Adjunct meaning still to be defined


In the world of retail there is a practice of hiring more part-time workers than full time employees for the sake of saving money on benefits like health insurance and paid vacation.

Across America this is a trend that is sweeping the universities and other institutions for learning.

At Missouri Western there are a lot of teachers who are part-time, or adjuncts, but is it the same as the retail sector? Is our fine hall of Academia also practicing penny pinching policies? The question must be asked. “Who profits?”

The reason for the practice is fairly simple, money. Or perhaps it is more simply the lack of money that is to blame. Martin Johnson, dean of liberal arts and sciences, is all too aware of the lack of money.

“In an ideal world we would have only tenured professors, unfortunately this is not an ideal world,” Johnson said. “In these days of tight budgets, we don’t have the money to hire full-time faculty. We have the choice of meeting the needs of the students by hiring part time instructors, or not having the courses.”

So how bad is the ratio of parttime to full-time instructors? In the Missouri Western English department there are 36 part-time teachers and 22 full-time ones, which is not that bad if the number of tenured and tenure track professors are not considered.

There are only two tenured professors in the English department and one that is on the tenure track. Perhaps for a better understanding of the situation, the definition and distinction between tenured and adjunct should be explored.

Dr. Joseph Bragin academics and student affairs, admits that the definition of adjunct is an evolving term in today’s market.

“We are still working on a definition for adjunct,” Bragin said. “Faculty who are not on a tenure track, which means there was no long term commitment, nor was there, in the contract, an understanding that we would be considering them for permanent employment. That’s the crucial distinction”.

That crucial distinction was, in terms of institutionalization, quite recent.

“In the terms of part time use, the last two years the part time use has been very similar, a very slight increase,” Johnson said. “Over the last three years the number of full-time employees has remained relatively constant. Three years ago we did have a larger number of full-times, but in order to deal with budget cuts we had to reduce the number of faculty.”

Certainly the administration wants to hire tenured professors.

“Here is the situation from the management point of view, we prefer to have tenure track, even probationary tenure track staff because we require them to do things extra than in the classroom, like advisement,” Bragin said. “The adjunct does not have that responsibility.”

Once again, the numbers for the Western English department, 36 part-time to 22 full-time and only two tenured. That is a lot of people without responsibility to be an advisor.

“The issue is that I don’t think there has been much difference in part time use for most disciplines,” Johnson said. “The ones where they are most used are in three different departments, computer science and mathematics and physics, English, and music.”

How do the adjuncts feel about their situation? Shane Hurd, part time drama instructor at Western, embraces the opportunity.

“I see it as extra experience,” Hurd said. “It is nice to teach in a setting where I am not worried about discipline problems. I get to see what students will do after high school and to see how traditional and non-traditional students work together.”

Saundra Dibella, adjunct Spanish instructor at Western, brings the issue of transportation between campuses to light.

“I feel like I run from one place to another.” Dibella said. “It is not unmanageable. I just have to stop and catch my breath, and then I am good.”

If the adjuncts are eager to work at Western and not toiling away in some miserable job, it would seem that hiring them is of no harm to anyone.

“There are a number of people who are qualified in freshmen comp, and we can hire them for much less for part time employment,” Johnson said. “It helps us to keep the cost of the programs manageable”.

Ultimately it comes down to the students to understand the effects of a majority part time staff. Ryan Atkinson, Western junior, is not satisfied with all of the part time instructors.

“Sometimes you feel as if you don’t get that much attention from them, because they don’t have office hours,” Atkinson said. “I know one time I had a teacher who didn’t give me the requirements and I went to find her and found out she didn’t even have an office or hours.”

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