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I was asked by a former student if I would supervise their honors thesis. The research paper that they want to develop pertains to a paper they submitted for a class last year on a topic I specialize in. I want to say "yes," however, I am an adjunct in a different department. Usually the supervision of the honors thesis paper takes place by a full-time, salaried faculty member who is not paid additionally. As a part-time adjunct in the U.S., I am paid by the course. I would really like to supervise the student, but I do not want to do this for free as it also requires meeting with the student throughout the year regarding edits and revisions. (In addition, at my current university, I am not expected to meet any service requirements as a part-time employee; neither would this help me to get a full-time job with them as their resources are quite drained.) When I have held positions as the supervisor of independent study courses or theses at other universities, I have received at least a small stipend for performing such service. My questions are:

  1. If you've served as the supervisor for undergraduate theses before, what is the range of stipend you've received, if any?
  2. If you've been an adjunct or part-time faculty, have you encountered any similar issues with advising?

Update: Good news! I sent an email to my chair and my department is going to offer a nominal stipend for me to supervise the student's thesis. It doesn't hurt to ask!

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    I served as thesis advisor for an undergraduate during my part-time years, without pay. That student was the President's Scholar when she graduated. When a full-time position opened up, I got it. During those part time years, a vice president of the university asked my dean, "Who is this guy? He volunteers for everything." I might still have gotten the full-time position if all I'd done was meet my classes; I'll never know.
    – Bob Brown
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 19:21
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    That's good to know. Service! But yes, I was just told that there is no pay for this volunteer position to mentor students (unless my department can find money/provide a stipend). However, it is a project that I do like. We'll see -- I'll also talk to my union. Thanks!
    – Parrever
    Commented Oct 17, 2022 at 21:02
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    @BobBrown For any one case as yours there will be thousands where it does not work out like this. I think it is not right to expect from people in academia (and anywhere else) to do unpaid work. If it is "morally better" to work for free and be intrinsically motivated, than we should all be paid an unconditional basic income (which I am totally down with). Unfortunately we live in late capitalism, which puts us into dilemmas like this one. :/
    – Nico
    Commented Oct 18, 2022 at 18:45
  • @nico Agreed. I'm actually surprised I was given a stipend.
    – Parrever
    Commented Oct 20, 2022 at 17:25

2 Answers 2

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I suggest you approach both chairs (your department and the student's) to say that you would like to do this and ask for some compensation, even if it's only nominal.

When I was chair I always pushed for fairer compensation for part timers, who often did more than just meet their classes. Sometimes I was successful.

Good for you for wanting to do this in spite of the unfortunate working conditions.

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Ideally, since you are paid by the course, this is worth a course stipend, which I suspect is very low. I don't know if it makes any sense to ask for that, but that is what its value is to the college.

Hopefully the college pays its faculty a living wage already, so advising is just part of that contract, but adjuncts don't get the same consideration.

I know one or two adjuncts who might do it for less, or even for free, but they are long term adjunct faculty with very good salaries at research institutions and they might just do it as a sort of hobby, but those people also are otherwise connected to the regular faculty and so have some intangible benefits (collaboration and such) that makes it worth their time.

But, talk to the chair and explore options. The college has a responsibility to cover fair compensation for its faculty. It also has a special interest in treating its advanced students well. Maybe the chair has some options other than stipend that would be valuable to you.


Note that for regular faculty, while there may not be an additional stipend for advising such projects, the chair has options such as a future course reduction or paying for a distant conference. These aren't normally open to adjuncts, but something might be available.

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