A handful of Boise State University adjunct instructors walked out of their classrooms and into the quad at noon, Feb. 25, to advocate for higher wages, access to benefits and greater job security as part of National Adjunct Walkout Day
Standing over a folding table stacked with flyers, fact sheets and bright red stickers that read "A is for Adjunct," instructors Dana Hathaway and Elizabeth Swearingen led the demonstration, which grew to more than 60 people, including students.
Hathaway explained the plight of the adjuncts
"I'm paid to teach about fairness," she said, "yet I'm not treated that way by the university."
Hathaway told Boise Weekly
she teaches three classes and makes about $18,000 a year. On top of that, she doesn't receive any sort of retirement contribution or health insurance from Boise State.
"A single parent with two kids on my wage would qualify for food stamps," she told BW.
Hathaway brought her Philosophy 103 class to experience the walkout, which she said fits nicely into her curriculum, which in the next few weeks will include studying income inequality.
"It's strange that you earn less than what I'm going to end up earning once I graduate," said one of Hathaway's students, Tylana Davis. "Once I graduate and become a nurse, I'm going to earn a lot more money than you. You guys are teaching me so I can go earn more money than you earn."
Another student said he was disappointed that many adjuncts like Hathaway don't have office hours.
"We're not required to have office hours, and I think it's a problem that the administration is OK with that," Hathaway replied. "Oftentimes, you'll see faculty at the local Starbucks meeting with their students because they don't have an office. That's shameful. That's not how it should be."
Cristen Iris was also there to show her support for adjuncts, though she's not a student or a professor. She works in Boise State's Risk Management and Insurance Office. She held a sign that read, "Alumni for Adjuncts—A is for Alumni for Fair Wages."
Iris said she receives benefits and is better paid than her adjunct colleagues.
"The custodial staff gets benefits and paid more than adjuncts," she said.
Elizabeth Barnes, another adjunct in the English Department, was disappointed by turnout at the demonstration.
"There are 550 of us that could be out here," she said, referring to the total number of adjuncts at the university.
She plans to host teach-ins for her classes all day, letting her students know that the average annual salary for Boise State adjunct instructors hovers around $17,000. Adjuncts make up about half of the university's faculty, yet they are not given benefits and are considered temporary employees.
"It's a broken system," she said. "Someday hopefully something will change."
Hathaway was also disappointed that she didn't see more adjuncts willing to walk out with their students. She understands why, though.
"Not many instructors are willing to walk out. We are at-will employees, so I could very well be told, 'You know what, we're not going to hire you back next term,'" Hathaway said. "I've accepted that. I don't really have a whole lot to lose. I'm not making lots of money and there's little chance of getting a full-time job here because most faculty here are part-timers. It's just gotten to a point where I've had it."