From the Letters to the Editor column in the November 1999 Perspectives

Travails of a Part-Time Teacher

Paul Ton, November 1999

To the Editor:

This letter is in reply to your September 1999 article, "1999 AHA Department Survey Shows Increased Hiring of Low-Wage Part-Time Faculty."

I am a part-time instructor in the history department at Metropolitan State College of Denver, a four-year degree granting institution with an enrollment (1999) of c. 18,000 students and a full-time faculty of nearly 400. The history department (fall 1999) has a student enrollment of over 3,000 and a faculty of 14 full-time and 28 part-time instructors.

As a part-time instructor with 10 years experience at the college and a PhD in history, I am teaching three classes (two upper division and one lower). A full-time load at our institution is four classes. Part-time pay for teaching a three-semester-hour course is $1,800. There is no tenure and we serve at the whim of the department chair with no consideration given for possible full-time employment.

There are no fringe benefits. We do have a retirement plan to which we contribute 8 percent of our salary. Parking costs me $276 per semester. In addition to the usual federal, state, and Medicare taxes, we pay $5.75 per month for the privilege of working in Denver.

We have one room, two desks, and one phone for 28 part-time instructors. I frequently find a student taking a makeup test at the desk I usually use. My individual class load varies from 13 to 55 and I have 100 students in my three classes.

The tuition brought in by the students I teach (and this accounts for only half of the income per student—the rest comes from state grants) frequently exceeds my salary by 4–500%. Tuition and subsidies from my teaching have brought to Metro State over $750,000 in the 10 years I have taught here. Meanwhile I have received less than $80,000. There is little or no interest in improving part-time conditions at the administrative level as the income brought in by part-timers funds all sorts non–income-producing activities.

Why do I teach? Because I enjoy teaching and because the people at the department level are cooperative, friendly, and are among the best friends I have ever had. As for making a living at this profession, I consider my work at Metro State my charitable contribution to the state of Colorado.

—Paul Ton
Metropolitan State College Denver