By Tanner Mondok
It has been 27 years since adjunct faculty at Youngstown State University received a pay raise. The university employs 500 adjuncts compared to about 370 full-time professors.
Those 500 adjuncts teach over 50 percent of the total semester hours taught at the university.
Adjuncts are paid at a rate of $650 per semester hour if they have a bachelor’s degree, $800 for a master’s and $1,050 for doctorate degrees, which is under $19,000 a year if an adjunct teaches the max number of credit hours they are allowed to teach.
In 1991, the wage for an adjunct with a master’s degree was $800 per semester hour, while student tuition was $2,415. Today the pay for part-time faculty is the same, while tuition has raised to $8,807.
Four YSU adjuncts detailed their experiences and personal opinions on the adjunct issue. They are seen photographed in their homes, studios, classrooms and offices.
Tony Armeni, a part-time 3D sculpture professor, said he doesn’t feel that adjuncts get paid for what they do in relation to the salary of full-time faculty.
Armeni has been teaching as an adjunct at YSU for 27 years and has received one raise. He said there have been efforts in the past to form a union but nothing came of it.
“It seems to have proven itself impractical,” he said. “It’s sad to say that.”
He described it as impractical because it’s not something he believes adjuncts want to contend with.
“A lot of us are working under contract from semester to semester and a lot of adjuncts don’t have a guarantee that they may be back the following semester,” Armeni said.
Speaking on where he’d like to see the adjunct situation in five years, he said he just wants things to be fair in regards to how adjuncts are compensated.
Due to low wages, a lot of adjunct professors work multiple jobs on the side in conjunction with their teaching job.
“I’m always busy and I’m always juggling obligations because I don’t work just at YSU,” Armeni said. “I also do other part-time jobs in other areas. I worked a sign job. I’ve worked in auto body shops doing restoration and collision work.”
Armeni has been a sculptor for 30 years and makes money on the work he produces in his own time. He said if his sales were more consistent he would only teach and work in his studio.
“That would be the ideal situation,” he said. “This past year, I made bird bath sculptures, I’ve sold more online than I have since I started making them, and I’ve been making them probably the last ten years or so. It’s a good thing because my other part-time work in the summer was a little sparse.”
Carly Carcelli, an adjunct English professor, lives in a home in Poland located just a few steps away from the church she works at on Sundays.
“Just on Sundays I work four hours for them doing child care, so that’s how I got the housing, which is cheap and also why I’m in Poland, which is expensive to live in,” she said.
Carcelli teaches three classes at YSU and three online classes at Eastern Gateway Community College. She said a problem that comes with teaching three classes is being put last on the schedule.
“So this means days before the semester you’ll know what you’re teaching, if you’re teaching, if you have a job and if the classes don’t fill, they go away. If a full-time has their class cancelled they can’t just not teach their load so they take your class,” she said.
“The uncertainty is almost as big of a problem and you work on a semester contract carcelli said.” “So in theory I could have no idea come January if I have a job. I do, but that’s always a possibility.”
When thinking about a raise, Carcelli said she’d be willing to make a compromise if she was given health insurance.
“I would be willing to keep the pay for health insurance because there are no benefits as being a part-time employee,” she said.
Lauren Baker, an adjunct sculpting professor, has been teaching at YSU for five years and said she believes it’s sad that for all of the time they’re putting in outside of the classroom that adjuncts aren’t paid a living wage.
“I think when you think about education and the whole point of college, it’s supposed to be around the idea of education. And we want to be paying the people who are educating people properly because if you don’t, then you don’t get the best of the best or you only get people like me who are fortunate enough to do this because it’s my passion and my husband makes enough money to where I don’t have to give this up,” she said. “If I was a single mom and didn’t have a partner who made a nice living then I would never be able to do this with kids.”
Baker said she feels the adjunct issue isn’t just a YSU issue, it’s a problem all over the country and she feels not enough students are aware of how low they’re paid.
“One semester I had a student say to me, ‘well, if they weren’t paying you guys so much my tuition wouldn’t be so high.’ And I said, ‘you really need to get online and look up what adjuncts are making,’” she said.
When Baker was driving one day while listening to NPR, she overheard a news story about Amazon raising their wages. It got her thinking about what it would be like if YSU implemented a raise for adjunct faculty.
“Wouldn’t it be fabulous if Youngstown State was the first university to kind of like acknowledge that there is an issue in this country with the way adjuncts are paid and be the first to step up and resolve this issue? Because it’s really depressing to me that the whole reason I wanted to teach college is because of the passion that I felt when my professors taught me these things. And then when you start to teach as an adjunct, you realize it’s all about business,” she said.
Richard Ciotola, an adjunct in the biological science department, was formerly a professor at Eastern Gateway Community College while teaching at YSU, but left Eastern Gateway because he felt he wasn’t being compensated for the work he was doing.
Eastern Gateway pays adjuncts at a rate similar to YSU.
“I just basically said ‘look, I’m not making enough money here because I feel like I’m being taken advantage of and I can’t continue on,’ so I left there,” he said.
Ciotola also said he plans on leaving YSU at the end of the semester.
“This is probably going to be my last semester as an adjunct here. I’m going to start looking for full-time work as soon as this semester is over. I really want to stay here,” he said.
“I like this university, I really like our department chairmen and my family has a long history here but the bottom line is I’m 53 years old and I’m going to make $17,000 this year ciotola added.”
Being an adjunct comes with some restraints, Ciotola explained.
“I can’t recruit grad students, I can’t bring in external money and you know that’s a lot of what a university does is external funding for research. So there’s all these constraints on my ability to bring in extra funding and recruit students,” he said.
Ciotola believes that he should be receiving a higher wage after earning a doctorate in biological science. He described it as “not a small task to have earned that.”
“I’m basically being paid landscape-level wages here which I think is outrageously low, ciotola said.”