Adjuncts Build Strength in Numbers

…When professors in positions that offer no chance of earning tenure begin to stack the faculty, campus dynamics start to change. Growing numbers of adjuncts make themselves more visible. They push for roles in governance, better pay and working conditions, and recognition for work well done. And they do so at institutions where tenured faculty, although now in the minority, are still the power brokers.

The changing nature of the professoriate affects tenured and tenure-track faculty, too. Having more adjuncts doesn’t provide the help they need to run their departments, leaving them with more service work and seats on more committees at the same time that research requirements, for some, have also increased.

At many institutions with graduate programs, a shrinking number of tenured and tenure-track faculty members are left to advise graduate students—a task that typically does not fall to adjuncts.

The shift can also affect students. Studies show that they suffer when they are taught by adjuncts, many of whom are good teachers but aren’t supported on the job in the ways that their tenured colleagues are. Many adjuncts don’t have office space, which means they have no place on campus to meet privately with students.

And some adjuncts themselves say their fears about job security can make them reluctant to push students hard academically. If students retaliate by giving them bad evaluations, their jobs could be in jeopardy.

Many adjuncts are also cautious about what they say in the classroom, an attitude that limits the ways they might engage students in critical thinking and rigorous discussion.

“I think the tipping point is now,” says Ms. Meline. She is among those adjuncts pressing for higher pay and a voice in governance at Saint Joseph’s. “What they’re doing is not sustainable.”

Elsewhere, Patricia W. Cummins, a professor of world and international studies at Virginia Commonwealth University, is worried about the sustainability of her university’s growing use of adjuncts. <Read more.>

Via Audrey Williams June, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.