One group which probably does not get the attention they deserve amongst the Boise State staff are those adjunct professors who labor with no full-time status or health. They reside as basically temporary workers, struggling under a less-than-favorable wage and yet they comprise the majority of instructors on many college campuses.
According to Colleen Flaherty from Insidehighered.com, the usual base wage for an adjunct is around $2,700 per taught class and depending on how many campuses they run to, it still affords them only around $21,000 per year in compensation. They are known as non-tenure-track faculty, contingent faculty or even murmured beneath the breaths of tenured professors, perma-temps.
What can be done for these teachers who have been mitered into the frenetic path of a provisional instructor?
According to Nick Gier, President of the Higher Education Council with the Idaho Federation of Teachers, “Boise State University (BSU) may have the most contingent faculty as a proportion of total faculty than any other major American university. The number of BSU credits generated by contingents is approaching 60 percent university wide, exceeding the national average by eight percent.”
Due to the economic reduction in both state and federal funds, it is easier for universities to hire adjuncts rather than the ubiquitous tenure-tracked professor, unless of course it is to lend prestige to a research department who will benefit from the credence of a published doctor in their field.
However, many students do not realize the adjunct is unable to spend the amount of time some students may need within a composite classroom, as opposed to the tenured professor, whose job it is to counsel his students, grade papers, head student clubs and interact with faculty on campus.
Adjuncts are a conglomerate with differing backgrounds and teaching schedules and have a very limited time to cultivate relationships on campus, many times not even knowing other adjuncts on university grounds. Economics play a large part in the hiring of adjuncts, though it also leads to a legion of instructors who teach the same courses year after year with no job security in the offing.
Adjuncts are a way of plugging inexperienced graduate students into a role where they hit the ground running, though not always in a constructive way. Having little time to formulate constructive lesson plans, they are shifted between classes depending upon need and size.
When confronted with the fleeting job opportunities afforded to the adjuncts, it is difficult to instill in undergraduates a desire to attain their degrees, especially if those awards are geared toward teaching.
The once heralded carrot-and-stick to intellectual development and gaining a certain esteem by acquiring a college credential has now been replaced by attending college to get a better job.
Employers want Bachelors and Associate degrees in order to hire simple secretaries or adjuncts—not exactly the intellectual development our education dollars intended when we entered the hallowed halls of pedagogy.
It is not exactly the dream of an educator or an undergraduate student who is striving to make their mark on today’s society, is it?
How about equal pay for equal work, more job security and allowing the adjuncts more time for professional development. In a speech, Nick Gier president of the higher education council echoed the words of Frank Brooks, of Roosevelt University in Illinois, he reminds administrators, “Contingency is a threat to quality, not contingent faculty. It’s not who we are but how we are treated that undermines the quality of higher education.”