Opinion | Underpaid, or Unpaid, College Faculty

To the Editor:

Re “Help Wanted: Adjunct Professor, Must Have Doctorate. Salary: $0” (news article, April 8):

The exploitation of adjunct faculty is deeply unethical. Worse, many humanities Ph.D. programs discourage students from exploring careers outside academia. This is a problem because there are not enough academic jobs for the many people who apply for them.

After I got my Ph.D. in American studies, I worked as a professional lecturer (adjunct) making a few thousand dollars per semester in addition to working full time. Teaching on top of a full-time job was very demanding, but I can’t say it was exploitative. This arrangement allowed me to tap into all the things I love about teaching without having to worry about paying the bills.

The solution is for universities to stop hiring adjuncts and to create more full-time academic positions. Realistically, it won’t happen. Therefore, I’d encourage more Ph.D.s to explore careers in industry, government and nonprofits. I’m very fortunate that I get to work for a nonprofit making dense academic debates accessible and relevant to wider audiences.

And sometimes, when I have the time and inclination, I get to spend a semester teaching students those same skills.

Kimberly Probolus
Washington

To the Editor:

As an academic, I am not surprised to hear about the sheer exploitation of faculty that occurs across colleges and universities, and it is not limited to contingent faculty. In fact, even professors who get hired for a tenure-track position and who are tenured are severely underpaid given their educational level.

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, the average salary for professors (assistant, associate, full) for the 2018-19 academic year was $77,600, $91,876 and $136,767, respectively, for four-year private colleges. For public colleges, it was almost the same, and somewhat higher for research institutions.

As such, we are nowhere close to what other highly educated professionals (physicians, lawyers, etc.) or university/college administrators earn. In addition, let’s not forget that by the time faculty members become full professors, they are often in their 40s.

Lastly, the tenure system is under severe threat from administrators as well as right-wing politicians. Faculty have and always will continue to fight for good living wages and benefits and to protect their academic freedom.

Michael Hadjiargyrou
Centerport, N.Y.
The writer is a professor of biological and chemical sciences at the New York Institute of Technology.

To the Editor:

The root issue in the exploitation of adjunct faculty is overhiring administrators. This bloat, which siphons off a substantial amount of a university’s budget, is plaguing many campuses (public or private) across this country. When the bureaucratic apparatus of a university’s administration gets increasingly overweight, it resorts to cutting fiscal corners at the cost of faculty and students.

The normalization of zero-salary teaching positions is nothing but an extreme and unconscionable way of robbing professors to pay administrators, some of whom hold redundant offices.

Dann Paane
Los Angeles

To the Editor:

A beloved statistics professor at the M.I.T. Sloan School of Management likes to say that the Ph.D. student is someone who forgoes current income in order to forgo future income. Sadly, those humorous words of wisdom have never been more accurate.

Paul Greenberg
Brookline, Mass.

To the Editor:

Re “Emmanuel Macron Is Playing a Dangerous Game,” by Didier Fassin (Opinion guest essay, nytimes.com, April 9):

Mr. Fassin accuses President Emmanuel Macron of having “deepened inequality, diminished the welfare state, weakened democracy” through “neoliberalism and authoritarianism.”

These are bold accusations. Especially as a real authoritarian — Vladimir Putin — wages war against democracy at Europe’s doorstep. Especially as Mr. Macron faces Marine Le Pen, a Kremlin apologist and putative ally, in the second round of the presidential election on April 24.

Under President Macron, France resolved its decades-old trauma of mass unemployment. The unemployment rate is the lowest since 2008. In early 2022, youth unemployment was the lowest in 40 years. His handling of the pandemic, both on public health and economic fronts, saved lives and livelihoods.

Of course, more needs to be done. France is divided and needs to rally behind an ambitious, optimistic vision: to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, fight discrimination and inequality at its roots, improve social services and reach full employment.

The most dangerous game of all would be to underestimate the fundamental, existential differences between Mr. Macron, a pro-European Union liberal reformer, and Ms. Le Pen, a far-right nationalist.

Roland Lescure
Paris
The writer is a member of the French National Assembly representing French citizens in North America and a spokesman for President Macron’s party, La République En Marche.

To the Editor:

Re “Yelp Will Pay Workers’ Travel for Abortion Access” (Business, April 13):

While it is admirable that companies like Yelp are stepping in to help their female employees go out of state to get an abortion when they are employed in a state where abortions are restricted, this is not an answer.

No employee should have to involve an employer in this decision. It is a private decision that does not need to be “condoned” by a boss. A much better alternative is for companies not to do business in states where any of their employees are discriminated against, whether for abortion access or anything else.

Employers have some clout here. Use it.

Daphne Philipson
New York