FIU Adjunct Professors Want Better Working Conditions

Feb 25, 2015

Wednesday is National Adjunct Walkout Day. Adjuncts are part-time college professors who get paid lower wages, as compared to permanent employees, and have no benefits. Florida International University adjuncts want change.

Joan Baker is a full-time English professor at FIU. She rallied on Wednesday, along with other permanent professors, to support her adjunct colleagues.
Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN

About 30 people gathered at FIU's south campus by a large water fountain. Full-time instructors, part-time instructors and even students came out to support adjunct professors.

United Faculty of Florida estimates that adjuncts are teaching between 40 and 50 percent of university classes. They teach on a “per-course” basis, making less than half the salary of permanent professors.

"This semester, they took away -- I had three classes -- they took two away and left me with one class to teach the whole semester, which doesn't help pay my bills," says Debbie Gyenizse, an adjunct for FIU’s English department.

She also teaches part-time at Miami Dade College. It’s common for adjuncts to work at various campuses to make a living.

"We are increasingly trying to provide opportunities for our adjuncts to become permanent instructors," says FIU Provost Kenneth Furton. 

He says the university is coming up with a strategic plan to help adjuncts become permanent employees.

Debbie Gyenizse, FIU adjunct English professor, is up front, wearing a red top. She's surrounded by about 30 people who rallied Wednesday to support adjuncts getting better wages and benefits.
Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN

"We're calling it the 'Beyond Possible 2020' strategic plan," he said. 

The idea is to make selected adjuncts “visiting faculty” and then ultimately permanent instructors.

But adjunct professor Gyenizse says she's over 70 years old and won't be able to handle a full-time workload. She likes the flexibility of being part-time, but would like more out of it.

"I certainly can't live on teaching one class a semester," said Gyenizse.

FIU’s "Beyond Possible 2020" plan will be considered for approval by the board of trustees in March. 

Tom Norris has taught religious studies as an adjunct instructor at FIU for nine years. He hasn't had a raise in five years. Norris has two other jobs to make a decent income.
Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN
Gerry Pecknold teaches writing at FIU as an adjunct professor. He's on retirement from a previous job and says that's how he's able to survive off the adjunct salary.
Credit Jessica Meszaros / WLRN