Adjunct professors: unsung heroes?

Adjunct professors: unsung heroes?

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Not all university professors are created equal, at least not when it comes to job security. Adjunct professor Kathryn Baxter is dedicated to her students. She strives to teach them the importance of communication through writing while also enabling them to think critically so they can be successful in the workplace. She works at least 40 hours
a week.

“If I’m not teaching, I’m grading papers, if I’m not grading papers, I’m meeting with students,” Baxter said.

Baxter is an adjunct professor for the history department. An adjunct professor is a teacher hired by term or semester. This means their contract lasts for the duration of the instructional season. They are separated (released from their position) each semester and hopefully rehired for the upcoming one. Adjuncts usually receive their contract two weeks before classes start.

Boise State has a two-step adjunct faculty pay system. Adjunct faculty who have taught three or more semesters for the university within three years, have at minimum a Master’s degree or equivalent experience, and have received satisfactory evaluations are entitled to Step 2 ($911/credit) pay. Adjunct faculty not meeting the criteria for Step 2, receive the  Step 1 pay of
($877/credit).

Adjunct faculty are not eligible to teach full-time (twelve or more total credit hours taught across all departments) in both the Fall and Spring semesters of the same academic year.

Adjunct faculty receive no benefits and a large portion of adjunct professors do not receive an office. This varies by department. Nearly half of Boise State’s professors are
adjuncts.

According to Education News, the salary of a full-time instructor is estimated at $47,579 and ranges up to $78,750 for professors. These numbers vary based on the employee’s department, degree and tenure. Full-time professors receive full benefits: that includes health, dental, vision, life and disability insurance. Retirement benefits and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) are also covered, as well as tuition reduction.

Steven (Monk) Wells, an adjunct professor for the English department, strives to enable his students to be masters of critical inquiry.

“I’m hooked on learning in a very unconventional way,” Monk said. “We move from integration to disintegration then reintegration.”

Monk chuckled at the notion of a 40-hour work week. “Boise State is lending itself more and more to the possibility of integrating classroom content with experiential learning and service work, which is great stuff,”
Monk said.

Noreen Camacho, Human Resources unit supervisor, said she loves working with adjuncts and admires what they do for Boise State.

“I can feel their pain sometimes because they are separated at the end of each semester and their I-9 is only valid for three years and must be renewed accordingly,” Camacho said.

Mark Wheeler, dean of extended studies, works with many adjunct professors.

“They are an integral part of Boise State University and oftentimes the perspective they bring from the private sector or other experiences in their background really helps round out a student’s education,” Wheeler said.

Aaron Elfering, a 24-year-old majoring in information technology management, has had numerous adjunct professors. Elfering compared his experiences with adjuncts to a double edged sword.

“Adjuncts tend to be easier graders and expect less of you but at the same time, you don’t always learn as much,” Elfering said. “I have also had some adjuncts that are truly enjoyable to work with, which counts
for a lot.”

When asked if she would like anything known about adjuncts, Baxter responded, “We don’t get offices. This is my office (pointing to tables in the library) and parking’s a bitch.”