Part-time teachers deserve more in Maine and across the country

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Kimberly Simmons is a part-time associate professor at the University of Southern Maine. This column reflects his opinions and expertise and does not speak for the university. She is a member of the Maine chapter of the national Scholars Strategy Network, which brings together scholars from across the country to address public challenges and their policy implications. Members’ columns appear in the BDN every two weeks.

In a December 19 column in the Bangor Daily News, the president of Husson College argued that the university is an excellent investment, worthy of public support. In order to maintain high-quality educational opportunities in Maine, we must also support the professors who teach the classes.

The “complementarity” of higher education has taken place over decades. Non-tenured professors (NTTs) face an ever-increasing workload, but generally lack job security, fair compensation, and access to professional development. We learn to use new technologies and keep up with knowledge in our field at our own expense. Most part-time faculty in the University of Maine system currently earn less than $5,000 per course. This allows us to create new courses or update curricula, teach a 15-week semester, and grade final work. Many of us also support students who are having academic or personal difficulties. By comparison, the University of Maine football coach and new athletic director each make around $250,000 a year. Michael Laliberte stepped down from his appointment as president of the University of Maine at Augusta after faculty objections, but could still earn hundreds of thousands of dollars for not working. We have enough resources to further value front-line faculty if we choose to.

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