More Angst from the Adjuncts: Mary-Faith Cerasoli is Hungry


A long time ago I was an adjunct faculty member. For a while I had classes on three different campuses, none in proximity to the others.  My classes had 30 or more students. I taught English composition mostly, so there were always papers to read and comment on. A lot of them. Weekly. I worked hard, and put a lot of miles on my car. It was a good life, but one I gave up to answer the siren call of full-time employment, a fancy title, and benefits. As an academic administrator, I was lucky enough to teach a course from time to time for many years.

Apparently today’s adjuncts are not so fortunate. That’s what they will tell you, anyway, in their press releases and through their publicity stunts.

I believe that poorly paid adjuncts are indeed exploited by the departments that employ them. I blame the perpetuation of a two-tiered system in which a select few tenured and tenure-track faculty suck up the overwhelming majority of the resources available in the academic program budget. Tenured faculty have latitude in the courses they teach, so adjuncts usually pick up the slack of “service” courses–English composition and other introductions to the various disciplines. Adjuncts are paid on a per-course basis, and typically do not receive benefits, and certainly do not receive funds for research or sabbatical leave.

The latest poster child for exploited adjuncts is one Mary-Faith Cerasoli. Ms. Cerasoli is not nearly as sympathetic a victim last year’s poster child. In fact, Ms. Cerasoli is not sympathetic at all. Listen to how she became adjunct faculty:

I have a master’s degree from Middlebury College and I taught AP language courses at the high school level for 10 years. In 2011 my teaching licenses expired. I couldn’t afford to pay the license fees, and for the extra coursework I would have needed to become a permanent teacher. Because I couldn’t work around the state bureaucracy, I had to stop teaching high school.

After teaching high school for a decade I thought that being an adjunct would be a piece of cake, but I didn’t know the realities of being an adjunct. I didn’t know about the salary. My first position was at Mercy College. The chair of the Spanish department needed somebody to teach at the last minute. In a very embarrassed tone, he told me that the salary was only $2,000 per course. He was apologetic because he knew how bad it was. But I took it because I needed the work. I’ve done some substitute teaching and tutoring on the side.

- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/226-how-i-get-by-mary-faith-cerasoli#sthash.RFQX6VVb.dpuf

I’m not married and I have no children. I’ve always been a career girl. Before I got into higher education, I worked in the music industry in Italy. I traveled with stars like Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder as their interpreter.

Today I’m a professor and I don’t have a mailing address.

I have a master’s degree from Middlebury College and I taught AP language courses at the high school level for 10 years. In 2011 my teaching licenses expired. I couldn’t afford to pay the license fees, and for the extra coursework I would have needed to become a permanent teacher. Because I couldn’t work around the state bureaucracy, I had to stop teaching high school.

After teaching high school for a decade I thought that being an adjunct would be a piece of cake, but I didn’t know the realities of being an adjunct. I didn’t know about the salary. My first position was at Mercy College. The chair of the Spanish department needed somebody to teach at the last minute. In a very embarrassed tone, he told me that the salary was only $2,000 per course. He was apologetic because he knew how bad it was. But I took it because I needed the work. I’ve done some substitute teaching and tutoring on the side.

Actually, Ms. Cerasoli is not a “professor.” She’s a lecturer or an instructor. Big difference.

She’s also not too terribly schooled in money management. A teaching certificate (not “license”) in New York State costs either $50 (if the applicant has completed an approved program) or $100 (if the applicant presents alternative credentials for certification). Given that the 2011-2012 average starting salary for a teacher in New York state was $44,000, and by that time Ms. Cerasoli says she had been teaching for ten years, it’s terribly hard to understand why she couldn’t come up with the small sum she needed in order to keep current with the credential on which her livelihood depended. She earned her Master’s degree in 2010, so it is incomprehensible that she made that huge investment of time and money but did not bother to find out what “extra coursework” she might need in order to obtain her certification.

It’s also interesting to learn that, depending on whose shoulder she is crying, Ms. Cerasoli has a different version of when and why she stopped teaching high school. The explanation above–no $$ for a teaching certificate–appears in the The Chronicle of Higher Education. Ms. Cerasoli offered up another tale of woe to the New York Times:

Ms. Cerasoli quit in 2006 after sustaining an eye injury. She then spent some years selling jewelry and cars.

Interesting.

Ms. Cerasoli made a big splash back in December when she stormed Governor Cuomo’s office (well, she paraded around the front steps of the State House) in a puffy gilet with the words “homeless prof.” emblazoned across the front. This bold but untrue fashion statement is what propelled Ms. Cerasoli into the exciting world of “adjunct activism.”

Nowadays, when she is not living out of her car, or teaching a romance lanaguage to Nassau Community College students, she is on a hunger strike to raise awareness about the starvation wages adjuncts earn. In her press release, she explains:

“Institutions of higher education provide working conditions that starve many contingent faculty of their livelihoods, so I felt a hunger strike was exactly the right way to highlight the problem, particularly at Nassau, a college that just recently retaliated against adjunct faculty who took a stand against exploitation by striking earlier this year.”

There is no right to a teaching job, especially when one is appointed on per-course, per-semester basis with explicit guarantees of no continuing employment. “Striking” under such conditions is probably not a good idea.

Adjuncts are not slaves–even though some might say they are treated as such–they have brains and they have agency.  In other words, they can look elsewhere for remuneration. Or, they can continue to live in their cars. The sad truth is that for every adjunct bellyaching about his or her paltry paycheck, there are dozens of graduate students, or recent graduates, eager to be exploited.

I’m not married and I have no children. I’ve always been a career girl. Before I got into higher education, I worked in the music industry in Italy. I traveled with stars like Bob Dylan and Stevie Wonder as their interpreter.

Today I’m a professor and I don’t have a mailing address.

I have a master’s degree from Middlebury College and I taught AP language courses at the high school level for 10 years. In 2011 my teaching licenses expired. I couldn’t afford to pay the license fees, and for the extra coursework I would have needed to become a permanent teacher. Because I couldn’t work around the state bureaucracy, I had to stop teaching high school.

After teaching high school for a decade I thought that being an adjunct would be a piece of cake, but I didn’t know the realities of being an adjunct. I didn’t know about the salary. My first position was at Mercy College. The chair of the Spanish department needed somebody to teach at the last minute. In a very embarrassed tone, he told me that the salary was only $2,000 per course. He was apologetic because he knew how bad it was. But I took it because I needed the work. I’ve done some substitute teaching and tutoring on the side.

- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/226-how-i-get-by-mary-faith-cerasoli#sthash.RFQX6VVb.dpuf

I have a master’s degree from Middlebury College and I taught AP language courses at the high school level for 10 years. In 2011 my teaching licenses expired. I couldn’t afford to pay the license fees, and for the extra coursework I would have needed to become a permanent teacher. Because I couldn’t work around the state bureaucracy, I had to stop teaching high school.

After teaching high school for a decade I thought that being an adjunct would be a piece of cake, but I didn’t know the realities of being an adjunct. I didn’t know about the salary. My first position was at Mercy College. The chair of the Spanish department needed somebody to teach at the last minute. In a very embarrassed tone, he told me that the salary was only $2,000 per course. He was apologetic because he knew how bad it was. But I took it because I needed the work. I’ve done some substitute teaching and tutoring on the side.

- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/226-how-i-get-by-mary-faith-cerasoli#sthash.RFQX6VVb.dpuf

I have a master’s degree from Middlebury College and I taught AP language courses at the high school level for 10 years. In 2011 my teaching licenses expired. I couldn’t afford to pay the license fees, and for the extra coursework I would have needed to become a permanent teacher. Because I couldn’t work around the state bureaucracy, I had to stop teaching high school.

After teaching high school for a decade I thought that being an adjunct would be a piece of cake, but I didn’t know the realities of being an adjunct. I didn’t know about the salary. My first position was at Mercy College. The chair of the Spanish department needed somebody to teach at the last minute. In a very embarrassed tone, he told me that the salary was only $2,000 per course. He was apologetic because he knew how bad it was. But I took it because I needed the work. I’ve done some substitute teaching and tutoring on the side.

- See more at: https://chroniclevitae.com/news/226-how-i-get-by-mary-faith-cerasoli#sthash.RFQX6VVb.dpuf

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4 thoughts on “More Angst from the Adjuncts: Mary-Faith Cerasoli is Hungry

  1. Being an adjunct faculty is the biggest racket in a slippery profession. Pushy part-time faculty often do extra work for which they are not paid and insist they are exploited. Yes, they are–by their own choice. They accept the perceived professional ‘slights’ because they have a cushy job.

  2. She could do much better if she just went for an EBT card. If she were to have a kid or two additional payments and additional program opportunities would present themselves. Then she could really have some high powered ammo. Imagine the pathos of two little ones parading behind their highly educated, parental unit at the more fashionable rallies with knitted sweaters proclaiming, “Oh, the horror!” and “Exploited and pissed about it!”

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