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Leveling the Playing Field

  • Adjunct Perspectives for Faculty and Administration


    A is for Adjunct

    Last year, at the NISOD International Conference on Teaching and Leadership Excellence, I attended a couple of sessions dealing with adjunct faculty issues from the perspective of those hiring and training adjuncts. Through these presentations and discussions that followed, it became clear...really as no surprise to me, that there was a great disconnect between perceptions and attitudes of these groups and the realities adjunct faculty often face. The administrators and tenured faculty at these sessions seemed to view adjuncts as content, fulfilled, and fairly treated. These colleagues in the upper academic castes didn’t seem malevolent towards adjuncts, but perhaps uninformed.

    Having worked with adjuncts as a faculty developer, been a full time faculty member, and also a long-time adjunct professor at a community college myself, and now as the founder of a community designed to spark collaboration and conversation, and level the playing field among those working in higher education, I think it's vitally important to introduce some of the main issues from the perspective of adjuncts and to and look for mutual understanding on these.

    A major reason I worked to build Profology was to create an opportunity for all people working in higher education to have a voice, the opportunity to grow, to create understanding and to level the playing field. Many adjunct faculty are seemingly trapped in the lowest tier of an academic caste system that leaves many of us, notwithstanding our qualifications, experiences, research and teaching skill, trapped in the basement of academia, rarely allowed up the stairs to join the conversation.

    NISOD 2015

    I’m leading a breakout session at the NISOD 2015 Conference and I could use your help. My session is a discussion aimed at sharing adjunct perspectives with full-time faculty members and administrators that are in attendance.  It is my hope that this will allow an opened ended discussion that will lead to a greater ability to work for the best outcomes for the adjuncts, their institutions, and their students.

    If you could tell our tenure-track and administration colleagues of just one aspect of adjunct life they may not know, or one thing that you would like to change about the adjunct relationship with full-time faculty and administration, what would it be?

    Money is the low-hanging fruit here. Adjuncts are poorly paid. I think our colleagues have some sense of that, but a common misperception is that adjuncts have full-time jobs and are just adjuncting for a few extra bucks, or to give back to the field. These people do exist. I call them Adjuncts by Choice. However far too many of us are adjuncts by circumstance. Adjuncts by circumstance are people who have studied, researched and taught, with the qualifications, and the goal of tenure. Many of us do not wish to give up on the hard work and the dream, so we stay on and wait, for the opportunity that most likely won’t come.

    But there’s more to the story than that.  Beyond the money is the relationship with our tenured and administration colleagues. I'd like your help in answering the questions below.

    How are you treated by these colleagues? Are you involved in departmental decisions? Are you invited to regular department meetings? Do your tenured colleagues know your name? Have you even met them? How do they treat you?

    How does your administration treat adjuncts?

    Are adjuncts offered useful professional development opportunities?

    What about your faculty union? Does it represent adjuncts along with the full-time faculty? Does it serve both populations with the same vigor? What kind of results does it get for adjuncts?

    Please let me add your voice to this discussion by adding your comments below.

    Bob Ertischek 

    Profology founder



  • Robert  Ostrow
    Robert Ostrow I have worked at three different colleges and universities in Michigan. My goal is teaching students to be competent, and to maximize their skills, in sociological research on an undergraduate level. I realize that we are at the bottom of an administrativ...  more
    May 18, 2015 - 1 likes this
  • C. Sturgeon
    C. Sturgeon Bob, my experience has apparently be skewed a bit. As my position as instructional technologist / designer it has been every bit important for me to help assure that faculty are with the proper training - this includes adjunct faculty (by choice AND by c...  more
    June 3, 2015 - 1 likes this
  • Robert  Ostrow
    Robert Ostrow I agree that adjuncts need all the assistance that one gets from a person like you. I am honored to know that you are working hard to see that students get the best from their educational dollars.
    June 7, 2015 - 1 likes this
  • Julie Gunshenan
    Julie Gunshenan My department chair makes it a point to include the part-timers when emailing about meetings for textbook adoption, etc. The full-time people include us when they have questions or events. However, there are other departments that have less sharing and l...  more
    June 15, 2015 - 1 likes this