From Articles to Advocacy: The Chronicle Moves Into Activism with the Launch of the Adjunct Project

After publishing a number of important columns highlighting the pay and working conditions of adjuncts, the Chronicle of Higher Education recently took a step from what one commenter called, “occasional ‘objective’ coverage to activism” with the launch of the Adjunct Project, a new tool for adjuncts and the people who hire them.

The tool, which employs a sleek, easy-to-use interface using icons from the Noun Project, supports three main tasks: submit salary data, searching salary data, and advice on teaching and working as an adjunct. Supported by both the MLA and AHA, the “Research” function allows users to look up adjunct salaries by state, institution, and specialty, and it’s populated with crowdsourced data from users through the “Submit” function. After you have looked at the data for 3-credit courses, users can go to the archive of CHE columns and articles in the “Advice” area.

Adjunct Project , courtesy of the Chronicle of Higher Education

Like any good data visualizer, the Adjunct Project is slightly addictive, and potentially provides hours of fascinating digressions. Users may quickly find themselves pursuing all kinds of content that doesn’t necessarily pertain to their own situation, but are interesting nonetheless: “Why do anthropologists make so much more than other fields in the humanities at that one state school?” “How much does the school I recently attended pay adjuncts?” And of course, users can get a general sense of how history is valued, literally, at individual institutions by comparing the salaries for history adjuncts to other fields.

The research function is dependent on the data that is provided by users, which can be either the adjuncts themselves or institutions that employ them. Interestingly, while the adjunct user may remain anonymous, the institutional user must identify using an email address. The submit function also asks for other types of data about benefits, working conditions and participation in governance in hopes of providing a more complete picture of adjunct pay and working conditions.  Salary data is compiled from salaries for three-credit courses at both two-year and four-year institutions, and the site provides a tool for converting your salary to the standard 3-credit course pay the site uses. The site acknowledges that it does not validate individual data sets, but that it is moderated before being added to the aggregate on the site.

Aside from pulling the veil of secrecy back from the issue of salaries, the tool provides a few ways to parse the data and determine broader trends and issues. The Chronicle did some of this themselves and found that there were wide disparities in salary between institutions, and, importantly, by region.  Historians did fairly well, relatively speaking, coming out at an average of $3,267.59 per three-credit course compared to the overall average for the humanities of $2,987 per course. According to the Chronicle, they’ve collected data from 1,800 adjuncts at 1,050 colleges thus far, so this number might be assumed to be fairly accurate. This supposition is validated by the Coalition on the Academic Workforce’s 2012 survey, which establishes a median (as opposed to an average, which is used by the Adjunct Project) of $2,500 for historians against a median of $2,600 for the humanities generally. Historians can also view how their salary compares to historians in other states or institutions.

Commenters noted that the site does not accept data for Canadian institutions, where there is a higher rate of unionization and national healthcare, but most of the conversations about the site concur that this is a tool with enormous potential and value for adjuncts and graduate students, one that can theoretically help move the conversation about adjunct working conditions from complaint to action. With the addition of more functionality such as a way to link job postings directly to institutional data, a chat or forum feature, and tools for finding low-cost health care groups, the Adjunct Project has the ability to become a true community.

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