VCUArts Adjuncts for Fair Pay is holding a Fair Pay Rally and Petition Drop Dec. 8 to advocate for equal wages for adjunct faculty in the arts department. This event has created a discussion around the treatment of adjuncts at VCU. While I can’t speak on VCU’s art faculty, I want to acknowledge the adjunct and full-time faculty in the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture.
Adjunct professors are part-time and do not receive tenure. They have lower wages and less benefits than full-time faculty and often have to work one or more other jobs to make a livable income. Over the years there has been an increase in hiring adjunct faculty because it saves universities money.
According to the American Association of University Professors, more than 50 percent of all university professors are currently part-time, which includes adjuncts, part-time lecturers and graduate assistantships.
VCU’s facts and ranking page on its website states there are 949 part-time adjunct faculty members at VCU and 2,274 full-time faculty members.
During my time with the Robertson School, I’ve had roughly the same number of adjunct professors in the journalism program to full-time faculty professors. For mass communications students, I believe the experience a professor has in the field matters much more than what degree they hold.
According to Dan Edmonds’ 2015 Forbes article, there are several factors that create a less beneficial learning environment for students with adjunct professors. The low wages universities pay adjunct faculty make it difficult to keep them on staff. They don’t receive the same conditions for teaching as full-time professors and their difference in pay often makes them search for second or even third jobs, reducing the amount of time they can dedicate to their students.
There is also a high turnover of adjunct professors which makes it likely a professor from a student’s freshman year will not still be there by their junior year. This can make it difficult for students to use these professors as potential job recommendations.
I find these claims don’t apply to my experience in the Robertson School. All of my journalism professors from my freshman year are still here at VCU and I’ve had the opportunity to take some of those professors more than once. The professors here are passionate about making sure you do well, not only in their class, but also in regards to how you apply their lessons in the real world.
Professors in the Robertson School, both adjunct and full-time, are more than happy to give you recommendations, offer professional advice or just serve as a confidant when you need it. I’ve personally had closer relationships with the adjunct professors in the school than I have with full-time faculty professors.
The Adjunct Project has a database where adjunct professors can report how they’re treated and what their wages are at their university. Only one professor at VCU has reported their wage in this database for the Fall 2017 semester; an art professor making $2,550 for one 3-credit course that semester.
As an aspiring journalist, I’m inspired by most of my professors, especially those who have been in the field and have stories to tell, as they are the most rewarding. College students need guidance and we need it from someone who has been through what we will soon be putting ourselves through. Receiving both criticism and praise from these professionals makes all of the time and work we put into these classes worth it.
An individual’s passion, knowledge and dedication to the field of journalism isn’t measured by how many years they spend studying it in school. The experience adjunct professors have is more admirable and they deserve the same compensation as any full-time professor.
Katie is a junior pursuing a major in journalism and a minor in political science. She enjoys writing about current events, especially regarding anything that’s happening in Richmond. She hopes to someday write for a major publication in a big city. When she’s not writing you can find her at a local Richmond show or trying out a new recipe she found on Facebook.