Late Pay: One CUNY Horror Story

Since last semester, the Adjunct Project has been collecting data on the late pay of CUNY adjuncts and graduate assistants. With this data, we’ve been trying to forge solutions to what by all accounts is CUNY’s endemic problem of paying adjuncts and graduate assistants late.

Given our base at the Graduate Center, we’ve been working—or, rather, trying to work—with administrators and staff here to put in place a) measures that would prevent late payment outright, and b) a fund that graduate students, working in either the job title “Adjunct” or “Graduate Assistant,” could tap if they are still paid late.

Because of CUNY’s size, we’ve prioritized this effort on behalf of Graduate Center student workers, though it’s certainly a model that could be deployed on individual campuses. Indeed, as the following anecdote shows, adjuncts who are paid late, whether graduate students or graduates, often have no recourse at all to recoup their late wages. In this particular case, which an adjunct provided to us in our ongoing data collection, the adjunct wasn’t even able to ask for an “advance,” an option granted by our union contract, because the adjunct wasn’t registered at the college.

We offer this as just one of the multitude of adjunct horror stories out there, in service to the overall campaign of showing how adjuncts and contingent faculty are so often left high and dry by the institutions for which they work. The adjunct relayed this info last week; we’ll keep you updated on what happens.

I was a late hire to teach a class that meets just one night a week. I was told I was getting the class the night that class began, then I was able to fill out my paperwork the following week. No appointment letter was available for me at that time. I emailed the department chair a reminder about the appointment letter but I received no response (it was his suggestion that I make this move and then they would scan and send me the letter to fill out).

When I followed up with the department administrative assistant on Wednesday (Feb. 19th, two weeks after I filled out paperwork), I was told there was no letter yet for me to sign because she had not processed any of my paperwork yet and I was not yet entered into the system as working at [the college]. She told me that I shouldn’t even be in the classroom because of this. When I expressed concern about getting paid on time to be able to have enough money to pay my rent for March, her response was a flat-out “You won’t be getting paid anytime soon” and then told me that she is still processing the paperwork from December for other instructors and that I will be at the end of that long line.

She said that she “should” have the appointment letter ready for me next Thursday, Feb. 27th but she would not scan and email it to me ahead of that time. I have no idea how long after the appointment letter is signed that all my information is processed and I will finally be in the system and able to be paid the money that I am owed for my work. The administrative assistant confirmed that I have filled out every other necessary form, so it’s just on her end that the process is being slowed down.

If you’re a CUNY adjunct or graduate assistant and would like to share your horror story, please let us know. Email us at theadjunctproject at gmail dot com.

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