April 22, 2013, 1:28 pm
Friends of mine say that I’m loyal to a fault. They don’t know the half of it. The truth is, I have many faults, and I’m loyal to all of them.
OK, so that’s an old joke. But it helps me introduce a difficult and highly fraught topic: the loyalty that institutions show, or fail to show, to the people who work for them—particularly the part-time faculty.
Several weeks ago, I went to a high-school basketball game in my community. It was Senior Night, the last home game for the host team, when senior players and their families are honored at halftime. Another Senior Night tradition is that the seniors get to start the game—or at least play significant minutes, if there are more than five—even if they haven’t usually logged much playing time.
This team had six seniors, two of whom were regular starters. Two others were in the rotation, meaning that they usually played a good…
April 19, 2013, 2:30 pm
“Consider offering extra credit for students who attend,” suggests e-mail after e-mail from various entities on campus. Senders are touting art exhibitions, philosophy debates, librarian outreach in the community, guest speakers, forums, and who knows what else.
These are great activities that would enrich my students if they attended. I hope they will do things outside of class to be part of the larger community. However, this message of extra credit is in direct opposition to the syllabus and standards that I have been told I must teach from.
For developmental English courses, how students are graded is spelled out very strictly at my college. I am only supposed to give credit for tests and writing assignments, with those category weights being dictated by the department. I dislike being managed so much but accept it as part of the job—particularly as an adjunct faculty member….
March 22, 2013, 1:38 pm
A colleague is putting together a handbook for part-time faculty at our college. The current booklet we are given covers legal matters and requirements, but offers little in the way of helpful advice. The e-mail request for ideas for the new handbook has been sitting in my inbox for weeks as I’ve tried to think about what information new people need.
My biggest request? Tell me and other part-timers who to go to for help. The organizational structure at my institution is confusing at best. If I need a copy of a textbook, where do I go? What about a problem with a student? Getting my room unlocked? These little details of daily class life become stressful when you can’t find the resources you need. Having to constantly ask questions also adds to the feeling many adjuncts have of being a second-class citizen.
Having a contact person is invaluable for part-time faculty. That could be …
February 14, 2013, 1:31 pm
Allison Vaillancourt has written great posts here about manners and interpersonal relationships in the workplace. I’d like to chime in with a few simple things that would go a long way toward making contingent faculty members feel less like second-class citizens. Really, though, these are tips for all of us that shouldn’t have to be spelled out. Unfortunately, these come from personal experience.
First, answer e-mails. Just because I’m not at all of your staff meetings, it would be nice if you, as my supervisor, would acknowledge and respond to my efforts at communication the first time. Not after the third e-mail. Not after another person has acted as an intermediary. I’m not bugging you all the time, and I get in touch only when I need to. Have the courtesy of giving me a few minutes of your time.
The second tip concerns parents. I stay home with my children during the day and…
January 24, 2013, 2:07 pm
On the first day of Christmas break I got an e-mail from the dean’s office. Not a mass e-mail, one just to me. Terror, panic, irrational butterflies.
It was fine, of course. A student had contested her grade. This was my first such experience in more than a decade. The dean outlined the student’s reasoning and asked if I was willing to work on a resolution.
After I realized that I wasn’t in trouble, I read through the e-mail a few more times.
I had worked extensively with the student in question over the course of the semester, and hoped she’d be able to pull off a passing grade. A virtual zero on the final examination dashed those hopes. I felt for her and wasn’t even annoyed by the course of action she was taking.
I responded to my dean that I was willing to work with her and the student, and I explained the reason for the failing grade. I worried that I sounded defensive, …
December 6, 2012, 2:55 pm
Comments here and elsewhere on The Chronicle’s pages indicate that some people are tired of hearing about contingent-faculty issues. I’m sorry for those readers—how frustrating to not have everything geared toward your needs. Imagine how those of us off the tenure track feel when virtually all content about higher education speaks to a reality that we aren’t experiencing.
I recently applied for and received a grant to attend a national conference. The funds, from the National Council of Teachers of English, won’t pay for all my expenses, but do cover a nice chunk. The Professional Equity Project serves “to support the concerns of part-time and adjunct faculty, such as improving working conditions and promoting the scholarship of teaching.”
Funding opportunities for adjuncts are few and far between, though some colleges offer small professional-development grants. With limited…
October 19, 2012, 3:10 pm
I have no gear, no bumper stickers, no giant waving foam hand advertising my allegiance to the institution where I have worked for more than a decade. I never thought about it until last year, when a fellow adjunct made a trip to the campus bookstore and bought T-shirts for her whole family.
Adjuncts are in an odd position, whether you work at one college or many. You are part of things but not, always somewhat on the outside. A 2011 survey by the New Faculty Majority found that 54 percent of responding adjuncts worked at more than one institution. That certainly puts a crimp in loyalty.
For me, I’m not sure why I haven’t made myself more of a cheerleader for my community college. I think highly of it and feel glad for its successes. But I don’t feel ownership of those achievements. Likewise, when others disparage the college, I disagree but don’t feel as if they are particularly…
August 30, 2012, 8:57 am
Last spring, before I came on board, the English department here underwent an external review that cited the department’s strengths along with a few areas of significant need or weakness. This past weekend the faculty met to respond to the assessment and to begin work on a seven-year plan that will address not only these local findings, but the field’s national trends as well. As a postdoctoral fellow in my first week on the job, I entered the workshop more than a little unsure of the role I would play. I had received a copy of the external review, but beyond that document and the information available on the university Web site, I knew almost nothing about the inner workings of the department. Two years from now (let alone seven) I’ll be gone.
I was caught off guard then when the department chair asked for my thoughts on one of the matters up for discussion. What had I seen done at…
August 28, 2012, 11:44 am
An interesting post on the blog The Homeless Adjunct, by Debra Leigh Scott, has caused a lot of discussion, and I thought it was worth bringing the ideas to The Chronicle. The post is called “How the American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps.”
The steps: defund public higher education, deprofessionalize and impoverish the professors, move in a managerial/administrative class who take over governance of the university, move in corporate culture and corporate money, and destroy the students.
I may not agree with every little point this lengthy and detailed blog post makes, and I’m not entirely convinced that the American university has been killed or is being killed, but it does seem like some of these “steps” are happening, consciously or unconsciously, and they are bad for higher education … mostly. I applaud Scott for pointing these out and for continuing discussion on …
August 17, 2012, 2:16 pm
Adjunct faculty face just one occasion when they are brought together with the body of the college: the dreaded start-up meeting. Required attendance for everyone who leads a class, this fall-semester tradition isn’t something that anyone looks forward to.
For administrators, it’s a time to lay out a broad, vague plan for success that will get people pumped while mentioning budget problems and other peccadilloes.
For faculty on my campus, the start-up meeting used to be a sit-down, shut-up, three-hour ordeal. Over the past few years, attempts at change have been made: for example, devoting most of the time to meetings by division, so that day-to-day issues can be dealt with in small sessions, with specific tasks to be accomplished. That is more interactive, yes, but it feels like make-work.
As an adjunct, I’d like to see a session just for us, so that we have a chance to see…