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Maine community college adjunct professors rally for higher wages amid contract talks

As they negotiate a new contract, union representatives and adjunct staff argued that the latest wage proposal is unacceptable.

SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine — Adjunct professors from some of Maine’s seven community colleges met at Southern Maine Community College to demand better pay.

As they negotiate a new biennial contract, union reps and adjunct staff argued the community college system’s latest wage proposal is unacceptable.

Currently, adjunct faculty make $930 per credit hour, regardless of how long they've been teaching at their college. So, for each three-credit course they teach, they make $2,790 over an entire semester. Adjunct faculty are allowed to teach a maximum of 12 credit hours per semester.

Adjunct union president and Central Maine Community College adjunct Katrina Ray-Saulis said that’s nearly half what full-time faculty make per credit hour. She said that's not a livable wage for her and her peers and, despite their adjunct title, they work full-time hours in and out of the school year to prepare for classes and keep up with students.

"It hits me in a really, personally insulting place because I was a student at the school; because I valued those adjuncts that I learned from so much as a student; and now have come back to be a teacher and not been able to earn the wages that, honestly, that school promised me I would one day be able to earn," Ray-Saulis said, claiming she was told a full-time position would be available to her eventually, only to later have the rug pulled out from under her by college management.

Community College System President David Daigler argued the opposite, saying there is a clear path for adjunct faculty to move into full-time positions if they so choose.

In a Thursday phone interview, he said adjunct professors are tremendously valued, but they are true part-time staff that carry less responsibility than their full-time counterparts.

"The adjuncts have a more limited scope of responsibility, and we really encourage and provide pathways for adjuncts who want to become full-time faculty to become full-time faculty," Daigler said.

He added that the two sides were "obviously at a disagreement of opinion" on what a new contract should look like.

Ray-Saulis said the union was asking for an 8-percent increase in pay. Daigler did not divulge the system's counteroffer.

Maine’s community colleges lean heavily on adjunct staff. With 572 adjunct faculty, they make up almost two-thirds of the 930 professors system-wide this spring semester.

Christine Livia attends CMCC and wants to be a community college professor. At the rally, she told us that watching her own teachers push for better pay is troubling.

"It's definitely given me some pause and some concern about pursuing being a professor," she said.

"I really just don't like knowing they aren't getting a living wage and don't have long-term job security," she added. "Everyone deserves that."

During his interview, Daigler said not only is the adjunct position part-time, most professors want it that way.

"The vast majority are really teaching, intentionally and at their desire, on a part-time basis," he said, adding that 17 percent of his adjuncts are carrying a full credit-hour load.

Multiple professors at Thursday's rally said they had taught at a Maine community college for more than 10 years. To them, this was their career.

The two sides are expected to meet again on Friday.

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