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I am writing to show support for UMass Lowell adjunct faculty in their campaign to receive the same benefits that the rest of the UMass schools provide to their adjunct faculty. At UMass Lowell, the adjunct professors teach a majority of the freshmen and sophomore classes and should have access to the same types of benefits their other UMass adjunct colleagues receive.
As a student who has taken several classes with adjunct faculty, I’ve seen the extra effort the adjuncts put in to make sure students succeed inside and outside the classroom. Adjuncts are not required by UMass Lowell to hold office hours, serve on committees, or mentor students outside of class as the other UMass adjuncts are required to. However, UMass Lowell adjuncts still take on these roles after class even though they are paid less per course than the adjuncts at other UMass schools.
At UMass Amherst, the minimum amount an adjunct is paid per course is $6,500. The adjuncts in Boston make at least $5,000 per course. At UMass Lowell, adjuncts make a minimum of $4,400 per course. If the pay difference is not enough evidence, it’s worth noting that Lowell adjuncts do not receive health benefits or a pension. Adjuncts must pay out of pocket for health insurance, unlike their colleagues throughout the rest of the UMass system.
The Lowell administration offered a 2.5 percent pay increase per year, however this did not meet the adjuncts’ needs. The administration failed to offer health insurance or pension. Lowell is the only UMass that does not offer these benefits to their adjunct faculty.
Students, why should we care? Many of our first experiences with college educators are adjuncts. They help new students transition from high schoolers to college learners. They are the first to tell us to shape up our study habits for college. In many ways, our freshmen professors, adjunct or full time, help mold us into the students we become.
As UMass Lowell students, we should care about our educators. The adjunct faculty go far beyond what they are required to do in the classroom. When adjunct faculty offer office hours, we should be thankful. They are not being paid to provide this service to us students. The adjunct faculty at other UMass schools are paid for the out of class assistance. Though it is uncommon at UMass Lowell for a professor not to hold office hours, students, along with the university administration, must acknowledge the unpaid effort the adjuncts put in to their work.
On campus, there are almost as many adjunct faculty as there are full time faculty. Chances are, you’ve had multiple classes taught by an adjunct. These educators take the time that they are not required to, or paid to, so that we may become successful learners. I urge students to take the time to ask their adjunct educators how they can get involved in helping them achieve equal compensation for their work. They’ve already gone the extra mile; now it’s our turn.