I started a job without agreeing on a salary — and then it turned out to be too low

A reader writes:

Last month, I received a call from my friend Jason, a teacher at our local community college. His department was struggling to find teachers, and he wanted me to teach a class this semester. The students were already two weeks behind at that point. I said I would consider it and he gave my name to the head of the department.

A week later, I got a call from Mark, the department head, saying he was pleased that I had agreed to teach the class. I asked what the salary would be, but he said HR would need a few days to evaluate my resume. He couldn’t even give me a “ballpark” salary, but said not to worry, they could add extra “prep time” to my hours if the salary was too low.

At that point, the students were three weeks behind schedule. He asked if I could start teaching the next day and that we could negotiate the terms of my employment later that week. I agreed.

Unfortunately, two days later Mark was moved to a different position. Since they were in a tough spot, I agreed to keep teaching, even though my contract was not settled yet.

A week later, I messaged Mary, the new head of the department, stating that I was looking to get the terms of my employment. She said she was waiting to hear back from HR. I waited a few more days and followed up. Again, she was waiting for HR. I kept teaching.

The next week I sent another email to Mary. I explained that the semester was well underway and I hadn’t been paid yet. I said that we did not agree on my salary and that I would need an answer by the end of the week. She got back to me two days later and offered a salary 75% lower than what I used to make teaching at other colleges. I was shocked.

I called Mary right away and calmly explained that I couldn’t accept that salary. At that point, I had been teaching for over a month. She said that the salary was non-negotiable, but that she would try to get me the extra hours that her predecessor had promised. I said I would be willing to compromise for the sake of the students.

I gave Mary a day and followed up, again. She confirmed that neither the salary nor the hours were negotiable. I had to decline the terms of the contract and stopped teaching the next day. It didn’t make financial sense for me to work for a quarter of my usual salary. I was losing a lot of money since I had to pass down on other lucrative projects to make time in my schedule for that class.

I feel like they used me, knowing that I would never teach for a salary that low and hoping I would stay if they waited long enough to tell me. I helped them in good faith and I genuinely thought we could find an acceptable solution. Unfortunately, they weren’t willing to negotiate.

I feel bad for my students, and I don’t know what to tell them. They will likely have to retake the class next semester. I also feel bad for my friend who recommended me for the job. What should I have done differently?

Never start doing a job before you have explicitly agreed on a salary. In writing.

The school probably didn’t set out to intentionally screw you over. It’s unlikely that they thought, “We’re going to offer her an obscenely low salary, so let’s rope her into teaching the class for a while before we give her a number and then it’ll be too late for her to turn it down.” Instead, it sounds like it was a combination of disorganization, staffing changes, and no sense of urgency about getting it resolved.

But you shouldn’t have agreed to start the work without the pay being settled — because once you do that, this outcome is always a possibility. (It also really undermines your ability to negotiate once they do make an offer.)

And yes, they were in a tough spot because their students were behind schedule. But if they were concerned about that, they could have moved faster to handle pay. Why should you act with more of a sense of urgency than they have? Saying “I can’t begin doing the work until I know what the pay is” would have been completely fine — people generally do not begin jobs without agreeing on pay, and it would have been really odd for them to balk at that. It’s also possible that when you agreed to start teaching right away, it lowered their sense of urgency about dealing with the pay, since their problem was solved at that point.

You tried to do a good thing by starting work immediately (you were being pro-student and helpful to the school) — but that was the mistake that led to the rest of it.

{ 377 comments… read them below }

      1. Lobsterman*

        Having worked in academia, I stand by my analysis. My 2c based on my personal experience. Your Mileage May Vary, of course.

        1. Also an academic*

          I mean, I also work in academia and would lean towards incompetence, especially in this sitch (I’m envisioning a comm. college w/o strong leadership, people moved around easily, covering roles they didn’t intend to and didn’t necessarily train for.) Higher ed is full of well-meaning people spread a bit thin and doing jobs that don’t fit them well. May also be working within relatively rigid institutional constraints.

          1. mcl*

            Also in higher ed, and I would lean toward possible incompetence and also probably HR and the department not working in tandem. When HR is backed up at my institution (which it frequently is due to turnover and staff capacity in the HR dept), my department’s hiring processes are thrown off track.

            1. skadhu*

              Huh. For some reason my brain read “possible incompetence” as “profitable incompetence” and… well. Yeah, if being incompetent pays off a reasonable amount of the time, e.g. because people put looking after the students first, there’s not much impetus to become competent.

            2. Green Beans*

              Also in academia and given the stunning incompetence of our HR along with our leadership’s genuine belief that we don’t need to hire more administrative (including HR) people to support a 50% growth in our workforce …. Yup. I could absolutely see this happening.

              Our leadership once promised a new hire that a massive renovation required for their research space would be done in 6-8 weeks from the time of hire. In writing. Didn’t ask anyone with any facilities expertise for an estimated timeline or outline of process, just decided that 6 weeks seemed doable to them.

              The work took 8 months.

              When a coworker spoke about this during a team restrospective (it was resolved shortly before I joined), I laughed out loud when they said 6 weeks. I *literally* burst out laughing because I thought they were trying to start the meeting off with a joke. I do not work in facilities or construction.

              Yet everyone else involved was just like, well we didn’t realize that was an unrealistic timeline and our facilities person had just left, so there was no way to know.

              1. Cassie*

                Also in academia – we had a researcher who wanted to work remotely from outside the US (due to COVID and difficult getting a visa quickly), so special approval had to be obtained. We sent our initial request in April, hoping the person could work from abroad between July to December…. we’re still waiting for the approval!

                Apparently the person who handles the cases left at some point and every time we check on the status, the response is just “we’re reviewing”. I would have just preferred if they said “nope, sorry, no WFH abroad” – would have saved us all a bunch of time!

                1. J.E.*

                  I’m in academia and I really wish there was a page on the campus website where you could check and see what positions have been vacated and when. The former employee’s name wouldn’t need to be listed, just the position and that it was vacated on x date. So many times things just sit because others are unaware that a position is now vacant. I’ve run into this myself where I’ve tried to contact someone repeatedly only to be informed they were no longer at the college. It would have been nice to have known then I wouldn’t have wasted time.

            3. AFac*

              COVID-related issues wreaked havoc on an already slow HR at my school, and we have yet to fully recover. With people being out of the office, it’s harder to get people’s attention for urgent matters. I know e-sign is supposed to make the process smoother, and for the most part it does, but sometimes the urgency that can be conveyed by showing up in someone’s office and shoving a signature page at them is lost in email, even with the ! tag.

            4. fleapot*

              I’ve seen adjunct/sessional pay get delayed by months, and it’s usually a result of incompetence somewhere in the chain.* The thing that gives me pause, though, is that they claimed they couldn’t give OP even a ballpark figure. Isn’t there a pretty standard per-course rate in most departments?

              I’m not suggesting that there’s a standard per-course rate *across* departments, of course! But I don’t think I’ve ever taught somewhere–even without a collective bargaining agreement of some kind–where the department couldn’t have said “you’ll get roughly [$2400, $4500, $5000]* for the semester,” because that’s where they start essentially everyone. It seems possible (likely?) that the new chair might not have known that rate off the top of her head, but the outgoing chair should have.

              I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call it malicious, but it’s a least a little strange.

              That said: Alison is definitely right that it was a basic mistake not to get the rate in writing before starting, especially if the pay was going to be a dealbreaker for you. Whatever responsibility the institution bears, once you’ve started teaching, you also have a responsibility to your students. Even if the institution finds a replacement, this kind of disruption will definitely interfere with their learning–and if they don’t find a replacement, a tuition refund will pretty definitely not compensate most of them for the time/effort they’ve expended. (Let alone the cost of missed time in paid work, childcare, transportation…)

              Structurally, of course, “you have a responsibility to your students” is the kind of thinking that perpetuates the exploitation of precarious academics, and some part of me thinks that we should *all* be refusing to work for these kinds of wages. But–ideally before our students are left with sunk costs of their own. :-/

              *The incompetence wouldn’t be allowed to persist if people who mattered to the institution were the ones going a month without a paycheque, but that’s another conversation.
              ** Those are extremely real numbers.

              1. bamcheeks*

                Yes, agreed about the ballpark figure. That definitely takes it from “standard large organisation disorganisation” to “what the heck??”

            5. Tiffany Aching*

              Super seconding the HR and department not working in tandem. I work in HR in higher ed, and when these kinds of things happen, 75% of the time it’s because there was a hiccup in the communication and we weren’t told about the employee being hired until after the fact.

          2. Distracted Librarian*

            Almost 30 years in academia, and I agree. Disorganization and lack of leadership seasoned with a general practice of underpaying (SOP in many community colleges) are likely to blame rather than malevolence.

            1. Artemesia*

              teaching a single class sounds like an adjunct to role; these are often shockingly underpaid. And they come with no benefits. But this is a great illustration of the importance of always getting the salary up front. And kudos for being willing to walk away.

              1. banoffee pie*

                This is a problem inn the UK as well. A lot of uni undergraduate classes are taught by phd students on really low pay. There was a story a day or two ago about phd student/lecturer who ended up living in a tent when her housing costs went up. She hid it from the uni and her students. I think it was at Royal Holloway London.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  yes, that story was in the Guardian. Utterly shocking that workers can be treated so shoddily.

              2. Adjunct*

                If you want an example, my local community college offers adjuncts $2,500-$3,000 per course in a major city.

                Just to be clear, that’s not per month. It’s per four-month course.

          3. jiggle mouse*

            I’m in higher ed. Our HR was formerly intentionally vicious, but some of the worst have moved on so now we get well-meaning but poorly supported/informed. There are still a few faculty lifers here that seem to really enjoy causing problems, but we’ve had so much turnover most problems are due to lack of institutional knowledge and no continuity between old ways and new staff.

          4. Anonymeece*

            Work at a community college, and incompetence runs rampant here. I had to squint and wonder if this was at my place of work, to be honest, because this sounds very much like something they would do.

            1. Green Beans*

              Football coaches are very much taught that their time has a specific monetary value and they have a right to that compensation.

              A lot of other positions in academia and nonprofits are frequently and explicitly told otherwise.

              1. Aj Crowley*

                Yep! Junior college football (what it’s called even though most community colleges are called community colleges these days) is a thing! There’s a series on Netflix about it.

              2. Adele*

                Yes. Or at least other athletics. My cousin’s daughter had a volleyball scholarship at a community college not even in her state. My coworker’s son had a basketball scholarship at a community college two counties away from where we live.

                Seems incredible, doesn’t it?

          5. Rock Prof*

            Me too. Adjunct pay is generally really low, and adjunct overuse and exploitation is a huge problem, and I’d say we could blame capitalism for that whole system. But this individual scenario sounds more like incompetence based on too many people and systems trying to get to an outcome fast.

        2. Fitz*

          Just for another point of view, I work in higher ed admin, and I have had multiple situations in which faculty have told me, “Oh, by the way, I hired this person three months ago and they’ve been working ever since.” It’s always been student or temporary workers, but I can see this happening in my institution with adjuncts.

          1. JayemGriffin*

            Working adjacent to higher ed HR, and this happens ALL. THE. TIME. Sometimes we don’t even find out until the research assistant/TA/whoever contacts us asking where their pay is, and nobody except the faculty member knew they’d been doing work.

            1. Fitz*

              Yes. To be clear, I’m not saying this is okay; there are ethical, tax, and employment law considerations that make it a Very Bad Thing. Many of the problems we have here are likely present in any very large company institution, but I think this issue is definitely made even worse by the atmosphere created by tenure.

        3. EmbracesTrees*

          I am a professor. This sort of thing shouldn’t happen, ever. In my experience, though (over two decades in state universities, both large and smallish), I can see something like this legitimately slipping through the cracks because it’s so unusual and people don’t know the “proper steps” to handle it.

          And especially in a time where states are devoting less and less to education (meaning we are all expected to do more and more for relatively low salaries (compared to the private sector)), yes, I can absolutely see this sort of — really unforgivable and inappropriate — mistake happening.

          As for this sentiment:
          “never assume incompetence when malignance is available.”
          I honestly believe most people do their best to job their jobs *competently.* Call me PollyAnna but, imo, the negativity isn’t founded on a widespread basis.

            1. Kella*

              It’s clear from the comments that your experience isn’t universal, though I’m sure your experience is true. But perhaps the more important question is, why does it matter if it’s malice or incompetence? Perhaps the guidance should be, regardless of the reason for the breech, enforce your boundaries. Don’t let assuming incompetence be an excuse to let them mess up more or fool you into thinking maybe they’ll improve with time. But you should be doing both of those things in the case of malice, too.

          1. Jellissimo*

            I’m a department admin at a US University. I make sure the “contracts” get out prior to the term starting so the lecturers and TAs, etc., all have their documentation, but every semester, the formal HR group doesn’t get their stuff together until after the beginning of the term. Fortunately, rates of pay are generally published well in advance. This term, rates did increase a little, which wasn’t problematic to the lecturer since the end result was more money, not less, but yes, I can completely see them not getting a contract to someone for weeks and weeks. It’s unfair and wrong, but I see this happening all the time. It’s like they don’t start early enough or something.

            1. Kelly L.*

              Yes, this. The part where someone gets paid late is unfortunately common. But the amount would be known and standardized. So the only way OP wouldn’t know that is if they were being squirrely on purpose.

            2. jiggle mouse*

              It’s ok. Armies of classified staff stand at the ready to time travel for faculty who ‘just got my contract yesterday’, because every delay becomes our emergency.

              1. fleapot*

                I am flashing back to the year when I, as a lowly adjunct, started teaching in August and got my first paycheque in November.

                It actually was an emergency! It *did not matter*.

                1. fleapot*

                  (Did not matter in the sense that nobody but me–and I guess my landlord?–felt any urgency at all.)

                2. Peanut*

                  This has been my experience as well. I would side with Lobsterman about the sense of malignancy around paying adjuncts. I worked three years for two different colleges and for the first two years = 6 semesters, I was ‘forgotten’ to be paid in all of them except for one and including the final straw of not even being given a contract for a summer session which only lasted 8 weeks.

                  So for all of those academics who are safely ensconced in your tenured positions crying, “shame!” to those who say malignancy, I say wake up and listen to what they are saying as it is true. You are just lucky you have a safe, tenured cushion to criticise from.

          2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

            I dunno if it was a typo, but I like thinking that someone is going to “job the job”. Think I might borrow it.

        4. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yeah, I work in academia as well, and in my experience institutions can get absolutely horribly mired in bureaucracy that is ossified because of impossible-to-fullfil contradictory constraints. Even if people in some unit know what they want to achieve, if they don’t get the budget for it and the power to implement it, they muddle on. The levels of incompetence aren’t even particularly high, and the malice is either a few degrees removed, or is really a consequence of ignorance and lack of interest (by politicians who allocate budgets).

          To a degree it is part of the downside of having a public institution that WILL stick around, in some form, when a for-profit company would have been shut down or reorganized. This doesn’t excuse in any way treating employees (or students!) like crap, but it’s a breach through which the bad practices can seep in if there isn’t a cultural commitment to doing things the right way.

          The only way to get things to turn around at least incrementally and locally is to hold firm and do what Alison says – if it’s at all possible don’t accept a job that doesn’t pay correctly, and also act collectively whenever possible. If an institution puts pain on employees, the employees should to the best of their ability turn the pain back onto the institution – it’s the only way to reduce the overall pain level in the long run.

        5. Software Dev*

          You really think two weeks of cheap labor is really worth it to this college, who now has to hire another teacher and possibly refund students?

          1. KoiFeeder*

            There is no way under the sun those students are seeing a cent of what they paid for this course.

            1. Recovering Adjunct*

              No there isn’t. But there’s a 100% chance that they’ll be stuck with any corresponding student loan debt.

              1. Amaranth*

                What happens in the case where students are required to take a minimum number of credits to qualify for scholarships/grants? Does the school negotiate some kind of extension or replacement class or are they stuck?

        6. HereKittyKitty*

          Having worked in academia… yeah. I don’t think it was late-night plotting and the twirling of mustaches but I guarantee they took their own good time and at least thought once “she won’t leave those kids now, just think of the children???” while taking their own good time. Students are used as guilt trips constantly for educators.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Yeah, I don’t think there was steepling of fingers with a Mr. Burns type smirk or anything.

            I do think it was a case of “Welp, you’re in it now, so just get through the semester, kthnx!”

        7. anonymoose*

          I agree with you, Lobsterman.

          And not just in academia: plenty of industries try this caper on workers whenever they can. It’s one of the many forms of wage theft that are so rampant, and have been for a very, very long time.

          1. banoffee pie*

            Since you’re being a bit left out in the cold there Lobsterman, FWIW I agree with you that there can sometimes be malice in these situations (not sure about this time). OP did seem to be passed from pillar to post quite a lot. They might have been strigning her along and hoping she’d teach the class as long as possible. Some people will definitely try to get you to work for free if they can. It’s not conspiracy theory stuff.

          2. bamcheeks*

            I think there’s a middle ground here– there is everyone meaning well but being incompetent at one end, and then there is someone with a personal will to do something bad to OP Just Because in the other. In the middle, there are people prioritising, and deciding that their budgets, deficits and surpluses are more important than people, or that these people are more important than those people. A sort of bureaucratic malice. It’s not a kind of personal, active malice, but the effects are certainly malicious to the people who are deemed less important.

            1. Lab Boss*

              That’s how I read it. There’s people who don’t set out to screw you, it’s not an active plot against you, but they will absolutely prioritize their own deadlines, budgets, priorities, and convenience higher than whatever it would take to do right by you. I can’t call it proper “malice” but it’s not as excusable as a bunch of well-meaning incompetents trying and failing to get it right.

        8. JSPA*

          I have also seen departments and institutions go this route, intentionally. Plenty don’t, but once the mismanagement reaches a certain level, the malignancy and the incompetence feed off each other.

        9. (M)academia*

          Academia here too, not malice but incompetence and an overstretched HR and clueless ignorant Board of Trustees refusing to pay out (which trickles down).

      2. Aj Crowley*

        Agreed! HR in a community college wouldn’t benefit from being malignant. It’s not like any salary savings gets passed onto them. They’re likely also overworked and underpaid. Also many times lecturer or adjunct salaries likely don’t have much negotiation room. Many are public institutions with very inflexible salary bands. (Which is counter to LW’s experience of being told a salary estimate can’t be provided…) Salary can often be determined by previous hours taught and degree of the professor (eg a professor with a MA with 72 hours experience would earn less than one with a PhD and equivalent experience and it’s a Whole Thing for HR to determine those course hours unless they were taught in the same college system) (some community college professors may have a MA to teach although the competitiveness of such positions mean this is often not the case in practice)

        (Source: Having worked at universities on the student affairs side but had plenty of contact with the academic side and married to a community college professor)

      3. Beth*

        Yes. “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.” Or incompetence.

        Not only are you more likely to have the correct grasp of the situation, it will make life a lot less horrible to cope with.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        Law schools are kind of a special case, though. When I was in law school (about 15 years ago now), adjuncts all taught specialty courses, not core courses (except for practitioners who were part of the writing program, but that program was overseen by a couple of full-time professors). The adjuncts were all practicing lawyers who were in fact teaching on the side either to “give back” or for a line on their resumes. These adjuncts had no need for the money (about $1500/credit, IIRC), and in fact one of the first things the school would do when an adjunct agreed to teach a class was ask whether the adjunct wanted to donate their salary back to the school. I don’t know how many said yes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them did. None of these adjuncts were teaching for the money, I’m sure of that.

        I’ve heard that some schools have increasingly used adjuncts as low-cost replacements for full-time faculty, but I don’t know how prevalent that is among law schools compared to the “prestige adjuncts” I’m more familiar with.

        1. Artemesia*

          This is classic adjunct work — a professional teaches a single class in their specialty and often for peanuts since it isn’t about the money for them. But today, adjuncts are how colleges staff their basic undergrad courses and people often rely on the salary to survive — so these pathetic low wages are highly exploitive. There is a big difference between teaching law students consumer protection law which you specialize in and someone teaching English comp or algebra to community college undergrads.

          1. L.H. Puttgrass*

            That was kind of my point, yes. :) The page TallTeapot linked to was about Tulane looking for “volunteer” adjunct law professors, which doesn’t seem that outrageous to me—law adjuncts are basically teaching for free as a hobby anyway.

            I agree, though, that using adjuncts as replacements for full-time faculty is exploitative and dysfunctional and lots of other fancy words that mean “bad.” And it’s far too common. I think it’s okay even in undergrad and community colleges if the subject is a specialty and when it’s the only class an otherwise employed adjunct is teaching. Teachers trying to cobble together a living out of multiple classes as an adjunct (without even the promise of a Ph.D. in the future in exchange for their labor, which is part of the T.A. bargain) are a sign of a system that is severely broken.

            But my knowledge of the situation is mostly secondhand and dated. I taught one class as an adjunct a couple of years ago, realized it was way too much work, and politely asked them to find someone else to teach the class the next time around (FWIW, that was a specialized class and the salary was stated up-front).

            1. just a random teacher*

              Yeah, the adjunctification of higher ed is a big mess, and it’s not what adjuncts were intended for.

              I mean, I could pick up an evening college class teaching “How to teach [my subject] to high school students”, with the intended audience being people who were in college to become [my subject] teachers at a high school, and that’s what adjunct positions were for.

              In practice, I’d have an easier time finding an adjunct position to teach an evening or online section of [my subject at the 100 level as a gen ed requirement, there are a giant pile of sections of this all taught by adjuncts], and that’s not what the original idea was for.

              In this case, it sounds like there’s a ton of chaos going on in the department and/or school in general, so it’s quite believable that all of this was based on people promising things they didn’t know they couldn’t deliver (or maybe the department head who got re-org’d out had a not-technically-allowed-but-been-doing-it-for-years plan about the added hours, even).

              I’m just amazed that the pay wasn’t clearly stated in a general contract, since that’s standard for public-sector jobs here. Must vary by state.

            2. Stay-at-Homesteader*

              LHP, your assessment is correct. I worked with adjuncts at two different private law colleges, and while the pay structure was wildly different at each, the basic idea about practicing attorneys giving back was absolutely how both schools saw it. And it really wasn’t exploitative for most of our adjuncts. But as for our “visiting” professors and other full-time non-tenure track profs…that’s a different story…

          2. Retired Prof*

            Exactly, Artemesia. In my state university system, “adjunct faculty” are not paid. Some act as thesis committee members for masters students. My department has a couple adjuncts who work in the federal lab upstairs from us but teach a grad class for fun (and their agency donates their time to us). Part-time non-tenure track faculty are called lecturers, and like the rest of the faculty, are represented by our union and so have well-defined classifications and pay scales with benefits (still paid lower than they should be but you can make an actual career as a lecturer – the benefit of being unionized).

      2. Amaranth*

        Aside from the incompetence of HR, it sounds like OP assumed their friend would be only recommending a job that paid their usual rate, while the friend only knew there was a need and apparently not the details.

      3. Peanut*

        Agree. I am surprised that so many are so quick to say it must be incompetence when really it is an actual plan of action to intentionally under pay adjuncts and to brow beat them into a meek submission as well. Not unlike an abusive spouse who wants the house clean, shoping done, meals prepared and so on and intimidates the other with fear and criticism in order to achieve their selfish goals. Not any different at all.

      1. jiggle mouse*

        Ahahahaaa!!! Capitalism is why 16,000+ students and 2000+ faculty & staff were required to return to mostly in-person classes. Millions had been spent on fancy new buildings and programs, so butts had to be in seats so dollars could be in the bank.

        1. an academic*

          Er, a lot of students told me they couldn’t learn as effectively online and they hated never seeing their peers. I taught a course in person last spring quarter (masked and outdoors, most students vaxxed) when most classes were remote, and most of the students said they enjoyed being in person again.

          1. londonedit*

            Yeah, there is a lot of talk in the UK from university students who feel that they’ve missed out on the whole uni experience because of Covid – they actively want to go and live in halls of residence and go to lectures in person and go clubbing and do all the things uni students do. They’re not happy spending £9k a year to watch lectures in their bedrooms.

            1. Testerbert*

              The UK situation is largely born of the mess that higher education has become over the past decades. Universities are ‘selling’ themselves on the ‘experience’ and ‘student lifestyle’, ploughing vast sums of cash into flashy new buildings and marketing budgets, while cutting teaching budgets to the bone.

              I wouldn’t blame a student for not being happy to spend £9k to receive recordings of lectures and no face-to-face/in person tuition, especially when you have those who were effectively lured into taking up places in halls only to then be told tuition would be done remotely and 90% of the promised amenities were closed (of course, full whack for accomodation was charged).

              1. bamcheeks*

                but of course, halls aren’t owned by universities, but by private developers who have spent the last 20 years Investing In Student Housing.

              2. MissBaudelaire*

                I remember hearing from a coworker, whose daughter was enrolled in a college, that she couldn’t be housed at the dorms. Yeah, COVID, makes sense, we get it.

                Oh but um, they aren’t refunding the room and board so… I don’t know how that ever got resolved.

        2. Another Professor*

          Yeah, I freely chose to return in-person in August 2020 for reasons that had nothing to do with capitalism. There is now plenty of data to suggest that that was not an unsafe choice as long as the school was actually following CDC guidelines.

      2. Susanna*

        Of course it does. They have budgets. They have expenses. And they will try to squeeze as much out of people as they can – whether it’s tuition or low pay for adjuncts.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      Under capitalism, it matters not the intention of exploitation, merely that the ruling class will act in its own best interest.

      1. TBF*

        TBF The ruling class will ALWAYS act in it’s own best interest regardless if capitalism is involved or not.

    2. Nesprin*

      I’d argue instead for “never assume malice over incompetence, but repeated incompetence is indistinguishable from malice”

      1. Liz T*

        Yes to this!!!!

        They didn’t *pay you or tell you your pay* for *more than a month.* That’s not “elaborate evil scheme” malice, it’s “we’re accustomed to abusing our staff” malice.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think it’s also “Who even understands these payroll things? Gladys, and she retired and went on a cruise and won’t answer any of our emails.”

          1. Susanna*

            But… even if that’s the case, the fact that they don’t think an instructor’s SALARY is important enough to reveal – let alone pay – says it all. That’s malice and disregard disguised as incompetence.

        2. A Wall*

          This is the ticket, here. They weren’t scheming, they just know they can normally get away with exploiting them however was convenient so they had no reason to make any more effort than they did.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Well, the results of malice and incompetence can certainly be the same. And as a professor’s wife (and history teacher myself), don’t even get me started on the subject of paying seven-figure salaries to football coaches so that they can teach students more efficient ways to batter their brains into CTE so that said students can make a fortune for their respective universities.

        And, as much as I respect education and nonprofit organizations, I honestly can’t imagine this happening in private industry, much less being accepted as normal. Fellow readers? Alison? What do you think?

    3. cmcinnyc*

      Agree. And I wouldn’t “feel bad for” the friend who recommended me. I’d roast him over a slow fire while screaming HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO ME! in his face.

      1. Chaordic One*

        I think your “friend” owes you one hell of an apology. It is certainly convenient that he walked away and left you dangling without a contract. He sounds like someone who isn’t a very good friend. You might want to put some distance between yourself and him in the future. Maybe even ghost the (insert dirty word here).

    4. Just @ me next time*

      Honestly, I think the most terrifying part of capitalism is that malignancy is rarely direct and intentional. The corruption is systemic, grown from centuries of acts by people who truly believed based on their own cultural context that they were doing the right thing, or by people who perceived themselves as not being in the position to challenge the status quo.

    5. marvin the paranoid android*

      I don’t know, there are tons of historical examples of really egregious catastrophes (companies collapsing, large-scale cons, human rights violations, massive levels of damage, you name it) that came about through a bunch of people following orders and bumbling around, without any real malice behind it. In a way it’s more comforting to believe that there is a sinister mastermind out there behind every true disaster, but often cogs in a problematic machine can cause at least as much destruction.

        1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

          all you can eat, plus 3 leftover (cheese only) pizzas to take home for later

      1. Owler*

        My friend at a public university created and funded a Named Fund to Provide Cake and Pizza because there was no available money for snacks at a recent graduation for their master’s and PhD students. All of the department money came from federal grants that forbid the purchase of food or beverages, and the university had pulled any funds that could have been used for cake or, heaven forbid, pizza.

        So no pizza parties, no cheap Publix sheet cake for a small celebratory grad school gathering until my friend and his spouse created this particular fund where students (and staff) could request a mini-grant toward food or even coffee.

        1. an academic*

          In my program, at my (public) university, graduating PhDs were expected to provision their own post-defense celebrations. Good advisors would purchase a cake. Actually, I was expected to bring coffee for everyone at the committee at my own quals examination.

          1. BigTenProfessor*

            Also public university — other students in the lab would handle the logistics, and our advisor would foot the bill.

        2. Chaordic One*

          At our state university they’ve been on a building kick and have built several beautiful new classroom buildings and laboratories from wealthy corporate donors. The terms of the donations strictly limit the funds to the construction and furnishing of new buildings (named after the donors). Meanwhile, the state legislature that funds the university refuses to provide additional funding for cleaning and maintenance of these new buildings. Aside for replacing staff who quit or retire, there have been new hires added onto the janitorial staff for a decade or more. The janitorial staff are now expected to clean nearly twice as many buildings as they did 15 years ago with the same number of people. And the buildings, both old and new, are now filthy.

  1. Dr. Rebecca*

    Fellow adjunct professor here: Adjunct salaries range between $2,000 and $9,000 per class, with most of them being toward the extreme lower end of the scale. They’re set by the school, and are non-negotiable. Regardless, they need to pay you for time served, and should do so without hesitation regardless of your contracted status–you worked those hours for them, and they owe you.

    We’re extremely exploited; I’m sorry you had to realize this first hand, but yes, as Alison said, get the contract signed first.

    1. giraffecat*

      Then shouldn’t they have been able to tell her the adjunct rate up front? Why string her along and not tell her weeks into the semester?

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        Because they could. Or, possibly, because the department chair was so out of the loop they didn’t actually know how much their adjuncts are paid.

        1. giraffecat*

          I’m leaning towards the ‘because they could’ answer, too. I also work at a university and adjunct rates are well known by many. It would take less than an hour to find that out. It sounds like they were either purposefully stringing her along or extremely incompetent.

          1. Dr. Rebecca*

            mmm-hmm. Pretty sure there was some discussion, even a muttered one in the hallways, that went something like “…look, she’ll never stay if we tell her before she starts teaching…” And the thought of leaving a class full of students in the lurch, even if you are 100% in the right, is a devastating prospect.

            1. Lady Pomona*

              I agree – there was almost certainly an element of emotional manipulation here. The college was very likely counting on the OP’s “professionalism”, “dedication” and just plain guilt over leaving their students in the lurch to keep stringing them along to work for peanuts.

              Seriously, folks, can you imagine a university’s high-level administrator or football coach being expected to step into their job the next day with no hint of what their salary would be, only to find out weeks later that it was 75% below market rate? No, neither can I!

          2. Margaret*

            You may be underestimating how utterly incompetent at administrative matters most faculty are and how lost at sea they get when staff leave. My guess is the staff member left and the department imploded.

            1. Also an academic*

              Whoo boy yes. This is also my experience. One person (often but not always a staff member) carries big responsibilities + a lot of institutional knowledge, and when they leave, that just kind of collapses.

            2. jiggle mouse*

              Six weeks into our fall term here and I’m still helping new department coordinators sort out their needs.

            3. Skysong*

              Yes, and in my experience, faculty don’t want to get their hands dirty talking about money. This place sounds like such a disorganized mess, I think it’s far less likely that they had any kind of strategy or plan than that they just let everything fall through the cracks.

              As other people have said, adjunct salaries vary quite a lot, so people who end up doing the job are often doing it for experience or because they’re retired and they enjoy it, etc., not because they’re tricked. My guess is incompetence. Almost criminally negligent incompetence, but incompetence.

            4. J.B.*

              It’s taking 6 months to disentangle some mission critical stuff because of the most senior staff member’s bright ideas and lack of backups…

            5. Sparrow*

              I’m in higher ed admin and second this. Department heads are usually faculty who may or may not be prepared (or suited) for a fully administrative position, and if Mary was dumped suddenly into the head role, I can 100% believe this was just someone in over their head in a job they aren’t trained for, especially if she didn’t have previous experience in that kind of role. The head leaving mid-term probably means there are a ton of other fires she was trying to put out, too. I have met people in higher ed who would do this kind of thing maliciously, but in my opinion, it’s FAR more likely that OP just slipped through the cracks.

          3. Koalafied*

            Particularly for a community college – aren’t they all public schools? If the position is at a state-funded school then salaries are a matter of open public record. I just google “community college salaries {mystate}” and found both the statutory pay bands and the actual current pay statistics in the first page of Google results.

            1. Dr. Rebecca*

              Part time/temporary salaries are sometimes exempt from that particular need to report. I know that at the state school I recently quit, because they were paying $2600/class, adjunct salaries were not on their site.

            2. Rock Prof*

              There are some private community colleges, often they started as technical schools that also offer associates now.

          4. Another Professor*

            I disagree. My school had multiple adjunct rates. I know there are times when I tried to get the higher rate for someone and failed. I never ever told someone they would get more than they would, and I always had that clarified with a contract well before classes started, but I could see someone being overly optimistic. The one time I was able to get the higher rate for a new person was when we were in a bind because someone dropped out a week into classes, but I recruited the new person with the better rate in writing.

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          I know at my school, the unions are involved heavily, even with part time (adjunct) instructors. Therefore, the rate is variable depending on education. Having a Ph.D. meant that I earned more than someone with a masters teaching the same class (difference of about $500 per class per semester, IIRC). So sometimes it can be variable.

      2. A Simple Narwhal*

        I can think of a reason why, but it’s not very nice so I’m keeping it to myself.

        I hope I’m wrong though, and it’s just a case of mismanagement and not maliciousness.

      3. Omnivalent*

        Because they wanted her to be sunk into teaching the class so that she’d accept a salary she wouldn’t have taken up front. Of course they knew the adjunct rate up front, as Dr. Rebecca says that’s set by the school and it’s a known number. By stringing her along and not telling her (or paying her) weeks later, they were hoping she would feel obligated to finish out the class anyway. They knew that if they offered that salary at the beginning they wouldn’t have been able to get anyone to teach.

        While it may be technically accurate to say that their primary goal was not to screw the OP over, it’s glaringly obvious that they were fine with screwing the OP over if it meant getting a teacher in that slot.

        1. Lady Pomona*

          Yes to all of this! I’ve spent my life in educational nonprofit organizations and have worked with some of the finest, most brilliant and most dedicated educators you could ever hope to meet – and none of them is in it for the money. But that caring and concern can also be cynically played upon to keep people in untenable positions – and it sounds as if that’s what may have happened in this case.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            My daughter’s preschool class is closing–public school–because the teacher quit.

            I kinda got that vibe from her at the beginning of the year, so I wasn’t shocked. They cannot find anyone to fill this role. It’s a public program geared towards low income, at risk kids, a lot of whom have some delays. My own kid has a speech delay. They are shocked no one wants this job. I am not.

            I discussed it with my godmother. “But if you’re a teacher, you’re doing it for the kids! How could someone just abandon all those kids!” she cried. …Probably someone who had bills to pay? Someone who was tired of crappy policies and snarky parents? Just a few wild guesses. I’m sure the ‘think of the children!!’ line was used on this teacher many times, and eventually lost all meaning.

            1. Leela*

              sister of a teacher, and schools (and parents) lean HARD on the “well if you’re a good teacher, you’ll suffer through absolutely anything at all to make a child smile, otherwise you’re awful” mentality to get teachers to do things that they shouldn’t have to do, it’s pretty gross

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I imagine a bunch of people moved around to cover things, and the one who knew that number left, but just as soon as their replacement’s replacement’s replacement got their feet under themselves and figured out all the details…

        I am also picturing the famous Fyrefest conference call in which the people on the ground explained that there was a disaster and the people in the boardroom proposed that they just pull it off and then be heroes.

      5. Leonine*

        They probably have a pay scale based on experience, which is why HR had to evaluate LW’s resume. Where I teach, the hourly pay structure has ~20 levels for years of experience, plus ~6 steps in each level for how much education you have. The lowest hourly rate is less than half of the highest hourly rate, so it’s totally possible that the boss couldn’t even ballpark it.

      6. Trish*

        At my community college, your specific rate for teaching varies depending on your degree + experience. So if you have a PhD, your rate may be higher than someone who has master’s. And if you have X hours of experience teaching at the school, your rate will be higher than Y. So it would be legit for their to be a *small* (like, maybe a day) delay while checking someone’s resume and their hours of previous teaching experience. I can’t think of a good reason for a delay of WEEKS.

    2. Charlotte Lucas*

      Yep. Former adjunct here. Pay varies wildly & is based on budgets & other factors. (I know I made more -adjusted for inflation & COL – at a rural, remote land grant university than is currently offered to adjunct staff at the nearby Big 10. Sometimes it’s based on how much staff wants those jobs.

      But they most likely have a set amount per class.

      1. Recovering Adjunct*

        Also a former adjunct. The one thing I can guarantee is that the students will pay full tuition for the class, regardless of the experience this created.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          At least with all the departmental shuffling, it’s unlikely that the department is going to deliberately schedule any discussion of refunds on the exact time and day when that student has a class?

      2. KaciHall*

        Like Big 10 schools don’t also fall under the category of rural remote land grant schools. (Or maybe just Purdue, which is currently being run into the ground by the corrupt ex governor. I admittedly don’t know if any of the others are land grant schools. And Lafayette might technically qualify as a city, but it’s still the middle of nowhere.)

    3. Dr. Rebecca*

      To those of you gasping at 75% lower, yeah–if you go from an 8k semester to a 2k semester, that’ll do it.

      1. KHB*

        It’s not just higher education. I’m a writer and editor for a nonprofit publication. I get paid a good salary to produce content that’s thoughtful and well researched. Occasionally we hire freelancers to produce similar content – and from what I’ve seen, they get paid almost 75% less than the salaried staff do for the same amount of work (plus we get benefits and they don’t). And then we wonder why we can’t find any good freelancers.

    4. pumpkin spicy*

      Yeah, and that means that they should have had salary information on hand. They have a standard contract, they use a narrow salary band with a couple “add-on” conditions that might offer a trivial increase from the base pay rate, they don’t negotiate, and they treat instructors like peons.

      It’s like Starbucks – nobody applying to be a barista enters into lengthy salary negotiations with Starbucks.

      This speaks to their dishonesty. They probably did think that they could string her along, and they probably hoped that they could deflect, browbeat, and lowball her into submission. After all, that’s how adjuncts are generally treated.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Exactly. The fact that it’s non-negotiable means they already knew exactly what it was.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, that’s where I’m landing on this, too. You don’t spend a month trying to figure out a non-negotiable salary band. These things are, to the best of my knowledge and ability, usually set up before they start hiring people to teach. It doesn’t sound like this college is the best-organized, but it’s far more difficult to spend a month trying to figure out what the adjunct’s salary is and whether there’s any wiggle room on that than it would be for the administration to have been stringing OP along and stalling for time.

        2. OP*

          100% agree. They knew they had a non negotiable salary band but never told me. From what I understood from my last conversation with them, they were trying to hire me as a consultant, and HR said no. That’s why it took so long. They knew their salary was ridiculously low and kept it from me while they tried to find a way around it.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Yeah, that totally fits with what I’ve seen, too. Even though in my institution adjunct rates aren’t the worst. Maybe in the past some department head HAD been able to hire someone as a consultant, or there were prep hours available to make up for the low pay rate, so the person who talked with you was optimistic (even though they clearly shouldn’t have).

            But jumping ship I think you’re doing the organization a favor, because now they have a bunch of unhappy students (who bring in tuition money), and the department can go to the leadership (provost, VP of academic affairs, whatever) and show unambiguously that they can’t recruit and retain mission-critical teaching faculty without offering better pay and admin followthrough. I think that the only reason that my employer, despite budget worries and political pressure, is paying non-TT people like me correctly (nowhere near what I’d earn in the tech sector, but a livable salary and industry-standard benefits) is that people in key positions hold this line. We have demonstrably recruitment and retention issues nonetheless, and leadership is aware of them.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              I looked at your letter again and about what to tell students… What I’d tell them – and it’s probably a good idea, if you still have an opportunity, to tell them something just because you don’t want that department just to trash your reputation with them – is something like “What happened is that I took on your class on short notice as it was without teacher at the time, as you will remember. I agree to start teaching you before employment negotiations had finished. When the college and I came together unfortunately we could not come to an agreement. I very much wish it had been otherwise since I understand the impact this had on you. However, it was not possible for me to sign on to what was on offer.” Don’t give them numbers, but direct them to [Mary] and/or [program director].

              1. Curious*

                Why not give them the number? It’s not a secret. Moreover, as college students, they surely can take the amount that they are paying for the class, count noses, and do some multiplication and division…

                1. MissBaudelaire*

                  “What do you mean I pay 400 dollars per credit hour, this is a three credit class, here’s fifteen of us, and you only made 3,000?”

                2. tamarack and fireweed*

                  A few reasons, though sure, if you want, give them the number…

                  Because students should get that (or ask that) from the person actually in charge of their program – the person that has a responsibility to them. That’s where to best apply the pain the student can, and should, cause, rather than satisfying their curiosity.

                  Because frankly, students tend to have very little context to what pays how much, and if you start them down that path, you’d have to be prepared for a discussion that could go any number of ways, and follow-up questions that you need to deal with about stuff you can’t prepare for.

                  Because that would make it a lot more about the instructor and less about the students. “You won’t believe how little they pay people like me!” is a different conversation than “The terms the college offered me were unacceptable and I’m sorry that your education is getting caught in this mess – please go to your program director for details.”

                  I *would* make it clear that it’s the college that messed this up, and if necessary give numbers (but prepare well – students have probably no idea what which member of the college staff earns, or what market wages are). It’s just that it shouldn’t be a me*me*me conversation.

    5. Emily Spinach*

      Sounds like this school must have had a salary band, since they were going to evaluate the LW’s experience to determine the pay. I’ve mostly encountered a set amount, too, but this school seems to have had a slightly different set up.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        By “experience” they almost certainly meant whether or not she had a doctorate. I got a bump for confirming my PhD at several of my schools.

        1. NervousHoolelya*

          It might also include how many semesters of teaching she had done before starting. I agree that there was almost certainly a salary band, but in my experience hiring adjuncts, the department heads were not privy to that information. We were told to direct all questions about pay to the relevant Dean’s Office. If the EA in that Dean’s Office left, I could see this exact problem happening. That’s no excuse at all — someone else in that office should have scrambled to figure something out immediately — but I’m not even slightly surprised that it did happen.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Yes, both of these, plus potentially how contact hours are calculated (sometimes there are multipliers for large classes, or there may be a lab portion with or without a TA/lab staff…). Or whether it’s a set rate by credit hour.

    6. Please Remove Your Monkeys from My Circus*

      A friend/colleague suggested I leave my current FT NFP position to adjunct instead. I had to explain that wasn’t an option, since both the cat and I like to eat, and that wouldn’t be possible in adjunct wages. (I taught a course over the summer on the side. For which I was paid $650 US. Yeah, no.)

        1. anon as well*

          It’s hard to explain to people why I didn’t go into academia after I got my PhD, but my field is so saturated that most people spend their careers adjuncting. I can’t do that.

    7. Artemesia*

      the fact that ‘Mark’ didn’t just tell her ‘we pay adjuncts $2000 a course’ makes this malevolent — of course he knows what the rate is — it isn’t a mystery. It might be 2500 or 2000 depending on her resume — but it is not going to be dramatically different. He was trying to get her in so she would feel she had to finish the job.

      1. Recovering Adjunct*

        It’s possible that Mark had tenure. In my experience very few with tenure are remotely aware of adjunct pay.

        1. RK*

          And/or Mark is wealthy enough that he doesn’t see a big difference between 2K and 8K since both seem like a token payment to him. So, it didn’t occur to him that it might actually matter to the OP what the payment actually was. I’ve met people like that.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        One of the most frustrating things about academia (at least the US version) is that information can be incredibly siloed. I’m not saying Mark didn’t know and intentionally deceived the OP. But that isn’t even necessary for it to make sense that the OP gets out. What I see more often is stuff like:

        * Mark in the past *had* the pull to top up unreasonably low salaries with prep hours or consulting contracts. That was taken away and maybe this had to do with his moving jobs.
        * Mark last was involved in hiring adjuncts 10 years ago and only remembers how he feels about how much they were paid. He thinks of the institution as “basically decent” so they CAN’T be doing horribly exploitative things, right? So he gives the OP a ballpark figure (“I guess it should be about $5000. I know that this is low by your normal pay rate, but I am sure we can top it up with prep hours if it’s not enough. We really need to get this class on the rails…”) . And then the real figure isn’t $5000, which the OP might have grudgingly accepted for the sake of the greater good, but $2000, which is beyond insulting.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          PS: I just realized I misread the post – he *didn’t* give them a ballpark salary. As the department head this is not believable, except if he was moved into the role 5 min earlier.

          The point that stands is that even without lying on Mark’s part, jumping ship is absolutely the thing to do.

      1. wendelenn*

        and hopefully they don’t consider OP “too big for his/her britches” or “disrespectful” for advocating for it! (see the letter/update from the other day)

  2. OrigCassandra*

    I’m glad you bailed, OP. Make this a THEM problem.

    It’s the only way out of adjunct exploitation.

    1. Clorinda*

      This is why I’m teaching in a public school now. Adjuncting was more fun, but the fam needs to eat.

      1. Cranky lady*

        When public school teaching pays more for highly educated professionals, something is broken. (In case it’s not clear, I think teachers should be paid their weight in gold.)

    1. A Simple Narwhal*

      Right?? I thought it said it was 75% of their normal salary until the “…for a quarter of my normal salary” part, my jaw absolutely hit the floor.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        I had to go back and reread when I met that in the comments because my brain insisted I couldn’t be seeing a QUARTER.

    2. Starbuck*

      Hence the staffing issues, clearly! I would love it if academia could have a shake-up on this while we’re all going through the Great Resignation, but my sense is unfortunately that the lingering prestige and oversupply of credentialed labor means the motivation isn’t there yet… would love to be told I’m wrong tho!

      1. swut*

        I teach at a university in a place where salaries haven’t kept up with the housing market and builders can’t keep up with the demand for new housing. We are having trouble hiring and I think our administration is seeing the direct connection to people on professor salaries not being able to afford to accept jobs here. I don’t think we’re at Great Resignation levels yet because tenured and tenure-track faculty are slow to change jobs, but it feels like there’s a slow shift starting in the relative power levels when it comes to our salaries and what we are expected to do to earn them. We also have very few adjuncts because of our small local pool of qualified people, so there is some pressure to actually hire for positions that people will move from elsewhere to take, whether those are tenure track or lecturer positions that are full time and come with benefits and a salary rather than pay per course.

        Of course part of the reason things may be changing here is that for many people with doctorates we are in flyover/non-prestige/I can’t see myself living there even if a house costs a fifth as much as on the coast-territory.

    3. L.H. Puttgrass*

      “His department was struggling to find teachers…” Gee, I wonder why?

      I also wonder if the department knows exactly why and delayed talking about the salary specifically because they know the low pay is why they can’t get teachers.

      25% of usual salary, non-negotiable. Yeah, I feel bad for the students, but the heck with that.

  3. LessonsEverywhere*

    When I was in high school, a friend and I applied for a summer job that was to be paid by honorarium. Both of us were clear that we needed money for university in the fall… But neither of us knew how to press for a specific number. After 6 weeks of interviewing veterans and writing their stories, we received our pay: commemorative coins from Canada’s year of the veteran. Not much help with buying textbooks, but a valuable lesson in negotiation (and many more lessons from the veterans themselves!).

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      WOW! That has to be illegal or something. Are the coins like something you can spend, like how the US State quarters are commemorative but can still be brought to a bank and deposited. Or is it like fake money.

      This Sucks!

      1. generic_username*

        google honorarium and you’ll see why it isn’t illegal. It’s essentially a gift given to someone for labor that would oftentimes be given for free/volunteered. I work somewhere where we offer honorarium (lol, in $$$, not commemorative coins) and a small number of people simply turn it down because they feel like donating their time instead. That said, we always tell them the amount up front. LessonsEverywhere and her friend were taken advantage of

    2. Person from the Resume*

      Well, an honorarium is defined as “a payment given for professional services that are rendered nominally without charge.” I usually hear of it as a payment for a speaker at a conference or something.

      Agreeing to an honorarium is agreeing that the work you’re doing is normally is volunteer work and you’ll be getting something small. It’s not commiserate with normal pay or minimum wage work.

    1. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      When I was a retail manager, we always said (to ourselves, but MAN did I want to say it aloud to the customers banging on the door 30 minutes after we closed on Christmas Eve), “Christmas comes on the same day every year. It’s not a surprise. You’ve known about this day for 354 days.”

  4. PhD survivor*

    My past experience in academia is that this kind of disorganization is common, as is expecting people to start working before employment terms are finalized/ without being paid until later. It’s a much more exploitative environment than most people realize. It seems this letter writer was in a financial position where they could walk away from a poorly paid job but many aren’t. I don’t work in academia anymore and am extremely happy that I left.

    1. Hills to Die On*

      I have made plenty of mistakes, but getting into Academia is fortunately not one of them.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I wonder if it depends on if its a public university compared to a private or for profit one. At my state university no one can work before contracts are signed and everything is agreed to. Although I’m not in a teaching position but it all works relatively the same. . In fact when I moved from my part time position to the full time (same department, same basic job just took the full time spot) position HR wanted me to print, sign, scan, and send paperwork before I started. (i was on a short break between when my part-time contract was up and the full time person leaving). I had to explain to them that I was having computer problems and was not able to print or scan stuff back. Of course it was during covid where everyone in HR was still WFH so I couldn’t just stop in there. I had to do it first thing my first day.

      I think there would be a lot of problems if a professor started to teach without a contract.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        *Usually* a community college is public and the private equivalent is a junior college so idk. Also adjuncts often have different rules.

      2. Distracted Librarian*

        This has been my experience as well. All paperwork must be done, approvals must be secured all the way to the Provost, before anyone starts work. But adjuncting may be different, I don’t know.

        1. Rainy*

          Adjuncting is usually considered an ad hoc appointment, so it is different to a standard teaching agreement.

      3. just a random teacher*

        In k-12 public education, the only way I know that someone could possibly work before signing a contract and going through the official hiring process would be is if they were also signed up to substitute in that district, in which case they could be assigned to, essentially, substitute for themselves and be working under their sub rules of employment until they could get their real start date after the real hiring process wrapped up. I know college doesn’t generally hire subs in the same way, though.

      4. tamarack and fireweed*

        I am in academia, and I don’t regret it – the kind of dysfunction is just different from the private-sector dysfunction. At my institution, too, people can’t legally work before their contract letters are issued and signed. This is being repeated often, and some senior people in HR *will* come around and make it clear to deans and department heads that they can’t operate like this. It *does* happen, but because it’s so irregular, that’s a strong argument that makes it an all-hands-on-deck emergency when it happens *and the employee doesn’t accept it*.

        What makes it hard, too, is that public universities can get really complex, with multiple different unions covering different employee classes, and in addition multiple types of non-represented employees. Grad students who are in the uncomfortable position of sometimes being employees and sometimes being students, often in the way that benefits them least. Regular faculty, adjunct faculty, staff, student workers, GAH!

        It needs to be made the institutions problem to sort it out and treat everyone decently.

      5. Prof*

        My public university general has everyoneworking 2-3 weeks before contracts go out every summer term, even us tenured full professors. And adjuncts start in early August/January but get their first check at the end of September /February as a matter of policy.

      6. Grendel’s Mother*

        Program director/full time contract faculty in a large private university here. At my institution there’s the hire letter that states your contract terms, and there’s the internal system that the hire is processed through. We routinely have people start working before they have received the official hire letter because those can lag processing by a month or more-but it’s pretty difficult for someone to teach without their hire being complete through the internal system, because that’s how you get access to the LMS space for your class, which is where the roster is housed even if you’re not using it for any other course materials. And the hiring paperwork can’t be completed without knowing the person’s salary! And, as many others have said—I know what pay rates are available for adjuncts, and frankly, the difference between the lowest possible and the highest possible is about $500 and none of them are enough. I generally lead my interviews with candidates for adjunct positions with “this position does not pay a fair wage”. I actually would be interested to hear more from the OP about whether their normal rate is a rate they have been paid for other adjunct teaching positions, or a rate they are paid for consulting work, because it would surprise me if another undergrad class at the same institution would pay 4x more unless this is someone who … teaches both engineering and first year writing or something? Or is this a case of having taught at a private research institution in the past and the CC rate of pay being terribly low?

  5. Sloanicota*

    Ugh, this is one of those circumstances where you have to remind yourself that you *can’t* care about an organization’s outcomes more than they themselves do. You’ll go mad. It’s *their* problem that the classes should have already started – don’t let them make that your problem. As you can see being well-intentioned here didn’t actually make things better for the students anyway, because of the school’s issues they will now be screwed over anyway.

    1. memememe*

      I would also be honest with the students about this! They are old enough to understand that their school would rather waste their semester than pay a reasonable rate.

  6. TiredMama*

    Jeez, what does this say about the state of post-high school education that they would rather kill a class that students have paid for and started than pay a higher salary?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      I’m more stunned that they were randomly selecting any teacher that could stand in the class. Like having the equivalent of a grade school substitute teacher. (No offense to the OP who I expect is a competent education professional thrust into an awkward situation)

      1. Anonymeece*

        Oh, don’t be stunned. We had an adjunct who was terrible and complaints were pouring in. We all wondered why on earth they weren’t terminated, and we were told admin were waiting until the end of the year when their contract would expire, and they just wouldn’t be renewed. We were actually told by administration that their metric for firing vs not renewing a contract was not “are the students learning”, but “are the students actively being harmed?”. So basically a professor could get away with not teaching anything and being awful, as long as they never tipped the balance into the “might generate a lawsuit” territory.

      2. Rainy*

        It’s not unusual at all at the community college level to offer the opportunity to teach a class to any staff member (not even faculty) who will accept (and who may or may not be qualified to teach a subject) if someone with a degree in that thing can’t be found. So…this is pretty much business as usual, not a stunning departure from the norm.

      3. anon today*

        I stopped being surprised many years ago as a grad student.

        * We grad students always started teaching as TAs on a Tuesday and then started our own classes on the next Wednesday. Often we got our teaching assignment the Thursday or Friday before classes started. I was in a STEM field that does a lot of service classes (the kind of thing every freshman and every sophomore at State U have to take). So every year there would be oh about 2000 freshmen sitting in classes with a fresh grad student who’d received 4 hours of teacher training in their lifetime (1 hour of which was don’t sleep with students) and learned their teaching assignment 3 days ago.
        * After a few years I had a good reputation as a teacher/TA and I was asked by a particular professor to be his TA for a grad level course in a very demanding, very technical topic in which I was the only PhD student at the time. I was also assigned to teach a special course for honors students, and since one course was 5/8 of a courseload due to the technical difficulty while the other was 1/2, they would have had to pay me 1/8 extra that semester (we are talking about $18k a year as a stipend, so this is about $1125 extra for the semester). They decided that was far too much and assigned a different TA to this poor prof, a guy who did not communicate well (language difficulties far beyond normal), didn’t know the subject matter, and was living in his office because he was having other life difficulties. (This came to a head because a number of people started complaining about the spoiled milk stinking up the shared grad office as well as the awkwardness of the cot under the desk.) The other grad who became the TA simply stopped grading at all pretty soon, which I frankly can’t blame him for because the analogy would be asking a French Lit grad student to TA for a class in conversational Italian because surely the material is transferrable if we’re talking an expense of a whole $1000.
        * When I finally left academia, they convinced a very nice guy I worked with to take over my class. This very nice guy was lovely but didn’t know the material at all. I was teaching a graduate level class that synthesized topics learned in about 5 undergraduate classes across the major, as a preparation for further graduate education. I don’t think this poor guy had even taken some of those classes, and he certainly wasn’t prepared to teach them. He had zero teaching experience on a college level, and I had nine years of collegiate teaching experience and had combined syllabi and problem sets from at least 4 courses I’d taught to create the curriculum, as well as having to learn a lot myself. It was like asking a high school chemistry teacher to take over a class on calibration and use of scanning electron microscopes — this guy did have a high school educator’s background in the subject, and he was a good teacher for material he knew. But he too just stopped teaching by the end of the year, like didn’t show up to the last month and a half of classes, because… at some point you can’t pretend, right? It’s a STEM field, you have to be able to show the calculations, students at this level can check the calculations, and there is at some point no pretending that is even plausible if you simply don’t have the background.

        A lot of the last two was probably, regarding me, “She’s a nice girl and she’s doing a good job so how hard can it be?”

        So glad I’m out of academia.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          This letter is really shining a lot of light on why my community college had super shitty teachers that were allowed to stay, even though they were super shitty and no one liked them.

    2. L.H. Puttgrass*

      Ain’t no bureaucracy quite like an academic bureaucracy. Especially a public college (e.g., most community colleges), which combine all the joys of both academic and government bureaucracies. I can easily believe that the department had absolutely no discretion in what they could offer as pay.

      1. Roja*

        Adjunct at a public college, can confirm. The adjunct rate is 100% set and it’s on a bunch of materials and there’s no wiggle room… but it’s also, you know, 100% set and on a bunch of materials, so it’s really easy to find. It baffles me that they “couldn’t figure out” what the pay was.

        Quite honestly, I prefer it being set. No pay inequity and it’s a solid hourly rate.

        1. TiredMama*

          Ugh, what a mess. I have no doubt that the set salaries are to limit discrimination and preference and favors and all that, but impossible to react in a situation like this. What happens to the students? I assume they at least get a refund.

          1. KoiFeeder*


            There’s no way those students are getting a refund without having to fight the college every step of the way for it.

          2. Esmeralda*

            You assume incorrectly. It’s past the refund date I’m sure. Many schools charge a set tuition and fees for fulltime enrollment rather than by credit hour or number of courses (part time enrollment generally is charged some version of by the credit hour). If the loss of the class doesn’t put the students below the fulltime threshhold, there’s nothing to refund.

            This is a nightmare for things like financial aid, compliance with GI bill requirements, satisfactory academic progress/ progress toward degree requirements, and so on. Not to mention how it will be marked on the students’ transcripts. And then of course the students have to waste a course enrollment on this course next term.

            Totally on the school. No reason why HR wouldn’t know the adjunct rate for that department and course. Outside of incompetence or disorganization or not-my-job-ism. I don’t think it’s malevolent or intentional — that assumes way too much.

          3. jiggle mouse*

            My workplace waits until past any dates of no return to take actions that will cause student unrest.

          4. Anonymeece*


            When I was in high school, I took community college classes for dual-credit. I had a professor who quit mid-semester. The end result was they hired someone with no expertise or experience in the role. She basically decided all the past grades got thrown out, and we received our final grade based on how we did the last seven or so weeks of the semester. We also didn’t have a final because no one could decide what we had already covered or anything.

            I just really hope this isn’t a nursing class or a beginner’s math or something that future classes really build on.

    3. noncommital pseudonym*

      Honestly, they can’t The salaries are tightly constrained by the legislature and/or trustees. Individual departments have very little control, which is why everything has to go through central HR. They were probably dragging their feet about classifying the person – we have Adjunct 1, 2, and 3, with slightly different salary bands for each. (Note: they’re all low.)

      I have actually started teaching a class without knowing how much I’d be paid once, though my situation was slightly different. I was already teaching there full-time, so this would be overtime, and they were hoping that the instructor would be able to come back and pick up the class later. (She wasn’t – she ended up having open heart surgery!) They did, eventually, figure out how much overtime to pay me and paid me retrospectively for it. But I wouldn’t have been willing to do that for an institution that I wasn’t already working for and didn’t have a good working relationship with.

  7. Lady Danbury*

    NEVER START A JOB UNTIL YOU HAVE THE SALARY IN WRITING!!! I would also add that anything that was agreed during the negotiation process should also be in writing and signed off by the hiring manager and/or HR before you start. Wfh? Get it in writing. Extra vacation days? Get it in writing. Flexible hours? Get it in writing.

    You will always have the most leverage before you start a new role and people may forget what you agreed, your hiring manager may suddenly quit, etc. Get it in writing!!!

  8. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    On today’s episode of “Nobody Wants To Work Anymore, Harrumph!”

    Seriously, though! What unmitigated gall! What a bunch of con artists! I refuse to believe that this was all a series of honest mistakes. Some of it had to be an intentional way of trapping OP into a situation they somehow thought he wouldn’t be able to escape from. Like, right from the start:

    I said I would consider it and he gave my name to the head of the department.

    A week later, I got a call from Mark, the department head, saying he was pleased that I had agreed to teach the class.

    OP. Never. Agreed! They said they would “consider it”! That’s not a yes. And then it just keeps getting worse from there.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      *please ignore the he pronoun above. I was angry and therefore not thinking.

    2. Omnivalent*

      Good catch. Everything points to the department being desperate to have a lecturer for the class, and not having a salary that anyone would take. So as soon as somebody said she would think about it they steamrollered her and hoped she would just take the crappy salary.

    3. Miss Muffet*

      yeah that caught my eye too. Jumped over some steps there, and that was a good opp to say, well, i haven’t agreed quite yet – let’s talk about what it entails and what the pay will look like.

    4. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

      Sometimes, I get an email from a recruiter about a contract job and I reply that I want more information. (Note that those first emails never have basic info like rate, client name, location.) And then the very next email says “as we discussed, here is the rate and paperwork for you to sign”. At that point, my internal response is “lol, no” and my external response is usually silence.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        It’s not the same thing but I recently got a call from a recruiter who told me he was from [agency I’ve never heard of]. When I asked him to repeat it he said it again and then was like “you’ve talked with my colleague” and tried to act like he was continuing a conversation I had already been having with them. I was like, um I definitely have not I have no idea who you are and I’m not looking for a job…

        If that was some kind of sales tactic it was super odd. Why do they think they can rewrite our memories and convince us we’ve had conversations that never happened!??

    5. Paris Geller*

      That’s the part where I was already side-eying all the powers that be.
      The OP definitely shouldn’t have started the job without knowing the salary, but I can see easily how this would happen. If you’re strongly considering teaching the class, and then someone calls you up at acts like it’s a done deal. . . you’re probably not thinking the pay is going to be so drastically less, and if you’re already leaning toward doing it, I can see getting swept up in the process.

    6. Esmeralda*

      No, it’s extremely unlikely to be intentional. That requires way too much organization, focus, follow through…

      Even at well run universities, it can take for-f’n-ever to get HR to do its bit in the hiring process. Generally because they have too much work and not enough staff. If you’re a cloutless department, you’re screwed.

      1. Recruited Recruiter*

        Having done HR and multiple other hats for a school, it’s not because we’re hopelessly incompetent. It’s that we’re hopelessly overworked for the most part.

  9. generic_username*

    Yikes….. Also, i get feeling bad for the students, but I wouldn’t feel bad for anyone else. Also, this impacting the students is good – this kind of incompetence is more likely to be handled if it impacts the students (and in some ways, their revenue)

    1. QED*

      That’s actually not exactly true at many community colleges–many community college students don’t necessarily have the ability to just go somewhere else instead. So this kind of thing won’t impact enrollment the same way it would at a private university. Even if it does, that will likely lead to tuition increases because most community colleges don’t have large endowments or big alumni donors. While I 100% think that the LW was right to quit, I don’t think this situation is likely to lead to changes that help the students.

      1. mreasy*

        Unless there are multiple ccs within driving distance (as there were in my rural area growing up) and students decamp for the other one.

    2. Awkward Interviewee*

      I agree with QED – the students have really been screwed over here. Some of them probably needed this class this semester to graduate or transfer, and now they’ll be delayed. If I were OP I would have finished out the semester (it was already half over!), vowed to never work at this place again, and chalked it up to lessons learned. Academia can be a small world and even though this place treated them badly, they may have really hurt their reputation by leaving mid-semester.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        Disagree. Yes, the students were screwed over, but not by OP. OP was right to leave. Too many colleges (and other nonprofits) use impact on populations served as a way to guilt employees into accepting below-market pay. Abysmal salaries and abusive practices won’t change if people tolerate them. I’m sorry for the students, but good on OP.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Undergrad wasn’t too long ago for me to be able to honestly say that, even in the situation where I was in where I just barely squeaked into graduating on time, I would absolutely not hold it against any of my teachers for leaving when they hadn’t been paid for a month even if the promised pay was reasonable. I would hold it against the college, because paying teachers (and paying them a living wage!) is the college’s job, but I wouldn’t have blamed any of my teachers for wanting to be able to eat.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            Same. Knowing how much I was coughing up in tuition, seeing that my professors weren’t getting paid real rates, I’d be mad at the college. Not the profs.

        2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          It also sounds like OP isn’t an academic, and was willing to teach this class as a simple side hustle more than anything else. They aren’t really ruining anything they care about.

          “Oh no, I can never get hired at 25% of my normal rate as a favor to a friend again. What shall I do? My reputation as an adjunct professor, which I hope never to do again, is ruined”

        3. Momma Bear*

          I agree. It is not OP’s problem, kindhearted though they may be. One wonders if OP will be paid, with no signed contract to fall on.

          I once took a language class where the prof had a health emergency. We were without a teacher for weeks until they convinced a HS teacher to fill in. It was way past the withdraw time and I’m not sure what would have happened had they not found someone. We still missed at least 4 weeks of class. I failed it, miserably.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        It takes a pretty secure financial position to keep going at 25% pay when you could be getting 100% elsewhere.

        It’s an awful situation for the students, but I can’t blame the LW for putting themselves first.

    3. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I’m not optimistically wondering if there having been a class this long means the college will pro-rate any refunds. Note I didn’t say it was the right thing to do, but I don’t have faith in much today as far as academia/corporations/non profits doing the right thing.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I’ve missed the optimism train and am rapidly sinking on the cynicism boat, here. Not only do I doubt that there will be any refunds coming, but there’s no way that the college isn’t going to put every roadblock they can think of in the students’ way to deter them from even trying. My one optimistic prediction is that it doesn’t sound like they have the resources to actively trawl the students’ schedules and put the only available refund discussion times during the exact time period where the students have classes.

        1. Academic Anon*

          My father’s university cancelled a class and kept the tuition. He was appointed by the students to go talk to the Dean of the college. The reply was “too bad”. My dad said that it was he donation to the college forever. He held firm for the most part, except for donating to the basketball program. So stealing from students has a long tradition.

          And I have never donated to any of my college despite being in academia. Paid my tuition, earned my degree…why you bothering me?

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            I did once tell my college “I couldn’t even afford my degree. I have nothing for you. Don’t call me again!”

  10. Uncle Bob*

    What aspect does the resume play here in academia? For us the resume gets you in the door but I’ve never reviewed a resume to determine how much I need to pay someone AFTER agreeing to hire them.

    1. Awkward Interviewee*

      It’s not usual for staff positions. The initial offer could be higher or lower within a salary range depending on qualifications and experience. But I don’t think it’s normal for adjuncting – normally for adjuncts it’s just, “we pay $1000 per credit hour [for example], take it or leave it.”

      I agree that this place treated the OP poorly, but I’m confused how they thought they were actually going to make a good wage. It sounds like they were adjuncting one class. I’ve never heard of that being a lucrative venture.

      1. I'm just here for the cats!*

        I think they meant that because they were teaching they passed on other “lucrative projects to make time in my schedule for that class.” So maybe they freelance or contract their work and they couldn’t do some projects because of the time with the class. Because its not just the class time, but grading papers and tests and such as well.

    2. generic_username*

      I guess the whole “Pay commensurate with experience” could point to reviewing a resume. But then they paid OP 25% of her normal rate so clearly they didn’t look hard enough at her resume….

    3. Nesprin*

      It’s a thing in academia- resume is to figure out which salary band you fall into. You get a base rate per hour + X per year of relevant experience + Y if you have a doctorate vs. Ms vs. Technical training and the bands are mostly not negotiable.

      1. SomeoneWhoIsAlwaysWillingToPutOnASweaterAndSlippers*

        Came here to say this. Academia takes all of this into account before determining a salary.

    4. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      My spouse started a public school job, and per the union contract, they had to verify her education and years of experience before they could tell her her rate of pay. It was just a confirmation though. The rate of pay was a public document and she could have looked up her own salary based on her numbers. Though there was some chance of misinterpretation, e.g. a misunderstanding of exactly what experience counted.

  11. beans*

    Adjuncting sucks. Pieces of this story – getting called at the last minute (or later), a chair who has no clue, an admin who moves really slowly, not getting paid until you’ve been on the job for six-eight weeks, guilt over abandoning students – are all really, really common parts of being an adjunct.

    1. Jay Gobbo*

      This paints a really grim picture, I’m sorry that (I assume) you’ve had to go through this too :(

    2. Milla*

      And no supplies provided! I had to purchase my own whiteboard markers and projection cables, printing support was an absolute joke, and I had to use my own personal devices to show PowerPoints and videos. I transitioned from adjunct to staff at higher ed, and while being staff comes with its own challenges, at least no one asked me to pay for my pens or work computer. . .

      Adjuncting is truly the curse of higher ed.

  12. Sleet Feet*

    Usually I subscribe to the never attribute to malice what can be explained with incompetence approach, but this letter reads like a deliberate attempt to boil a toad on water.

    At best they are extremely incompetent. I’m sorry this happened to you.

    1. TreeFrogEditor*

      Yeah, I’m seeing a handful of comments here debating the “malice vs. incompetence” issue, and as a former adjunct, I feel like I’m no longer interested in the distinction. Sure, the weird stringing-along behavior in the LW’s situation might be attributable to incompetence, but — the exploitative wages? the disregard for the professor’s (or the students’!) time and needs? the slapdash approach to staffing a course (which is theoretically the college’s core mission!)? All of that is totally systemic, exploitative, and tragically normalized, and it’s hard for me to mentally separate out the stringing-along behavior from the rest of it. If it’s incompetence, it’s incompetence married to a malicious system.

      1. J.B.*

        Plus, as someone who works at a university (staff, nor adjunct) – the number of times HR says “we just can’t do that” is ridiculous. The Dean can make it happen if he wants.

        1. TreeFrogEditor*

          Ugh, that’s exactly what gets my blood boiling! Adjuncts are repeatedly told the money just “isn’t there” for us, and are asked to sacrifice for the sake of our students and dedication to the profession…. while at the same time the university issues press releases announcing all the places where money IS available — typically, at my university, for admin positions and athletics. Being a low priority is bad, but being lied to about it is worse.

          1. jiggle mouse*

            My workplace is celebrating the pandemic with 3 new buildings and a few ‘institutes’ complete with layers of admin (and by admin I mean deans, VPs, directors and such, not staff-type admin assistants who actually do the heavy lifting) and all the perks they require.

      2. Tess*

        > I’m seeing a handful of comments here debating the “malice vs. incompetence” issue, and as a former adjunct, I feel like I’m no longer interested in the distinction.

        BAM. It’s been 20 years since I was an adjunct instructor but I feel the same about a lot of workplace nonsense these days. When the explanations for the patterns vary but the patterns themselves are constant, I lose interest in the explanations.

      3. Grendel’s Mother*

        I’d say that it’s often some combination of overwork, being bad at the administrative work you’re saddled with, resignation to a terrible labor structure, some desire to protect the faculty and/or students already in the program, or a robust dissociation of ones own culpability when carrying water for the administrative mandates that are handed down at the department/program level—and malicious capitalism at the Dean/Provost/Trustee level.

  13. kiki*

    I find it interesting that there was a non-negotiable salary value set yet it took the school weeks to be able to get you that information. Maybe the delay was due to the upheaval it sounds like they were going through and all that, but I am side-eyeing the school a bit. It sounds like the school is chaotic and I feel bad for the students and professors who have to deal with the chaos and low wages.

  14. Construction Safety*

    Ok, I think I wold have set the students down and said, “OK, life lesson time.”, told them the story and dismissed the class.

    1. StrikingFalcon*

      Yeah the answer on what to tell the students is “the truth.” Students deserve to know that the astronomical tuition they pay doesn’t go towards to cost of hiring good teachers.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Nope. But it’s probably a larger piece of their income & they’re less likely to be getting help from their parents.

          And even community college tuition has increased substantially in recent years.

        2. irene adler*

          The PA community college my niece and nephew attend charges $675 to $816 per 3-unit semester class.

          In CA, the similar 3 unit course is $138.

    2. Subversive Former Academic*

      Having taught as an adjunct, this is what I would do, too. It’s the most respectful thing to do for the students in this case, and it guides them toward action they may be able to take (place the blame on the school, not the teacher, and request a full refund if the class isn’t going to continue).

      Letting them know the truth would also be a good lesson for any of them who want to continue their education with the thought of someday becoming professors themselves. The way things are going in academia, LW is an object lesson in what they can expect if they go down that path. The only way to change “the way things are going” is to educate everyone about it and encourage them to stand up for themselves and call for change.

      1. swut*

        I agree with this. It is respectful to the students to explain whatever of your financial situation you’re comfortable with – not personal details, but “I can’t afford to work for 25% of my usual pay when that prevents me from taking better-paying work”, so that the students can fairly assign blame for whatever the fallout is for them. In my experience, students who have to come up with tuition money themselves and who may find community college expensive are also likely to understand your situation.

  15. AnotherSarah*

    This is SO TYPICAL for adjuncting. I have never gotten a contract (when there’s been a contract at all!) before starting the job. Never. The advice is good but perhaps, sadly, unrealistic for the industry.

      1. Clorinda*

        You get an email, usually. The actual contract shows up halfway through the semester. It’s like, every semester the university goes OMG adjuncts what even are they? and they have to figure out how to schedule people and write contracts as if they’ve never done it before.

  16. Julie*

    Always get it in writing. Always.

    I once interviewed at a university for an admin position. The Dean offered it to me over the phone. Then he called back saying he had to go through HR first, which meant I was not officially hired. I had to have an interview with HR and take a stupid computer test. Then HR offered me the job at a lower rate than what the Dean said. He tried to bump it up, but they only raised it $500. I took it anyway since it was higher than my current position, but the Dean would do this again over the years I worked there. He would say he wanted to promote me to a different title so I could get paid more, but it never happened. (He also did absolutely nothing when I told him I had been harassed by a tenured professor who had a reputation. He would give me updates on this professor’s problematic behavior years after I left. But that is another story)

    So yes, writing. Sign something first.

  17. Anonymous Koala*

    OP, thank you for bailing on the class. While I get that it sucks for the students, universities only listen to the public and donors and people are much more likely to take notice of a class getting cut mid-semester than they are an adjunct who was forced to work for free one semester. Please publicize your story. Academia is terribly exploitative, and you did the right thing by bailing when you did.

    1. Soup of the Day*

      Totally agree. I feel like leaving mid-semester will be a massive headache for them, moreso than if they had canceled the class to begin with. Hopefully the students make enough of a fuss about it that the college learns its lesson.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        And where the students aren’t fine, that’s not on the OP. That’s on the college for not refunding, not offering alternatives, not bothering to pay instructors commensurate with the work, and not offering any flexibility.

    2. MilitaryProf*

      Chances are, a full-time faculty member will be guilted into covering the remainder of the term, or talked into doing it for a perk to be provided later, or an existing adjunct will get offered to have an overhire extra class. The students will get a disjointed experience but credit on their transcript.

      Also, a new department chair will never pick a fight with the dean over this type of issue. They’ll just keep trolling for suckers to take the job in the future, kicking the can down the road. I’ve been the sucker, and I’ve been the person picking up the class at the midway point.

  18. work/life*

    “The school probably didn’t set out to intentionally screw you over. It’s unlikely that they thought, “We’re going to offer her an obscenely low salary, so let’s rope her into teaching the class for a while before we give her a number and then it’ll be too late for her to turn it down.” Instead, it sounds like it was a combination of disorganization, staffing changes, and no sense of urgency about getting it resolved.“

    No—and I’m not saying that for the f the system drama of it. Teachers, caregivers and other “selfless” professions are often exploited by their own sense of duty & empathy. This was a mire extreme example, but I 100% believe they were stalling as long as possible to make this teacher feel committed and obligated to their students despite low wages.

    1. ThatGirl*

      I don’t know if this is pervasive in non-religious or public universities, but my husband is a mental health counselor at a small Catholic college, and the administration leans heavily on a sense of duty and “for the sisters’ mission” as an excuse for all kinds of crap.

      He actually was approached to adjunct a psychology course for the fall, and not only did it not end up working for his schedule, but some genius decided he and his coworker should split the class and both get half the already paltry for a ton of extra work.

    2. Lucious*

      I disagree with this assessment. This looks exactly like what Alison described- disorganization and lack of care . It strains credibility that a professional staff member would go out of their way to dupe someone into taking a job for 25% of their salary. That plan would hit a snag once the duped employee read their pay stubs.

      1. kiki*

        I think saying the staff member went out of their way to to dupe someone into taking the job for way below their going rate might be a bridge too far, but I think because there’s a strong sense of duty with teaching, the administration has gotten used to treating salary as secondary in a way that *would not fly* in most other fields. This mentality gets used to exploit people and allows salaries in these professions to be wildly low because somebody out there is willing to do it for the love or teaching or for the benefit of the students, even though it’s not enough to live on.

    3. lysine*

      What really clinches it for me is that the salary was already set and non-negotiable. When you already know how much a position pays and wait weeks to tell someone that, that points closer to malice than mere incompetence to me.

    4. A Wall*

      Hospitals and schools are the #1 culprits of this. They can get away with just about anything knowing that you will keep working in order to protect your patients / students.

  19. Marspar*

    I’m in higher ed now but came from a corporate career and will echo what Alison said here – this shows the dire lack of organization and cultural bubble at play rather than deviousness. As my wise husband says to me when something goes wrong at organizations, “always suspect incompetence over agency.” The thing is, the LW was expecting because the school had an urgent need that they would be compensated accordingly, because this is what would happen in industry. And in industry, a company will pay a premium in this situation because they prioritize customer satisfaction… unlike a college which just blindly follows its administrative process without thought to the terrible student experience when a class is suddenly without a teacher. This is the life of an adjunct and I’m sorry the LW had to learn this the hard way. Slowly this is beginning to change, with increased awareness, but not fast enough.

  20. Dasein9*

    “Never assume malice” and all that, but I have known some academic institutions to push expectations of “loyalty” to this kind of extreme. The worst was when I was laid off (I was tenured.) and then offered one of the courses I would have taught for the Fall. A fifteen-week semester and they were offering under $2500.

    In the mediation hearing, my unwillingness to take the course was cited as evidence of disloyalty.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I’m career nonprofit so I know that game but I try so hard to fight against it. They aren’t showing you loyalty in this scenario and you should not give it in return.

    2. cwhf*

      this is awful and shameful. I am so sorry this happened to you. Honestly with my 2+ decade experience in academics, malice vs incompetence seems irrelevant at this point—the result is the same.

  21. Person from the Resume*

    Oh, I have no doubt that was not an elaborate trick, but just the norm for a bureaucratic organization.

    I do believe that the fact that the LW started working without the agreement in place allowed the school to not rush figuring out what the pay would be. If the LW hadn’t started working, they would have been motivated to get the agreement/salary hammered out so the LW would start teaching. Once the LW started they were allowed to slowly work through whatever their red tape is without negative impact to them.

  22. Ann O'Nemity*

    Could the OP file a wage complaint with the state? For getting paid late and/or less than minimum wage.

    1. Dr. Rebecca*

      For getting paid late, yes. But not for less than minimum wage; adjunct work is considered work for hire–your contract is for x dollars, and your job is to get the information to the students + other duties done in the 16 week semester; they don’t care how you do it. It’s like a shitty, shitty contractor job.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Right, but the OP doesn’t have a contract. It’s super messy. And aren’t adjuncts hired as W2 employees for tax purposes?

        1. Dr. Rebecca*

          It being super messy is certain, and yes, we’re W2, but I’ve had many conversations with many unemployment boards confirming the fact that regardless of that because we’re contracted to deliver a product (class materials plus teaching is considered the product) we ARE work for hire.

  23. Voodoo Priestess*

    OP, I found myself in this exact position last year! The only difference was that the school I was in wasn’t willing to stop a class that had already started and they had accepted tuition for, so that actually gave me more leverage. While the pay wasn’t where I was expecting it, I communicated with the Dean and wrote an email that stated I was teaching for 30% below the rate they pay other adjuncts and while I would complete the semester, I would not be able to teach in the future for less than X. Low and behold, he was able to secure a “bonus” that brought my current pay up to my stated rate and we’ve re-negotiated the contract for the future.

    I doubt your situation was malicious. Moving parts, moving people and academia equals a mess. I also don’t think most people understand how slow things in academia work or that they truly cannot accelerate processes due to the amount of oversight involved. Throw Covid into the mix, and academia is a rough place to be right now. Good for you for setting your boundaries.

  24. Panhandlerann*

    At my university, there are set rates for adjuncts: an instructor is paid so much per credit hour. If the instructor has a terminal degree, the rate is one thing; if the instructor does not, the rate is another thing. There could be none of this “we have to analyze your resume” business; both the university and the instructor know INSTANTLY what the instructor is to be paid for teaching a certain class. It never takes weeks or even a few days to determine this. I don’t think my university is unusual in this. With that in mind, it is very difficult for me to see this university (the one depicted in the letter) as extremely unorganized, perhaps insolvent (or nearing that), or even duplicitous in its conduct.

    1. Aj Crowley*

      Often “review resume” in academic settings is “confirm degrees and prior teaching experience to determine salary.” It took several weeks when my spouse was hired as a community college adjunct because there was some back and forth about whether courses they had taught in grad school counted towards experience (in our grad school grad students were “instructor of record” rather than a TA).

  25. AndersonDarling*

    I’d like to know if the OP is still friends with Jason who asked OP to teach the class in the first place.

    1. OP*

      Absolutely. I’m not upset at all. I learned my lesson, and at least I got out before I had to grade 30 midterms on my own time…

  26. For the students*

    I know every academic will say that of course their class is very, very important and every student needs to thoroughly understand this very, very important class, but for real–

    Could you have just said, “All right, cool, you’re paying me 25% I’m doing 25% of the work” and, I don’t know, played a movie during class time and just give everyone A’s? In a community college class, maybe it truly wasn’t the most vital subject in the world?

    TO BE CRYSTAL CLEAR, I don’t disagree with also quitting and telling them to f off. Just wondering if that would have been an option in this situation.

    1. Gerry Keay*

      I dunno, community college classes aren’t any less important than regular college classes. Passing everyone without teaching would be a genuine disservice to the students’ education — more-so than quitting and having them take the class with a different teacher IMO.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        Yeah, this would screw over the students big time. I’ve had classes where we ended up getting a $0 education from a $1545 class, and the teachers in the succeeding classes had to spend all their time playing catch-up and putting out fires instead of teaching us the material they’d signed up to teach. It doesn’t just wreck the quality of education for that class, it can and usually does wreck everything that builds after it.

    2. lysine*

      “In a community college class, maybe it truly wasn’t the most vital subject in the world?”

      What an elitist comment.

      1. AndersonDarling*

        If we could broaden the statement to all colleges, then I’d feel better about it. I think every program has a class or two that could be skated over. I can think of 3 classes that were undeniably a waste of everyone’s time.

        1. pancakes*

          No. My undergrad school didn’t and doesn’t have required classes, so every class I took was a class I wanted to take.

    3. Awkward Interviewee*

      I think it depends what type of class this was. I really feel for the students here – many of them probably needed this class to graduate or transfer on their preferred timeline, and now they’ll be delayed. So if it’s a general education type class that students aren’t taking as a pre-req for future classes, I think it would be fine to phone it in somewhat. Not the suggested show movies the whole time and everyone gets an A, but if OP wanted to cut some corners and deliver a lower quality class I think it would have been ok. If the class is one where students really need to learn the material for the next class (like this is biology 101 and they all need to move on to biology 102 next semester), then no, phoning it in would be even worse than quitting. (Source: I’m an academic advisor, so helping students plan their classes, graduate, etc. is what I do.)

    4. Broadway Duchess*

      In a community college class, maybe it truly wasn’t the most vital subject in the world?

      That’s a pretty elitist thing to say.

    5. New Jack Karyn*

      ” In a community college class, maybe it truly wasn’t the most vital subject in the world?”
      What the heck, dude? Most likely, it’s a class that transfers to university for credit toward a 4-year degree. It also might be part of a career/technical ed program–such as nursing, auto mechanics, or accountancy. I want my nurses, mechanics, and accountants to have the education they’re supposed to have.
      Get out of here with that nonsense.

  27. Dr. Doll*

    I’m a little gobsmacked that you were *able* to teach before the contract was finalized. Here at MyU, you would not have access to our learning management system, student rosters, or anything.

    I’m not assuming either incompetence or malice on any particular individual’s part here — but seeing a very, very broken school with decades of under-resourcing and duct taping of problems, with department chairs responsible for waaaaaay too many things they’re not trained to do.

    No way should you have finished out the semester. And, you SHOULD be paid for what you did do.

  28. twocents*

    I had to decline the terms of the contract and stopped teaching the next day.

    I spent the first part of the letter going “WHAT ARE YOU DOING????” but this line was boss af. Good for you on noping out of there.

  29. Jessica Fletcher*

    What a raw deal for the students! I hope they have legal recourse to prevent having to pay for the class again and any downstream impacts. It’s not their fault the school didn’t secure a teacher prior to enrollment. What were they doing before OP started? Paying tuition for nothing?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Acknowledging the broad generalization, a lot of community college students are young or lacking resources and may not know their legal options or feel equipped to pursue them. So I really hope the college doesn’t make them jump through too many hoops.

      1. KoiFeeder*

        I have no hope for that. Dollars to donuts, those students are paying full tuition and the administration will make it as difficult and emotionally exhausting as possible to claw back even a fraction of that money.

      2. Recruited Recruiter*

        I got screwed by a community college as a student several years ago. They will do everything possible to avoid paying out a refund.

  30. yllis*

    I work at a university and with regards to adjuncting “We’re going to offer her an obscenely low salary, so let’s rope her into teaching the class for a while before we give her a number and then it’ll be too late for her to turn it down.”

    That’s really not too much of a stretch. Sure, some incompetence maybe but dept’s usually have their budget set and know what they will pay long before the semester starts. For them not to get it to her, well…wouldnt put it past them for offering little very late then trying to guilt her into staying.

  31. Alexis Rosay*

    Sorry you experienced this, OP. As a former community college student who had a lot of crappy instructors, I appreciate your good intentions toward the students. But I would also support you standing your ground in salary.

  32. Former adjunct manager*

    I used to hire the equivalent of adjuncts, in a different setting. We sometimes got only one or two applications for a posting (we disclosed the compensation) and my boss would be completely mystified bc she apparently truly thought we were actually offering a good job.

    I tried to argue that we should reduce adjunct positions and create a smaller number of salaried positions with benefits, but no one agreed with me because they fundamentally did not see the adjuncts’ work as valuable. That attitude of not valuing the work of teachers in an educational institution was so upsetting.

    It’s hard to imagine, but people may genuinely think the way they treated OP was fine. Good for OP showing them that it wasn’t.

  33. awesome3*

    You do need to be paid for the time you work. Wanted to point that out since it isn’t clear to me if you had been.

    1. Brightwanderer*

      Yeah I was going to say this – I was surprised Alison didn’t mention it. OP, you are going to insist on the pay (low though it is) for that time worked, right? Not just writing it off as lost time?

  34. Sick of Workplace Bullshit*

    It’s such a teacher thing to put your students ahead of yourself (I’m a teacher, too). But you can’t take more responsibility for the students than the institution itself. It’s not your fault the students are behind, it’s the school’s.

    A lot changed in my behaviour when I realized a lot of what was affecting the students wasn’t my fault or my responsibility. It took a long time, though!

    I’m sorry this happened to you.

  35. Love to WFH*

    Did the Original Poster at least get paid for the weeks they worked?

    How did the college manage to give them a login to the necessary software system with the list of students, etc, without on-boarding them as an employee/contractor?

    1. OP*

      The college is going to pay me for my 4 weeks of work (at their rate). At this point, I just tell myself I volunteered at the CC for a month. I should of known better…

      Also, they emailed me the list of students. I didn’t have access to their software system.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Something is very wrong at this college and in this department. Absolutely insist on getting the money, even if it’s just $500 or whatever.

    2. successor state*

      I was wondering that too. Is everything done by hand at this college or something? I get that adjuncts are treated differently in many ways but at my university they still need to be set up with basic things like an email address, systems access, student rosters, and stuff like that before they can actually start teaching. This place sounds super messy but that’s still a very confusing part of this post for me.

  36. Jessica*

    Higher ed staff here, and I applaud you, LW, for walking away. Everybody (ok almost everybody) on the front lines of higher ed cares deeply about students, and that’s frequently leveraged against us. Oh, the endowment is enormous and so is the chancellor’s salary, but there’s some BS budget reason we can’t fill staff vacancies? Sure, I’ll do the work of two somehow because I want our students to graduate. The _institution_ evades it responsibilities while counting on the goodwill of the human cogs in its machine (toward students and toward each other) to keep things running, if not smoothly, smoothly enough. I’m shocked that this college was willing to cancel a class in mid-semester, but good on you for returning the responsibility to sender.

  37. Meep*

    Not academia, but we recently had a guy leave in late July after being promised a full-time position for well over 3 years once he graduated with his PhD. He graduated in December 2018 for clarity. He has 15 years of experience and was being severely underpaid as a contractor (so no benefits, paid his own taxes) to the point I think he was making as much as me with a mere 0-3 years of experience.

    They probably should have learned from the other four people they did this to prior (some more generous on time than others), but I am guessing that even with him leaving us in the lurch (he was a high-level manager), they haven’t learned if how they are still hiring is any indication. Sigh.

    1. A Wall*

      They’re not gonna learn anything, this is on purpose. They bank on there being an infinite spring of new people to pull the same thing on to replace the previous ones who leave. Case in point, they’ve done this five times in a row.

  38. my 8th name*

    To me they don’t sound like masterminds plotting to screw over an unexpecting teacher. You’d be surprise just how bad at their jobs many people/whole orgs are.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      100%! That class should get their money back AND an acknowledgement from the school about the fact that they now do not have a full courseload, which could very well affect their graduation date.

    2. Sassafrass*

      —and maybe the students will will collectively take their grievances to HR and demand that the situation is fixed. Alison frequently advises addressing issues as a group. The students may have as much or more to lose, so they seem like the remaining leverage.

      Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like this school could move fast enough to save the semester for these students, and if the school did increase their offer, I would take the money and run.

      As a student I would want to know the truth that my school took my money for the course before they had an instructor lined up with a signed contract.

  39. Adjunct, PhD*

    Stuck in adjunct hell myself. Here there is a set rate based on degree and subject matter – STEM fields are $1250/credit hour, Humanities $900/credit hour, with a typical class amounting to three credits. Adjuncts are capped at 5 courses/semester. Credit hours are measured by how long you spend in the classroom lecturing/leading discussions, and NOT prep or grading/advising time. (I’m a ‘trailing spouse’ at a major land grant institution.)
    In theory contracts are signed prior to start of work. In practice it’s different.
    This was neither maliciousness nor incompetence – it was just business as usual, and I’m sure they are shocked the OP didn’t stay, as most people adjuncting don’t have much of a choice if they want to work in their field.

  40. Salty Adjunct*

    Community College Teaching is, unfortunately, a scam.

    As someone who always loved teaching, did it for 10 years at college level , and wanted to make it my life’s work, I’ve had to grapple with the fact that it just doesn’t work financially anymore unless you are
    1. at a for profit institution
    2. at a tenure granting 4 year institution with state funding

    Last year, I finally gave up after being offered $1200/course-semester to teach technical subject.

    Being offered less than $100 a week for a 15 week course… as a PhD. ..especially when I had to park at meters and teach through dinner hours, I finally broke down and just decided it wasn’t worth it anymore.

    I would absolutely go back and do it again once I’m retired and just want to stay connected. But I would by lying to myself if I said it was a bill-paying job.

  41. Sabrina*

    Just wanted to say this is not surprising at all. I once taught for 6 weeks at a major US university before they officially hired me or paid me because they didn’t have time yet for the paperwork apparently… In that case I knew what the pay would be at least…

  42. A Wall*

    People in the comments who’ve worked in schools like this are being pretty clear about how this kind of stuff is typical and wholly intentional exploitation, and people who haven’t worked in schools like this keep going “Nuh-uh! It’s on accident!”

    1. Boof*

      As much as I love learning and value education, I really hate the higher level academics system in the USA. (and to be clear, no idea if it’s better in other places, except maybe tuition is covered more by the government)

  43. cwhf*

    After 20+ years in academics, I don’t think malice vs incompetence matters since the impact is the same. Honestly neither are actually purely what happens, but a mix.

    I keep telling myself I can’t care more than they do. If they truly cared about getting that class taught ASAP, they should have done the legwork with HR to get you the salary confirmed when they wanted you to start. Make them. But they didn’t and academic institutions will always take advantage of someone’s generous nature (heck in businesses, personal life too). If not, full stop. They are clearly not invested in what they claim they want. Walk away is the only answer. I do have to wonder if they were waiting to get past the drop/refund date before giving the salary info, which while shitty would not be unheard of. I’m glad you had the presence of mind and self respect to walk away OP. Please make them pay you for what you did do.

  44. Higher Ed*

    Adjuncts are notoriously underpaid. It seems like the Community College model relies on adjuncts having a FT professional job and teaching as a side gig, though as time goes on, this has become less and less likely to be true.

  45. Hiring Mgr*

    Malice is too strong a word, but some of this sounds more purposeful than just mere incompetence..

  46. College is fake*

    Former adjunct here! Yes, sadly this is common. I’ve had classes taken away from me days before the start of the semester, because a full time prof’s section was empty and mine was full and so mine needed to go to them; and this kind of unclarity about pay, timing of pay, etc was rampant.

  47. tra la la*

    I really want to to know what was up with the department head being moved to a different position, what, two or three weeks into the semester? Change of leadership can certainly lead to bureaucratic snafus like this, but I’d really want to know what was going on there. Also, I’d want to know why the teaching position was vacant — if it was already two weeks into the semester when it started, someone must have started teaching it or the class wouldn’t exist, since I can’t imagine students not availing themselves of drop/add/refund if there just… wasn’t a professor.

    (Not saying that to blame you or anything — my last teaching job was a last-minute full-time visiting/replacement position approved by one dean who then retired. I arrived from another state to find out that the new dean and the department head were planning to eliminate the department I was filling in for, so, people were leaving). Now I would ask more questions about the reason for the last-minute vacancy in a situation like this — live and learn, I guess.

  48. Susanna*

    I agree except… I’m sorry to say, I actually *do* think they set out to screw her over and hoped that she wold care more about the students than they do, and stay anyway. There is no way they were not aware of how drastically low the salary was compared to other places. Glad the LW left.

  49. raida7*

    Honestly, once they can’t give you a ballpark figure up front, just tell them your rate.
    And very clearly and simply state “This is what I was paid for teaching previously, if your ballpark figure is significantly less than this then I will not be accepting this offer. Let me know by Friday if I am out of your budget.”

  50. roll-bringer*

    for what to tell your students – be honest! “I stayed as long as I could, but ultimately the contract the university offered me was too low for me to be able to afford to stay” (or whatever). you shouldn’t have worked without a salary in writing (there’s good faith and then there’s Too Much Good Faith) but the college is ridiculous and you shouldn’t worry about saving face for them, as long as you’re not going out of your way to make them look *bad*

  51. Dennis Feinstein*

    I am not in the US so not sure about the legalities of this situation.
    I am curious – can the LW sue to get paid for the hours she DID teach?

  52. Catlady*

    Also work in higher ed – I was offered an adjunct position a few years ago by the coordinator of a department, who wanted me to agree to teach the class without seeing what I’d be paid. Not maliciously, just that didn’t deal with that, they just wanted to assign me the class and then HR and the chair would send me an official offer letter. I told her I couldn’t agree to teach the class till I knew what I’d be paid – I live in an expensive area, and I needed to know if I could even afford to work for them.

    I finally did get my official letter – and I think they thought my asking for this was some sort of negotiation game – it wasn’t! – because I started at a higher level than I originally thought I would (and at a higher level than some of the other people who were hired for similar positions at the same time!)

    Some of this may be due to incompetence, but I think in academia there is a real reluctance to discuss money and salaries – I have a feeling this goes back to when professors were generally rich people. It can be a calling, but it’s also a job, and it’s okay to get paid for it!

  53. Varthema*

    Ugh. Nothing surprises me anymore when it comes what various institutions will try when it comes to teachers. I didn’t work in academia even, but for a multinational for-profit corporation (language/English teaching) and it’s still rotten. Prep time unpaid or underpaid at best, professional-level expectations (attending conferences, presenting at them, etc) for service-industry compensation (only without tips). Teaching is seen as a calling and many teachers do love their work, so they will put up with all kinds of crap, and as soon as they start to make noise, it’s “but think of the students!!!” from the higher-ups.

  54. Susie SW*

    My company is notorious for doing this with existing employees…not figuring out the salary until after moving people into new positions, then offering a meager increase and sometimes a lateral title change. It’s hard to see it as anything other than strategic when it’s the norm (and they don’t otherwise have a pattern of disorganization).

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