Response to the March 11 cover story ‘A is for Adjunct’

Mar 18, 2015 at 2:40 pm

University of Louisville The story “A is for Adjunct” in the March 11 issue of LEO raised some important issues about the financial strains faced by many part-time faculty at colleges and universities around the country.

The University of Louisville employs many part-time faculty, and they play an important role in teaching general education classes, among others, to our thousands of students each year. Many of them are among our most dedicated and popular teachers.

Unfortunately, in attempting to describe conditions at local institutions, including UofL, the author made some claims that were simply wrong.

For instance, the writer claims that the percentage of general education classes taught by adjunct faculty is 70 percent. While that may be the national average, the number at UofL is just 52 percent. The correct number would have been easily obtained from our accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, since we report it to them annually.

The writer also claims that these faculty receive no benefits when, in fact, UofL offers anyone teaching at least two classes per semester the opportunity to participate in our health, dental, vision and retirement plans. Among other benefits, these faculty also can receive tuition remission for up to four hours per semester, and they are included in our salary increase pool. They are represented in our Faculty Senate. We also offer a Part-time Faculty Institute designed to help them enhance their teaching skills. Faculty who complete the institute receive a small stipend.

Some of these faculty must juggle teaching loads at several institutions to earn a living. Others teach a class or two to help remain current in their fields or because they simply enjoy the classroom experience. All of them play a vital role in providing a high-quality education for our students. At UofL, we appreciate their dedication and commitment to excellence, and we are constantly striving to improve their financial and working conditions.

Shirley C. Willihnganz, Executive Vice President and University Provost

Jefferson Community and ?Technical College We read with interest “A is for Adjunct” in the March 11 issue of LEO. Jefferson Community and Technical College was not asked for data or to respond to allegations, but this is an important issue to us and one we want to address.

While community colleges frequently rely on part-time faculty, at Jefferson overall percentages of students and sections taught by full-time faculty are greater than those taught by part-time faculty. Further, while the story quoted national figures of 70 percent, Jefferson’s part-time or contingent faculty rate is 46 percent. Full-time staff who also teach and full-time “temporary” (full-time faculty exempt from committee and other work) bring the number to 58 percent.

Also important, the college has worked diligently to maintain steady numbers of full-time faculty, despite repeated budget cuts. Part-time faculty bring deep teaching and real world experiences to our classrooms. Critically, they also give us the flexibility we need to add classes and expand programs to meet the needs of thousands of students. They are a necessary and valuable part of higher education.

At the same time, we respect their concerns. JCTC President Dr. Tony Newberry happily accepted a meeting with the organizers in advance of the Teach-In and offered a memo of support recognizing our part-time faculty are challenged by issues of pay, benefits and other support.  

We actively work to address those issues, including recent pay increases and efforts to fund an Adjunct Academy for academic support, and other measures that would more fully involve part-time faculty into the life of the college.

We admire our part-time faculty and we are humbled by those who wish to make teaching for our great institution a full-time career. Fortunately over the years, many have been able to move into full-time positions.

At Jefferson, we will always strive to provide the best environment for teaching and learning that we can.

Lisa Brosky, JCTC Vice President, College Advancement

LEO Follow-up My source for the statement “approximately 70 percent of courses at UofL and JCTC are taught by adjunct faculty” was information presented at the teach-ins, including samples of gen ed courses from the 2014 fall semester.

Because administrators, including Lisa Brosky, were present at the JCTC teach-in and did not ask questions or comment in respect to these numbers, I accepted them as valid representations of the number of courses taught by adjuncts at JCTC. I further assumed that the college endorsed the information presented because of a memo written by President Tony Newberry in support of the teach-in.

Because no administration or faculty was present at the UofL teach-in, I emailed and called UofL Provost Shirley Willinghanz to share the information presented at the UofL teach-in and to let her know that I would be reporting it in my article “A is for adjunct.” During our telephone conversation, Willinghanz disputed that 70 percent of UofL’s general education courses are taught by adjunct faculty, but when I asked her if she knew what the percentage was, she said that she did not have that information.

Since the publication of last week’s cover story, administrators at both institutions have presented LEO with a percentage they feel is a more accurate representation of their adjunct faculty. JCTC says that the overall percentage of adjunct instructors who make up the faculty is 58 percent, but does not provide the percentage of courses taught by adjuncts. UofL administration says that 52 percent of their general education courses are taught by instructors it classifies as “part-time.” That percentage does not include graduate teaching assistants and other non-tenure track faculty, as do national reports by the AAUP and the U.S. House of Representative, both of which I also used to validate the reporting of 70 percent.

Laura Snyder