Course Evaluations fact: It may not always be your instructor’s fault

Tue, 2017/04/25
Shoaib Khan

“I lived off of fried potatoes and onions for the semester. I actually lived better as a grad student than I do now.”

“I’ve had to turn off the heat a lot.”

These may sound like words from working-class citizens who lack the education and skills to pursue higher paying jobs. But in reality, these are testimonials of adjunct professors who, according to NPR, make an average annual salary of $20k-$25k.  Despite the huge role these individuals have in our institutions, they are unrecognized and unappreciated for their hard work. A report by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) states that, in New England, the median pay per course at private schools is $3,750 & $5,225 for master’s  and doctorate courses, respectively.  Such a salary means that a professor may have to teach well over a dozen classes to make ends meet.  In costly cities such as Boston, an adjunct professor must teach between 17 and 24 classes a year to afford a home and utilities (“The High cost of Adjunct Living: Boston”, p. 3). Their stressful lives often mean that they are unable to give each class its due attention.

While such teachers do desire to eventually get full time status, it is often very difficult to progress in their careers. As a result, many of them will continue to stay adjuncts and remain in a position similar to fast-food workers and other low wage workers (according to the UC Berkley report “The High Public Cost of Low Wages”, see Figure 1). Given that part-time faculty are making up an increasing portion of university staff ( SEIU report, figure 2), it would make sense to raise their salaries to raise the overall quality of schools across the country.  Thus, if any of us feel as though our classes have failed to live up to our expectations, we should question the environment our school creates for our professors.  If we discover that IIT  is indeed mistreating its staff the way other institutions are, our course evaluations should criticize the administration rather than blame the victims.