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

Seth Bodine

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 news@collegian.com or on Twitter @sbodine120.