Dear University Presidents and Provosts, and other “high-ranking” administration officials (not to mention men's athletic coaches) who make more than a quarter million dollars a year:
I'd like to give y'all a little math lesson. Now follow me closely – this'll be easy if you pay attention. I'm an adjunct instructor at Fordham, “New York's Jesuit University”, so the figures I will use for adjunct income are what I am paid by that highly moral institution.
Step 1: An adjunct is paid around $3,900 per course and can usually teach only 2 courses per semester. (Otherwise the university would be obliged to hire the adjunct full-time and pay benefits. Oh, that's right, adjuncts get no retirement, no health insurance, and no unemployment insurance.)
Step 2: How much can an adjunct instructor make in a year? Well, class, we multiply – remember how to multiply? – the amount paid the adjunct for one course, $3,900 remember?, by 4. That would equal $15,600 per year. (3,900 x 4 = 15,600) Very good, class.
Step 3: Now let us assume the adjunct teaches at two different universities. (This is allowed.) Now how much can that adjunct make in a year? That's right class, we multiply again, this time by 2, and that equals $31,200 for teaching four full classes per semester. (Never mind that full-time, tenured faculty teach only two or three classes.)
Now for our second word problem: what percentage of his or her income must the adjunct in question spend on rent for a 2-bedroom apartment in New York City? (We are assuming the adjunct has a family with at least one child.)
Step 1: What is the average price for a two-bedroom apartment in New York City? In Manhattan it is $42,000 a year; in the Bronx around $24,000.
Step 2: Now we divide the price of the apartment by the adjunct's salary. Easy peasy. In Manhattan the adjunct must spend 135% of his or her salary on rent; in the Bronx it would be only 77%.
Next question, class: How much is left over for food, child care, telephone/internet, and transportation? (Forget such frivolities as the theatre, movies or any other sort of entertainment. And no cable, please.)
Very good, class - $7,200 if the adjunct lives in the Bronx. Is that enough? Well, no, it's not.
And if the adjunct lives in Manhattan? That is right – we get a negative number; the adjunct has minus $9,800 left at the end of each year. What does this mean? Very good, Jimmy, it means he or she runs up $9,800 in debt every year.
Last question for today, class; think about this for tomorrow's quiz: what about the students the adjunct teaches?
(Answer key: What students? Universities don't have them any more; they have human ATMs.)
Christopher Hirschmann Brandt is a writer, political activist, and an adjunct professor of communications and creative writing at Fordham University. Also a translator, carpenter, furniture designer, theatre worker. Poems and essays have been published in journals in Barcelona, Valladolid, Paris, Mexico, New York, and Maine, and in several anthologies. Translations from Spanish have been published by The New Yorker, Seven Stories, UC Berkeley, and the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña.