its instruction, Tufts will benefit both its students and its reputation.

The 2014 contract signed between Tufts and the adjunct faculty union made Tufts a leader in standards for adjuncts. According to the above-mentioned Globe article and a March 10, 2015 Daily article, the unionization and contract reached at Tufts led adjuncts at other Boston-area schools to push for unionization and better contracts. By increasing adjunct pay and benefits in the newest round of negotiations, Tufts can both increase its quality of teaching and research and pave the way for better treatment of adjuncts across Boston.