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When selecting a college or university, students (and their parents) do well to ask professors and administrators one important question:
“How many faculty members at this institution hold part-time adjunct positions, instructorships or lectureships, and tenurable appointments?”
Most likely, a professor will explain that he or she is a part-time adjunct employee, full-time instructor or lecturer, or tenurable member of the faculty. By contrast, an administrator should cite percentages in each category—along with ratios of tenurable faculty members to students.
How to make sense of the answer, and why is it important?
Generally speaking, adjunct faculty members work on a part-time basis and are poorly paid. According to recent data collected by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the “overall average pay reported by adjuncts is $2,987 per three-credit course. Adjuncts at 16 colleges reported earning less than $1,000.” Many of these positions do not provide health coverage either (read more at the Adjunct Project website).
Full-time instructors and lecturers work on contracts that are renewable for one or more years. While health insurance is more frequently part of remuneration, instructors and lecturers teach more classes and make less than their tenured and tenure-track counterparts. In today’s college and university, adjunct professors, instructors, and lecturers collectively make up more than 70% of the teaching faculty. Because they work on a contingent basis, they are easily dismissed with little or no recourse at the end of their contracts.
Tenurable faculty members are an endangered species in U.S. higher education. By contrast, in the 1960s, nearly 70% of faculty members nationwide held full-time tenurable positions. Many of them used them to agitate for social change (including civil rights, women’s rights, freedom of speech, and an end to the war in Vietnam). By contrast, less than 30% of teaching faculty are now tenured or on the tenure-track.
To this ever-shrinking, and too often fearful, group falls the duty of protecting tenure, which provides slightly increased protections for free-speech, as well as gainful employment (after a probationary period of many years in duration).
Why is it important to ask my professor (and administrators at my institution) how many of the teaching faculty are adjuncts, lecturers or instructors, or tenurable?
Simply put, you are paying a lot for your education, and you deserve faculty members who are fully invested in you and the institution that you attend.
Many current non-tenured faculty members are excellent at what they do and deserve a fair living wage; freedom from the fear of losing their jobs at the whim of a chair, dean, or provost; and to be rescued from the second-class status to which they have been relegated by tightfisted and overpaid administrators.
Demand more tenure-track appointments at your college or university! Make the choice to attend an institution that invests in you by investing in the faculty!
Copyright © 2015 Mark S. Ferrara, All rights reserved.