Hall of Shame: What happens when adjuncts don’t get paid–New Jersey City University

WalSmart U 3-RCBThis Friday, no one at New Jersey City University, in Jersey City, NJ, got paid.

None of the employees—staff or faculty—are quite sure what happened, beyond a “glitch” at the university’s new bank, Bank of America (BOA), but as of Saturday morning, Oct. 24th, funds had been deposited only to the accounts of other BOA customers and some Chase customers. Others were showing deposits pending for Monday, 10/26, and others nothing pending at all. Vague notices were sent out from HR and Payroll but not to everyone, because adjuncts are not generally included on the staff lists. There was no official statement from administration, no apologies, no reassurance that our insufficient funds penalties or late fees would be reimbursed. Nothing.

To be fair, this happens from time to time at any workplace, but it’s often a sign of fiscal insecurity and/or bad management, and unless the company is really in financial trouble, administration usually falls all over itself to let employees know what’s going on. That kind of transparency costs nothing and earns a great deal of good will. Not talking earns just the opposite because it gives the impression that employees don’t matter, that administration does not care about their lives outside the company, or that something shady is going on.

And that’s pretty much the case with most higher ed administration—and apparently of the administration of President Sue Henderson at NJCU.

It’s never good to be missing a paycheck, but when you’re an adjunct, it can have some really dire consequences, especially since we don’t get paid between semesters or over the summer unless we have a class. Most of us, for instance, do not have the same cushions in our bank accounts that fully employed and benefitted instructors do. Many of us, especially those without partners, are living paycheck to paycheck and are down to a few meagre dollars and cents by the time payday rolls around.

Eastern Michigan University changed their payroll schedule this year, leaving adjuncts unpaid until the end of September, without telling them beforehand. In response, adjuncts launched a collective action to alert students and the university community to the consequences of this unilateral decision. Part of that action was a “Wheel of Misfortune” that students could spin to see what it means to adjuncts to not get paid. Below is something like that, something administration needs to pay more attention to, and students need to know about, and all faculty need to rally behind for Campus Equity Week.

Wheel of Misfortune

–Lee Kottner (Full disclosure: I’m an adjunct instructor and tutor at the Writing Center at NJCU)

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