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The tricky state of the part-time instructor

November 1, 2017

According to the American Association of University Professors, more than 50 percent of instructors at colleges and universities are adjunct professors. This growing national trend, coupled with a hiring freeze and budget cuts at the University of Toledo has led the school to rely more on part-time employees.

 

Adjunct professors, or part-time instructors, are non-tenure track faculty members contracted with the university on a semester by semester basis. 

 

The AAUP found that in 2011 only 30 percent of faculty members were on track to tenure. The AAUP also stated that the number of part-time instructors continues to rise each year, as universities rely on them more.

 

Adjuncts face a unique set of challenges. According to Patrick Cook, a part time instructor in the English department in his first semester at UT, one of the main issues is the low pay, though many instructors shared this concern.

 

According to NPR, the average salary for an adjunct professor is $20,000 to $25,000 annually. This is compared to an average salary of $84,303 for full-time instructors according to the AAUP.

 

This results in part-time instructors taking other jobs to support themselves. The AAUP reports at least 60

percent of part-time instructors have to find additional work. 

 

“I teach here but I also have to teach at Bowling Green State University,” Cook said. “With them I teach an additional eight credit hours, so I am actually teaching 17 credit hours total. It’s over 100 students.”

 

Instructors at UT report working for Bowling Green University, Lourdes and Owens Community College, teaching additional classes to supplement their income.

 

“I think the nature of it is difficult especially if you set your eyes on a full professorship.” said Jennifer Royston, a part-time instructor in the English department. “I do want job security and I do want to work full time so of course this is not what I want to do forever.” 

 

Additionally, instructors such as Heidi Clausis from the music department use their skills in other ways. Clausis is a vocalist, who teaches private lessons both at the University and from her home.

 

“If I did not teach private lessons I could not cover my costs,” Clausis said, “If they give me a full-time position it would enable me to cut back on some of my private tutoring and not work so many hours.” 

 

Another big issue faced by adjunct professors is the lack of job security, according to Royston.

 

Royston is in a unique position as a part-time instructor, covering for a full-time instructor out on leave. She has a contract for both the fall and spring semesters this year.

 

“I’m fortunate that the University of Toledo, and my department specifically, treats me very well. They were sensitive to my schedule, I feel very welcomed here.” Royston said.

 

Last semester in the English department, one of the largest employers of adjuncts at UT, 23 adjuncts covered 49 classes in fall 2016 according to Catherine Chengges, administrative coordinator. In Spring 2017 Chengges said that number dropped to 10 instructors teaching only 14 classes.

 

This means that in the English Department alone, 13 instructors were unemployed in the spring and almost 80 percent of classes taught in the fall were no longer needed.

 

“You don’t have that sort of job security. I know this is a one year position...but it’s a little scary not to know like where I am going to be next year,” Royston said.

 

Adjuncts who work professionally outside of the university as teachers elsewhere don’t face this problem as severely. One such instructor is Montissa Wallace, a part-time instructor in the communication department who also works at 107.3 The Juice as the production director.

 

However, Wallace still expressed issues with managing her time between working at the station and working at UT, going so far as to tape part of her show early so that she can stay later in class before going to work.

 

Cook and his wife Alysha are both employed as adjunct professor at UT, a unique situation that has its own challenges, highlighting issues surrounding trying to start a family as an adjunct.

 

“My wife and I are actually expecting. She’s due in one month, so luckily it’s at the end of the semester.” Cook said, “Next semester we’re trying to plan so that one of us is home all the time with the newborn. Of course we don’t get any maternity leave or anything like that.”

 

However, Cook expressed that the department has been very understanding in working with him and Alysha in the case of her having the baby early.

 

One of the biggest concerns when having a child is healthcare costs. With both parents not considered to be full-time employees, neither Cook nor his wife have coverage through any university.

 

This semester however, because Cook is teaching nine credit hours, instead of the usual eight hour limit

for adjuncts, he said he was given paperwork for coverage but has not looked into it.

 

The credit hour limit allows the university to not offer health care to adjuncts in accordance with the Affordable Care Act. Cook explained that he had not looked into the benefits because it would be a “significant portion of your paycheck to be paying out for healthcare.”

 

Because part-time instructors do not have access to health insurance, they often pay for it out of their own pockets. This can be almost impossible with a minimal income and constantly changing national healthcare policies.

 

According to an article by CNBC, the average annual deductible for individual healthcare plans was $4,358 in 2016.

 

As far as the University of Toledo, adjuncts reported that the situation is not better or worse than other schools.

 

According to college factual, UT actually only uses 31 percent part-time instructors, which is down from the national average of 51 percent.

 

All adjuncts stated that issues facing adjuncts are not unique to UT, but are part of a national issue.

 

“The job market is very tough, it’s tough. I feel completely fortunate that I got this position.” Royston said. “I got very lucky that there was a job within driving distance that teaching Shakespeare and I know that's not the norm.”

 

Though the department is good, the need is there, as evident by Cook teaching nine credit hours his first semester at UT just to cover all the Composition I and II courses for the fall semester.

 

An article by Forbes found that the problem with relying on adjuncts tends to focus on the issue that they have less time and resources available to them.

 

“The workload can easily get overwhelming,” Cook said.

 

A limited amount of office space leaves many adjuncts without a place to meet students. Coupled with working multiple jobs on various campuses, many adjuncts are simply not able to dedicate their time to the students.

 

“The English adjunct is of course going to be a little bit different – grading is very intensive.” Cook said, “I am probably looking at an easy 50 hours a week altogether. It’s an interesting situation to be in.”

 

Despite the nationwide issues that adjuncts face, two things seem to unite them all - a love for teaching and a desire to be full-time. 

 

“I love being here and I love what I teach,” Wallace said, “Eventually, I would like to teach more.”

 

A sentiment shared across the board.

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