May 26, 2003 - Palm Beach Post: Samoa RPCV Tony Beonde struggles as part-time professor

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By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, May 26, 2003 - 10:11 am: Edit Post

Samoa RPCV Tony Beonde struggles as part-time professor





Read and comment on this story from the Palm Beach Post on Samoa RPCV Tony Beonde who struggles as part-time teacher. Beonde is a part-time professor -- an adjunct -- and like many he works for little pay and no benefits. No health insurance. No retirement plan. Nothing. Beonde is part of a large group of itinerant scholars -- academics grabbing teaching assignments wherever they can and making little money while hoping to one day land a full-time teaching position. Read the story at:

Part-time professors, fast-food pay*

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Part-time professors, fast-food pay

By Larry Keller, Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Monday, May 26, 2003

Ten years after getting a doctoral degree in higher education and science as a precursor to what he thought would be a full-time faculty position, Tony Beonde's career in academia consists of teaching one course one night a week for three hours at Florida Atlantic University. His pay: $2,500 per semester.

Beonde is a part-time professor -- an adjunct -- and like many he works for little pay and no benefits. No health insurance. No retirement plan. Nothing.

"There are a lot of us just getting by," said Beonde, of Stuart, who teaches multicultural education at FAU's Port St. Lucie campus and is married to a Spanish teacher at Martin County High School.

Beonde, who dabbles in real estate for additional income, said he hasn't had a pay raise in the nine years he has been teaching at FAU.

"Bonded servitude... comes to mind," said Diane Baird, who teaches English, composition and literature part-time at Palm Beach Community College and Lynn University.

Beonde and Baird are part of a large group of itinerant scholars -- academics grabbing teaching assignments wherever they can and making little money while hoping to one day land a full-time teaching position.

Their prospects may not change soon.

In a year in which the state's public universities are bracing for a budget cut, FAU administrators are struggling to find a way to pay their full-time faculty more.

How much they receive will depend on how the universities fare when a new budget is adopted, and on negotiations between their union and FAU's labor negotiator.

Adjuncts, however, are not represented by the union, and their pay is determined by deans and chairmen of individual colleges within the university.

Adjuncts put up with puny pay and no benefits, they say, because they love teaching.

"There is such a rush, such an incredible feeling when you see the light go on" in a student who has been struggling, said Baird, 52, of Boynton Beach. "That's why I teach."

"We don't get treated much better than those poor migrant workers," said an Indian River Community College professor who earns $1,350 for each three-credit course she teaches. "I love teaching, and I love my students. My husband calls it my 'volunteer job.' "

At Palm Beach Community College, an adjunct professor with a master's degree makes $1,583 for teaching a standard three-credit lecture course, PBCC spokeswoman Grace Truman said.

At PBCC, adjuncts can teach no more than nine courses during an academic year, including summer, so a professor earning $1,583 per course would make a maximum of $14,247.

That's less than the average dishwasher or fast-food cook, and it includes time spent on things such as preparing a course syllabus and grading papers.

For every hour she spends in the classroom, she estimates, Baird devotes three to four hours in preparation and grading.

Many adjuncts, such as those who are supplementing income from a regular full-time job, are content to teach only one or two courses per semester.

Some provide a real-world perspective to their subjects that may be lacking in other courses.

An adjunct with specific expertise is sometimes preferable to a full-time professor, FAU Associate Provost Norman Kaufman said, when an area of study is so narrow it doesn't merit a full-time faculty member. An adjunct may be hired, for example, to direct a student performance in the theater department, he said.

Other adjuncts, however, are first and foremost teachers and seek full-time status.

"I'd come just short of selling my firstborn for that," Baird said.

These adjuncts sometimes teach part-time at two or three schools to make ends meet, especially in urban areas.

"We hear about that all the time," said John Curtis, research director with the American Association of University Professors.

Baird has been teaching at PBCC for more than a decade, and nearly as long at Lynn. Teaching up to nine courses a year at the former and a heavy courseload at the latter, working 50 or 51 weeks a year, she said she's made as much as $31,000.

"I have my own insurance, and it's the bottom of the barrel," she said.

PBCC President Dennis Gallon said in 1999 that his school needed to reduce the ratio of adjuncts, but the figure has remained fairly constant. In fall 1999, 72.4 percent of PBCC professors were adjuncts. In fall 2002, 70 percent were adjuncts.

"It's higher than we'd like," said Truman, the community college's spokeswoman. "Something we're committed to is more full-time faculty."

PBCC added 25 full-time professors in that four-year period, Truman said, but the school's burgeoning enrollment required it to also hire 23 more adjuncts.

Adjuncts taught 54 percent of credit hours in fall 1999 and 51 percent in fall 2002, Truman said.

At FAU, adjuncts comprise 39 percent of the faculty, but the school has bucked the national trend of increasing use of part-time professors.

The university had the same number of adjuncts in fall 2002 as in fall 1997, but they made up a smaller percentage of the overall faculty last year -- they accounted for 45 percent in 1997 -- because of a significant increase in full-time faculty.

Adjuncts teach about 28 percent of the credit hours offered at FAU.

"We recognize that, programmatically, we weren't providing the best resources for students by relying so heavily on adjuncts," said Kaufman, the associate provost.

It's not that adjuncts aren't good teachers. Like full-time professors and instructors, they must have an advanced degree to teach most courses. Beonde got his doctorate from the University of Miami. Baird has a master's degree in medieval English.

At FAU, adjuncts' pay varies depending on what courses they teach, but the average is about $3,000 per class.

They are allowed to teach no more than two courses per semester and two in the summer, meaning that a professor making the average can earn no more than $18,000 a year, with no benefits.

That's considerably less than a typical pest-control worker, tree trimmer or garbage collector, according to Bureau of Labor statistics.

The average salary of a full-time FAU professor for the 2001-02 academic year, by contrast, was $75,800. For an associate professor it was $57,600, and for an assistant professor the average was $48,800. Plus benefits. Full-time faculty typically teach four courses per semester.

Beonde would like to join their ranks, but FAU's rules on the use of adjuncts has resulted in him never teaching more than five courses in a full year -- for a total income of $12,500.

He taught children in Africa and in American Samoa while a Peace Corps volunteer, and he taught high school for a year in Palatka.

Now, Florida high schools are begging for teachers, but despite the benefits and fat pay increase this would bring him, he's not applying, Beonde said.

What deters him is dealing with the disciplinary problems and "spoiled parent" issues in high school.

"I'm not really anxious to go back into high school," he said.

Beonde realizes that, at age 61, being a full-time professor may never happen for him.

"I came out (of college) with what appears to be little interest in my abilities," he said, "and I'm not alone."

larry_keller@pbpost.com

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