The Unsung Heros of WC’s Academic World

This September, Washington College staff and faculty members received an email with the glowing news that, for the first time in several years, a pay raise would be implemented. However for a many professors, one jarring detail dragged their reaction to the memorandum from excitement to disappointment: “In consultation with senior staff, I have decided to devote 100 percent of these [$400,000 in extra revenue] funds to an across-the-board adjustment to all benefit-eligible faculty and staff.” Those “no benefit” are otherwise known as adjunct faculty members, the part time professors who aren’t eligible for across-the-board pay raises because they are “on a different pay system.”

According to that email, WC President Mitchell Reiss had declared his commitment to boosting employee salaries last spring. Thanks to a “continued dedication to our student admissions and retention efforts,” WC saw a spike in revenue last year, and his vision of rewarding the staff and faculty became a reality. His promise was a noble one, but it ignored a significant demographic of faculty members who contributed just as much to this retention effort as did their full-time peers.

This isn’t to say we don’t support a 1.3 percent salary increase. From freshman advising day onward, WC staff and faculty shape and define our lives, whether it’s in the classroom, on the Chester River, even trekking through the Irish countryside. They aren’t just teachers; they’re our mentors. If we try to calculate how many hours our professors dedicate to their work each week – out-of-class help, emergency emails, casual chats after class, preparing lesson plans – it’s pretty obvious: They earned their raise.

But those adjunct professors who read that September email, only to receive a reminder from Human Resources a few days later telling them they were ineligible for that much-anticipated pay raise, shouldn’t be forgotten. They monitor our labs, host study sessions, and teach some of our favorite classes. In fact, because their schedules are lighter and they can commit more time to out-of-class help, adjunct professors often end up becoming closer mentors than full time professors. They may not teach the heaviest of course loads, but the work they dedicate to each semester is as worthy of a pay raise as any full-time faculty member.

We’re not experts on the intricacies of faculty and staff pay systems. We understand that there are details to how employee salaries are determined, and we recognize how it may not have been viable to include adjuncts in this 1.3 percent boost.

But the fact that these faculty members were included in that email, only to learn later that it didn’t apply to them, is a glaring example of how underappreciated they are. This is only one example of how these invaluable members of the WC community are frequently ignored or discounted by the campus at large.

Adjunct is only a title, and it’s a shame that there’s a stigma attached to it. These undervalued faculty members may not have master’s or doctorate degrees and may not teach full course loads, but their role in shaping the WC community needs to be recognized. They are essentially the underdogs of the college campus, and it’s time we recognize how integral their mentorship and teaching is to our four years here.

President Reiss asked the newly rewarded staff and faculty to “join me in celebrating the fact that we are once again able to adjust base salaries.” We can’t congratulate a large fraction of our professors on receiving a pay raise this semester, but we would like to congratulate them on one thing: A job very well done.

Editorials represent the collective viewpoint of the entire Elm editorial board.

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