At Western, adjuncts make up about 27 percent of faculty.
Budget cuts from the state have increased the percentage of adjuncts by over 40 percent. Adjunct faculty members work without a contract for significantly less pay than full-time professors.
“We haven’t had any new money, and we’ve had our budget cut every year for the last few years,” Academic Affairs Provst Jeanne Daffron said. “When a person leaves a position there are those dollars there, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll use any or all of those dollars for that position. Sometimes we might decide to put a number of these positions on hold. So that frees up those dollars to be used some place else.”
Thirty employment positions are currently placed on hold. Using adjuncts isn’t the only thing the President’s Cabinet looks at and considers when filling positions, financially it helps the university deal with the cuts.
“You have to have the resource, and you have to be able to pay somebody,” Daffron said.
Though adjunct numbers have increased, the university’s usage is still fairly below the national average, Daffron said.
“I’m fairly comfortable, really, with where we are right now,” Daffron said. “In terms of our use of adjuncts, we did increase. Primarily two years ago we had a huge increase in enrollment, more than we had anticipated. Using adjuncts gives us a lot more flexibility. It’s wonderful that we can call on some of these folks.”
Adjuncts are used in nearly every department to teach and assist in multiple courses. Some adjunct instructors are former teachers that have retired and have come back to teach minimal courses, some teach here and at other universities, some have additional jobs and some are fresh out of college, looking for an opportunity to get their foot in the door. English Adjunct Instructor Rosetta Ballew-Jennings fits in the latter category and feels that teaching as an adjunct at Western has set her back career-wise.
“I was an adjunct at Texas State University before this, but I had a much better gig there,” Ballew-Jennings said. “Two semesters has broken me. I won’t be back next semester.”
Ballew-Jennings feels that Western should consider the labor requirement of adjuncts specifically.
“I’m on campus 20 hours a week,” Ballew-Jennings said. “I work full-time hours, and I’ll make $10,000 this year. It’s labor exploitation. We actually are not of a lower professional quality. I actually hold a higher degree than one of my bosses. We do the same things as our permanent position peers in this department.”
It should be very rare that adjunct faculty are teaching the same amount of courses as their full-time counterparts, Daffron said.
“For the most part, folks who teach as an adjunct for us have other full-time jobs,” she said. “So, you don’t want a full-time job and another job that is toward half-time. That’s just asking a lot.”
History professor and Dean of the history, physiology and geography department Dr. Steven Greiert believes that adjuncts are tremendously underpaid more so then overworked.
“It’s like a patchwork job,” Greiert said. “You get no benefits, no health care coverage, you just get a salary and the salary is low. Let’s say you teach a full load and you’re an adjunct with a Ph.D., you get $9,600. If you live by yourself, that’s below the poverty line by a long shot. $9,600 is next to nothing.”
According to Griert, five adjunct instructors were used for the department this semester, and three were used for last semester. For adjuncts with Master’s degrees, they receive $2,100 per course. Adjuncts with Ph.D.s receive $2,400 per course.
Adjunct Music professor Stephen Molloy, who has been teaching as an adjunct since 2000, feels that adjunct teaching does require a lot of labor, but is well worth it if the instructor loves what they do.
“This takes up the majority of my weekend,” Molloy said. “Our department has been using adjuncts for several years and it seems to be working well for us. I’ve had very little to complain about since working here. I’ve been pleased as punch.”
Molloy, who also teaches at a community college in Kansas City, Kan., feels that the increase in adjunct use has to do more with the change in economy rather than the university suffering financially. However, every adjunct instructor has a choice to be at Western, Molloy said.
“I’ve had people say ‘well, you’re not full time, then there must be some benefits that you are not receiving,’ but I’m fully aware of that,” Molloy said. “It comes down to personal choice. Economic conditions right now are dictating that a lot of people hang on to what they got. We know a lot of people around the entire country that are losing their jobs as an result of economic downturn. I never felt that I was personally taken advantage of.”
Molloy feels that the true concern about adjuncts should rest with how the students feel.
“If the students are unhappy about it, that’s when we have to be concerned,” Molloy said. “If they feel that they are not getting as quality of education or feel they are being shortchanged, then that’s a legitimate concern.”