Adjuncts fill gaps in college facultiesWritten by Scott McKimmy | | firstname.lastname@example.org
In the world of academia, they are the foot soldiers of education. They go where they’re needed on short notice and do the job no one else wanted. They work for less pay without benefits and have no real job security.
And part of their title reminds them daily that they’re “added to the faculty, but not essential.”
They are the adjuncts.
They generally come in four varieties, either as instructors or assistant, associate or full professors, teaching whatever classes are left open after the tenured faculty fills its plate. Sometimes supplementing a full-time income, sometimes staying active in retirement, adjuncts might end up with a course that’s right up their alley or somewhat off the beaten path.
They often wear at least two hats and a pair of running shoes.
Recent trends show their numbers growing, according to a 2003 report from the American Association of University Professors. In studies of academic positions dating back to the early 1990s, researchers found an “alarming” decline in the percentage of tenure-track educators.
Of the nation’s college and university faculty members in 1993, 58 percent held tenured positions. In 2003, the figure dropped to 35 percent, with new appointments projected to fall even lower in maintaining a “nontenured majority” of “contingent faculty.”
For Richard Newcomer, one of more than 1,000 adjuncts at Owens Community College, following a nontenure track has been a positive experience. The retired guidance counselor for Findlay City Schools and current academic adviser for Owens criminal justice students also teaches lifespan psychology to nursing students. It’s just the nature of the system.
“When you’re an adjunct instructor, you teach classes after the full-time faculty members have chosen the classes they want. Then they get adjunct instructors to teach the other classes,” Newcomer said. “Some have full-time jobs, many are retired like I am, and some of them because of their circumstances just don’t want work full time. You can have all different possibilities.”
Possibilities yes, but adjuncts have no union, and other than support from AAUP, no organization exclusively represents their cause. They’re often negotiating their own contracts and fishing off their own piers until the catch is all gone. Many are experts in their fields such as lawyers and business executives. But most, according to AAUP, are juggling to handle basic core courses within their departments.
Newcomer falls happily in the middle, he said. Although working evenings as an adjunct while holding a 40-hour job early in his career, he now looks forward to a light schedule with more time for leisure. He never regretted his career path from teacher to guidance counselor to adviser and instructor.
“I really like the position I’m in. I’m not doing it because I have to because I am retired. I’m doing it because I really, really enjoy it,” he said. But when asked if he’s considering becoming a professor, he said, “Not at this stage of my life, I still enjoy having a few days off to be retired.”