SMU is hosting “The Year of the Faculty,” but the Chronicle of Higher Education seems to be amid a year of Adjuncts. Many articles in the last several months have detailed the often poverty-stricken, prep-strapped life of some adjuncts. Clearly, not all adjuncts are alike. Some are indeed affluent leaders in their fields who teach to share their special knowledge, serve their professions, enhance their résumés, or enjoy the classroom experience. But sometimes, adjuncts are relegated to the dregs of Academia’s caste system.
Long-term adjunct work, part-time and full-time, has its drawbacks for faculty as well as students. At the 2014 AAC&U conference, I attended a session titled, “Addressing the Adverse Impact of Non-Tenure-Track Faculty Working Conditions on Student Learning: Practical Approaches and Resources for Facilitating Change.” (There’s an academic title for you.) A panel discussed the many challenges for adjuncts and the ways those hurdles may impact student learning. Overall, the session identified difficulties and called for more inclusion of adjuncts.
Granted, tenure is hard won and deserves respect. But adjuncts teach the same students, in the same classrooms, for the same tuition dollars as tenured professors. Our students deserve the best learning opportunity in all classes, regardless of who is standing in front of the room. And our instructors deserve respect, regardless of rank.
Fortunately, more people and institutions are recognizing the problem and calling for change. For example, recent articles in the Chronicle include: “Accreditation Standards Should Include Treatment of Adjuncts, Report Says,” and “Adjuncts Gain Traction With Congressional Attention.” USC has launched The Delphi Project on The Changing Faculty and Student Success.
Here at SMU, the CTE is developing a program to support part-time adjuncts: CAFÉ, a Community for Adjunct Faculty Excellence. If you would like to learn more, participate, comment, or collaborate, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the meantime, please join me in speaking up for greater awareness at SMU.