After announcing last month that staff eligible for benefits would receive a one-time bonus, the University of Texas at El Paso is now giving a $500 one-time payment to adjunct faculty.
The new directive comes after President Heather Wilson announced a $1,200 one-time merit payment to faculty and staff who qualified for university benefits. That payment did not include some adjunct professors.
Sandy Vasquez, associate vice president and chief human resources officer at UTEP, announced the $500 payment in a Feb. 4 email and stated the bonus will be sent on Feb. 15. Vasquez’s email was sent only to adjunct staff.
“The University would like to recognize your dedication and contributions made during these extraordinary circumstances,” Vasquez wrote. The payment “will be issued to recognize the continuous efforts of faculty and staff to support our educational mission during the pandemic.”
Ruby Montana, a humanities adjunct professor, said she was pleasantly surprised to see the change in decision but noticed that the messaging did not come from Wilson directly, unlike how the president addressed full-time employees.
“I think it would have been nice had Heather Wilson sent out the email or even just a follow up message thanking us,” Montana said. “I think it would have felt a little bit more sincere.”
UTEP did not respond to emailed questions before the publication of this article.
Diana Martinez, an adjunct professor who teaches history and humanities, originally voiced her disappointment about UTEP not including adjuncts in the payment to El Paso Matters last month. She is happy adjunct faculty are now being included.
“I am glad we are receiving something and words of appreciation for our efforts,” Martinez said. “This is especially important since many of us are living paycheck to paycheck and still financially recovering from a drop in enrollment.”
Martinez plans on saving the money for this upcoming summer in preparation for teaching fewer classes.
“The future still feels really unstable and unsure. For adjuncts we’re very insecure because enrollment is down and we only get the leftovers,” Martinez said about the availability of courses to teach.
UTEP has seen a decrease in enrollment since the start of the pandemic, putting an end to its two decades of continued growth.
Montana said it speaks volumes that the UTEP administration reconsidered its decision.
“I was prepared to sort of accept that we (adjuncts) were getting snubbed,” Montana said. “But I was glad that they recognized that our efforts were just as diligent and worthwhile as those of our full-time colleagues at UTEP.”
Jewél Jackson covers higher education for El Paso Matters, in partnership with Open Campus.