Online spreadsheet contains dubious adjunct faculty data

By Editorial Board

The battle for a fair contract has kept Columbia’s adjunct faculty at odds with top administrators for at least the last two years. But thanks to The Adjunct Project, a website with an editable spreadsheet allowing adjunct faculty at any university in the world to post information about working conditions, Columbia’s faculty members can now share their concerns on a global platform.

The spreadsheet, though not perfect, could be very useful for adjunct faculty to show common workplace inequalities. Joshua A. Boldt, a part-time English professor at the University of Georgia and creator of The Adjunct Project, split the spreadsheet into several categories, including salary, type of contract and benefits. Several Columbia adjunct faculty members have posted varying bits of information. One faculty member from the English Department posted a roughly estimated salary of $3,000–$4,000, while another English member said it “varies by seniority.”

Adjunct faculty can also post comments, allowing them to share thoughts and concerns. However the spreadsheet is flawed. It has little or no oversight, and essentially anyone can post information. The only answer required of faculty members is which school they are employed at and the state the school is in.

The rest of the information entered is posted to the spreadsheet with no fact checking. Many people who post do not provide data or research to back up claims about salaries and governance participation. Anyone can make a post, so the data is useless until it is interpreted and proved or disproved. Even if it was clear that adjunct faculty members were the only ones posting to the spreadsheet, it would still make a very one-sided argument. Most adjuncts who post to the site are probably angry and might be unconcerned with both sides of the argument.

In addition, the spreadsheet does not categorize efficiently enough to really compare any of the data. Adjunct faculty could include graduate students, and pay is just not as simple as comparing numbers and seniority. Other logistics, like how many credits taught, factor into the equation as well, but there is no way to determine any of this with the spreadsheet at this point. Though one adjunct posted $4,000 as the highest possible pay per course each semester at Columbia, it is actually $4,770, according to

Columbia’s still-in-effect 2010 adjunct contract.

While Boldt’s spreadsheet is a step in the right direction for adjunct faculty, especially at Columbia, it must be analyzed and refined before it can be translated as truth. A proper registration process for adjuncts would bring legitimacy to the spreadsheet, and cleaning up its appearance and categorization would help outsiders understand the adjunct plight.