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CSU adjuncts face issues with compensation, limited career pathways

At Colorado State University, adjunct faculty face challenges with work compensation, are under represented in faculty council and receive little to no teaching evaluation.

About 43 percent of teachers are adjunct professors at CSU, according to Dan Bush, vice provost of faculty affairs. In 2012, 22 percent of CSU’s faculty were special and temporary teachers, according to a report in the Collegian.


However, 60 percent of undergraduate classes are taught by non-tenure track faculty, meaning they are hired temporarily or on a contractual basis, according to the 2014-15 report of the non-tenure track survey at CSU.

A total of 19 percent of courses are taught by other staff such as graduate students and administrators.

According to the 2015-16 CSU Factbook, out of a total of 1,789 teaching faculty, 721 are non-tenure track.

Forty percent of the non-tenure track faculty have been at the University for over 10 years, according to Jenny Morse, chair of the Faculty Council’s Standing Committee on non-tenure track faculty.

This large percentage of adjuncts is common at universities. At a national level, 70 percent of instructional staff positions are held by non-tenure track faculty according to the American Association of University Professors.

Adjunct pay, representation and hiring processes

Despite their large presence at University, there is a discrepancy between how non-tenure track and tenure track faculty are treated. The most distinguishable difference is pay.

The average full-time temporary instructor in the College of Liberal Arts on a nine-month appointment is paid $37,937, according to the 2015-16 CSU Factbook. An average tenure-track professor on a nine month appointment is paid $118,180. Salaries vary between departments.

There is little representation from adjuncts on Faculty Council. Out of the over 90 members of faculty council representatives, there is only one that is an adjunct: Jenny Morse.


Morse, the chair of the Faculty Council’s Standing Committee on non-tenure track faculty, said most departments on campus do not invite non-tenured track faculty to vote on the council, even though last year, policy changed to allow them to vote for their department faculty representatives. Morse said she does not believe departments have implemented the change, and adjunct’s ability to vote largely depends on how the department codes are written.

“The more I’m on (the committee), the more I become aware of how extensive the issues are facing adjuncts across campus,” Morse said. “Primarily because not every department has thought about how they’re incorporating their non-tenure track faculty into the department.”

Morse, an adjunct instructor in the department of management, said she does not get teaching evaluations. Although she writes up what she does almost every year, she has never had anyone come to her class or ask her what she is doing.

“I think this should be a concern to students and parents who almost half of the faculty who may not be receiving any professional development or any encouragement or any sort of sense of what they’re doing has value,” Morse said.

Jenny Morse, a PhD adjunct professor, explains an assignment to one of her classes. Photo credit: Natalie Dyer
Jenny Morse, a PhD adjunct professor, explains an assignment to one of her classes. Photo credit: Natalie Dyer

Since shifting from the English department several years ago, Morse hasn’t received a raise. Because of this, she said there is no incentive to do better. Morse also said department chairs have no incentives to keep people at the university. Chairs are not given any funding to help adjuncts.

Adjuncts do not have access to a grievance process. Non-tenure track are hired at-will, with open-ended contracts.

“If someone doesn’t want to rehire you the next year, there’s no way for you to know whether that’s because you did a bad job or because they didn’t want to pay you, or they found somebody cheaper,” Morse said.

For Chryss Cada, a journalism instructor, the uncertainty of her job became a reality when she wrote a letter to administration concerning an inaccurate offer letter.

“Maybe after I voice my opinions in this letter I won’t be asked back next academic year,” Cada wrote.

Morse said there is no oversight for hiring. While most positions on campus are overseen by the office of equal opportunity in order to make sure that the search is fair, most non-tenure track faculty are hired by the chairs of the departments without any oversight.

Adjunct salaries are paid from student fees, whereas tenured track salaries are determined through centralized funding through each department. Morse is a full-time adjunct that is paid $48,000 annually. She is paid $6,000 per class and teaches four classes per semester. Sitting on a committee is considered service.

Tenure track faculty have three parts to their jobs: teaching, research and service. Service may include participating in the university committee, advising and working with graduate students.

Morse said that non-tenure track are discouraged from participating in service and it is not considered part of their job. This means for most of the time, the work adjuncts do outside of the classroom they do for free. Morse is paid $1,000 year to sit on the committee. If she was a tenure track, she would be paid about $10,000 a year to do service.

Morse grades 140 papers six times a semester outside of class, and spends upwards of 50 hours completing work outside of class. She said salaries are based on in-class hours and do not include planning.

Similarly, Cada wrote in an email to the Collegian that although her salary reflects 20 hours weekly, she works much more outside of class.

Bush said the outside work is integrated into Cada’s offer letter, with six hours of contact and 14 hours of outside work. However, Cada said she actually works about 50 hours a week outside of class.

“If I’m only grading one hour per student per week, that’s 36 hours of grading a week,” Cada wrote. “Add in one hour to prepare for each class session … and a couple more hours a week communicating with students online or during office hours, and I’m working 50-plus hours a week. … I could do the work more quickly, but it would be to the detriment of my students who thrive on one-on-one contact with a writing instructor.”

Proposal for improvements

Bush said the while improvements to the status of adjuncts have been made, the University can do better.

“The non-tenure track faculty is a phenomenon that’s really only grown in the last 20-30 years,” Bush said. “It hasn’t really been a major part of most universities until more recently. I would say we probably didn’t really do a good job initially in envisioning this group of people as employees.”

Recently, Morse presented a proposal to faculty council that aims to improve the status of adjuncts. She said she has received support from the University community, and has not seen much anger toward allowing adjuncts to have more benefits.

“I think most people think employees should have these basic things,” Morse said. “Around the country, there’s a lot of adjunct stuff going on, and it’s very angry. Here, it’s like ‘sure, that makes sense.'”

If approved, the proposal would require everyone to be hired through the Office of Equal Opportunity. Morse said this would lead to more investment on the part of the department.

The proposal includes overseeing and recording work loads and distinguishing adjuncts roles regarding what they are specifically paid to do. The goal of the proposal is that after a temporary period, adjuncts would get extended contracts as part of a promotion.

Other changes include annual evaluations with their chair or committee, access to grievance procedures and access to voting rights and to service. Morse said the biggest obstacle is time and money, such as figuring out how to evaluate everyone.

CSU president Tony Frank said as time has gone on, the University took advantage of the pool of qualified professionals with terminal degrees to teach classes.

“I think one of the places in education we haven’t excelled in as much as we should have is being able to award excellence in teaching,” Frank said. “We’ve made some real improvements, but I think it’s a fair statement to say it’s probably harder to get promoted and tenured as an exceptional educator as it is as an exceptional researcher.”

Frank said with the formation of the non-tenure committee, change can be seen in the foreseeable future.

“Like a lot of curves, I think we’re coming out of this part where we’ve been expending a lot of energy and not seeing a lot of return,” Franks said. “Now, with the establishment of the non-tenure track faculty committee through faculty council, we actually have some representation.”

Frank said he challenged the committee to make a proposal for improving the treatment of adjuncts.

“I really think it’s a great proposal,” Frank said. “I think we’ll be able to do virtually all of that.”

Collegian news editor Seth Bodine can be reached at or on Twitter @sbodine120.

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