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CSU instructor speaks out about low adjunct wages, inaccurate offer letter

When Colorado State University journalism instructor Chryss Cada opened her offer letter for the 2016-17 academic year, she could not believe it.

The letter began:


We are pleased to offer you a part-time special 9-month appointment at the academic rank of special Instructor at Colorado State University at a starting 9-month salary of $40,120, plus benefits, and a start date of August 16, 2016.

“It was a huge moment for me to open that letter and think, ‘Wow, after 16 years of teaching, I’m going to make money so I don’t have to do all these other things to make money,’” Cada said.

But, when Cada got her first paycheck, her disbelief ended. Her salary was half of what the letter said; it was about $5,000 per semester per class, or $20,000 an academic year.

After seeing the discrepancy between salaries, she decided to speak out by sending an email to University officials titled “The worth of an adjunct.” In the email, she said that out of hundreds of contracts she has signed, she has never seen one where she would be getting paid half the amount written in the contract.

“I’ve gotten used to teaching as an act of charity, but then I got this year’s offer letter and believed it could be something more,” Cada wrote in the letter. “After a glimpse into that world, I’m finding it difficult to go back into a system that thrives on the unjust subservience of others.”

Cada posted a link to her letter on her blog on Twitter:

Cada did not know what the response of her email would be, but said it was apologetic.

Ben Withers, Dean of the College of Liberal arts sent an apologetic email response to Cada. The email said the salary listed on the letter was annualized based on a full-time teaching salary, which would be four classes per semester. Cada only teaches two classes per semester.

“I offer my apologies for the confusion you (Cada) describe so effectively in your email,” Withers wrote to Cada.


Greg Luft, chair of the Journalism and Media Communication department said the offer letter was an error of omission.

Dan Bush, Vice Provost for faculty affairs, said that the offer letters follow a template, but not all of them are the same. Bush said there were a couple of other part-time faculty that had the same “unfortunate wording” as Cada’s.

A large portion of CSU teachers are adjuncts. According to the 2015-16 CSU Factbook, out of a total of 1,789 teaching faculty, 721 are non-tenure track, meaning they are hired on a contractual basis.

In a report in the Collegian in 2012, 22 percent of CSU’s faculty were special and temporary teachers. This percentage has increased, now about 42 to 43 percent according to Bush. A total of 19 percent is taught by other staff such as graduate students and administrators.

An average full-time instructor in the College of Liberal Arts on a nine month appointment is paid $37,937, according to the 2015-16 CSU Factbook. For Cada, who is a part time instructor, she said a good chunk of income received goes toward parking on campus, which cost $565 for an academic year.

Cada said if she worked her way up, she could make the same salary as a manager at Subway.

“I refuse to pay to park to go to work,” Cada said. “I know everybody has to do it, but it’s just when you’re barely making around $11 an hour, it’s just not worth it to spend $2 an hour on parking.”

Cada said the minimum salary is $4,750, which she made last semester.

Mary Stromberger, chair of Faculty Council wrote that changes have been made to the Academic Faculty and Administrative Professional Manual to help improve the status of non-tenure faculty. Some of these changes include multi-year contracts, faculty council membership and faculty council voting rights.

However, Stromberger wrote there is only one non-tenure track faculty on faculty council.

“CSU has really made in the last several years … a very concerted effort to (bring) the non-tenure track faculty really … into the fold as a regular employee,” Bush said. “We recognize they’re making really substantive contributions to our teaching mission.”

Cada wrote that while the University addressed her letter, she does not feel they have addressed the issue of adjunct professor salaries.

“I appreciate them addressing the issue of the letter, but …(there was) no mention of the overall issue of adjunct compensation,” Cada wrote.

Collegian News Editor Seth Bodine can be reached at or on Twitter @sbodine120.




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  • D

    doubting_richAug 25, 2017 at 12:48 am

    Surely if Ms Cada is worth more than this she can get a job elsewhere with a higher salary. Why did she not just leave?

    • M

      Maureen MatthewAug 25, 2017 at 5:40 am

      Because she can’t. Her skills are available everywhere and are NOT in demand anywhere. Universities have conned millions of people into overpriced graduate degrees so that they can use them as sessional or part time instructors who earn nothing because the market is flooded with her skills

  • V

    vocemomSep 16, 2016 at 8:20 am

    This reminds me of the recent opinion piece in the Chicago Sun Times “A Labor Day Call for Fair Treatment for Part-Time Professors When the part time professor is sent an email inviting him to a free health check-up he goes on to describe what the consequences are when he follows up on it.

    “But as you might have anticipated, as soon as I inquired further about the free check-up, I learned it was limited to full-time teachers only.”

    An administrative assistant sent an apology, not for refusing the benefit, but sorry that I received an invitation meant for full-time staff.”

    It’s these kinds of mix-ups that happen all the time with part time faculty. I recently got an email from HR quoting me my insurance premiums as a part time professor. A week later I got another email from HR apologozing for the quote and assuring me I was full time and she had heard from the Dean’s office this was the case so it would be the full time rate. I was quite excited as you may have imagined, what in the world? Then last week I got a copy of my courses outlined for spring and there were four listed! Not even 3 hours later I got an email from my chair saying, “Well I added a course but the Dean’s office probably won’t approve it.”

    A couple of days later I got an email from my chair saying, “I tried, the class wasn’t approved “because our gen eds were under enrolled in the fall.” So why the Dean assuring HR I was full time and was to be awarded health insurance for an entire fiscal year? I have no friggin idea, but this is the kind of stuff part time faculty are faced with continually and stay silent about. Thank you Seth Bodine for telling this story. Thank you Professor Cada for speaking out. We are basically working under academic apartheid as adjuncts and I for one have just about had it with staying silent about it.

  • C

    CSUadjunctSep 15, 2016 at 1:27 pm

    I also am an adjunct instructor in the College of Liberal Arts (CLA) at CSU. This example of a misleading offer letter is just one of a number of ways that contingent labor is exploited:

    –> Many (most?) adjuncts are not offered full time course loads, so in reality make annual salaries closer to $20,000 (2 classes/semester) or $30,000 (3 classes/semester).
    –> Course assignment is variable and frequently not known until just before
    the start of a semester, making budgeting and planning for second/third
    jobs challenging.
    –> To get a full time load often requires travel – I teach in 2 departments at CSU and at one other university in the region.
    –> Although raises are possible, minimal incentive is offered for previous teaching experience or more education – per course rates in CLA are the same for MA, MFA and PhD level contingent faculty.

    While efforts at the department level to improve conditions for adjuncts are well meaning, they lack substance. The only meaningful improvements to contingent employment would be job security and salary equity. But, these changes are unlikely to happen while the university benefits financially as much as it does from adjunct labor. For every 8 classes CLA (numbers will differ across colleges/departments) can hire one adjunct for $40,000/year or two associate professors for $60,000 each. By relying on adjuncts CLA can have classes taught for one third of the cost of tenure track faculty, and continue to increase student tuition.

    Data here from personal experience or public records unless otherwise noted:

    approximate annual 9-month adjunct salary (if full time) = $40,120
    full time = 4 classes/semester
    benefits eligible = 2 classes/semester
    per class = $5015

    for tenure track faculty at the entry (associate) level:
    typical CLA associate prof salary = $60,000
    teaching load = 2 classes/semester
    work distribution: 50% teaching/30% research/20% service
    $30,000 to teach 4 classes = $7500/class

    teaching workload for a 3 unit class
    in class: 3 hrs/week for 16 weeks = 48 hours
    (4 classes = 12 hours f2f/week)
    grading/preparing: 3 hours per in-class hour average/assumed
    one class = 3h teaching + 9h grading/preping = 12h/week or 192h/semester
    four classes = 48h/week or 768h/semester

    hourly pay: $26/hr (adjunct), $39/hr for teaching + salary for research and service (associate prof)

    Most adjunct faculty earnings are at or near the bottom 25% as compared to all wage earners with advanced degrees.

    Data from Bureau of Labor statistics web site for 2nd quarter 2016 (
    Weekly earning quartiles for workers with an advanced degree:
    — Ten percent of all full-time wage and salary workers earn less than $757/week
    — 25 percent earn less than $1127/week
    — 50 percent earn less than $1621/week (median)
    — 75 percent earn less than $2422/week
    — 90 percent earn less than $3517/week

    Adjunct earnings for mid-August to mid-May – classes are often not available for the three summer months, hence, no pay.
    adjunct with one class: $312/week (lowest 10%)
    adjunct with two classes: $625/week (lowest 10%)
    adjunct with three classes: $938/week (lowest 25%)
    adjunct with four classes: $1250/week (lowest 50% – but just barely outside of lowest 25%)

    • L

      Lief YoungsSep 17, 2016 at 8:17 am

      If it was a contract offer I hope that give her compensation or she talks to a lawyer. The letter said nothing about that being a full time salary, it sounds like.

      • J

        Janet RossiSep 19, 2016 at 11:12 pm

        Totally agree. Time to lawyer up. Only if the administration is hit financially will they change their constant “oops, my bad” ways. People are being too nice. If she had quit other jobs in anticipation of this new salary I would say she has a very strong case.

    • D

      doubting_richAug 25, 2017 at 12:54 am

      The only possible reason is high supply, low demand. If people don’t like it they can leave the profession, salaries would then rise. The world does not need all the liberal arts teachers that choose the job.