October 27, 2003

SMU Associate Provost Says Adjunctification is "Not a Conscious Policy"

In 1995, SMU had 164 adjunct professors. In 2002 the number of adjunct professors had almost doubled to 241.* During that same time period, there was a net loss in the number of tenured and tenure-track professors.

What is happening at SMU is part of a nationwide trend. An increasing number of lecturers and adjunct professors now fill the ranks of college faculty. Universities are hiring fewer tenured and tenure-track faculty.

-- Michael Sayder, "The Trouble with Tenure"

The above-linked article offers two (or maybe three) views on adjunctification.

James K. Hopkins, chair of the history department at Southern Methodist University, thinks this trend "'is a disturbing development.'" He believes universities are hiring more part-timers because "'it’s easier and cheaper to use adjuncts.'" If you are familiar with this weblog, then I don't need to tell you that I think Hopkins is exactly right.

Ellen Jackofsky, Associate Provost of Academic Affairs at Southern Methodist, sees things differently. Pointing out that "'It’s happening everywhere,'" Jackofsky insists that the school's increased reliance on adjuncts is "'not a conscious policy.'" Now that seems an odd way to defend a practice (our hiring practices are unplanned and haphazard -- and our very lack of conscious design should protect us against criticism). But in any case, apparently it's a good, or at least a defensible, policy (or, rather, lack of policy):

She said adjuncts help staff classes and keep class size at a reasonable level. They also have expertise that many career teachers don’t have.

'There are places where adjuncts make sense. Business, engineering, advertising…any professional school,' Jackofsky said.

When asked if SMU uses adjuncts because they’re cheaper and easier, she replied, 'Not at all.'

I wonder how many of the adjuncts hired at SMU since 1995 teach in the business, engineering and advertising programs? Given the concerns expressed by Hopkins, I would guess that some of them are teaching in the history department.

Meanwhile, Ron Wetherington, director of the SMU Center for Teaching Excellence, recommends "the guarded use of adjuncts." Wetherington sees "two advantages" to the use of adjuncts: "'One is the need for colleges and universities to fill the demand for courses with limited faculty and financial resources,' he said. 'The other is to take advantage of professionals in sharing their experiences.'" Wetherington seeks to walk a fine line, defending the use of adjuncts while insisting on the necessity of maintaining a strong barrier between the two tiers. Tenured faculty, he insists, are "'the key to a university:'"

'It is tenured, fulltime faculty who provide — and should provide — the core of university teaching and who develop and define the academic and intellectual character of the institution,' he said. 'Adjuncts do not have the institutional commitment and emotional investment in the academy that this requires.'

One might argue, of course, that it is the university that does not have an "institutional commitment" to and "emotional investment" in its adjunct faculty. One might even be so bold as to suggest that, far from being commitment-shy and emotionally distant figures, many of the growing ranks of adjunct faculty would be more than happy to tie the knot (or at least to sign a long-term contract).

By the way, in support of the pro-adjunct position, the article cites from "Do Adjuncts Have Time for Students?" where the Chroncle's adjunct-entrepreneur insists that "the determining factor is commitment" (my response to Carroll can be found here).

Thanks to Robert Schwartz for the link.

*I wonder if this should read, the number of adjunct professors had increased by almost 50 percent?

Posted by Invisible Adjunct at October 27, 2003 11:46 AM

The other is to take advantage of professionals...

Ahahahaha! Ahem... I mean, Ron speaks truer than he knows.

Posted by: language hat at October 27, 2003 02:03 PM

Couldn't they have talked to a few adjuncts at SMU? It would make way more sense to do that then trot out ultra adjunct Jill Carroll and make us hear about her love of part-time life yet again!

Its like writing a piece on second-hand smoke and only interviewing one doctor living in Winston-Salem who still thinks tobacco is good for you.

Posted by: better left nameless at October 27, 2003 04:50 PM

Now, it has been about three years since I did some adjunct work at SMU. For the ce type classes, adjuncts were paid three thousand dollars to teach ten classes.

For the mainstream business school classes (i.e. business law) they were paid significantly more. They had a conscious decision to have "teaching faculty" and "research faculty" and were trying to develop a model that would work.

The "There are places where adjuncts make sense. Business, engineering, advertising…any professional school," statement is consistent with a policy that they had.

Now, I'm not talking the psych program or the humanities program (heck, I don't know anything about them) or theology (the same), but I do know that in the law school they use a fair number of adjuncts to teach practice related classes (negotiation, adr), the same for business. I haven't talked with people in the other professional programs, but the school had people who were making a conscious decision based on quality of teaching.

It was that approach that moved the business school up dramatically in the ratings.

So, what I know is out of date, and limited, but it is consistent with the statements made.

Would be interesting if the author of the blog could get an interview with the relevant people -- including some adjuncts at SMU.

I'd love to know how things worked out and what that fortells, if anything, for other universities. The concept of "teaching faculty" seemed like a good one -- people paid real money (64-80k a year or so) to teach, without any research duties.

Less than I'm making now, but attractive none-the-less for those days I miss teaching.

Posted by: Ethesis at October 27, 2003 08:05 PM

er, "used" -- I don't know what they currently use.

Sorry for the typo, but I'm still hopeful that a similar model ("teaching faculty" who are paid real money) might yet spread.

One thing I'm curious about.

All I read about is "tenured faculty live in poverty" "adjuncts live below poverty" "tuition has outpaced inflation for years and years" -- ok, I'd like to know where the money is going?

Is it that the tenured faculty are not teaching the classes they should be, so that what you have is a combination of tenured faculty teaching classes that are not economically justified and adjuncts carrying the rest (as a sort of surplus class) or something else or what? I'd like to see the numbers.

Heck, Fish should have published the numbers and the time charts when he made his reposte at the feds -- give me a supported factual digest of where the feds have gone wrong and why.

Right now I find myself wondering "if everything I read is true, where would they get the money to pay adjuncts any more -- and where is the money going?"

Thanks to anyone who knows.

Posted by: Ethesis at October 27, 2003 08:12 PM

Go to the article at http://www.smudailycampus.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2003/10/24/3f98be08cbcf1 and post your comments!

Posted by: Anon Again at October 27, 2003 08:20 PM

Adjunctification is a conscious policy. Much like casting the free enterprise system as a "natural" process, as if it springs into existence unaided, hiring policies are also seen as the same thing. Notice the terminology we are now seeing: "evolution", "process", and even "organic" applied to the business sector! This is an attempt to naturalize the system that is really at work. Colleges use adjuncts because they work for cheap and are easy to find. Since I don't anticipate any "interference" with the "natural" system of supply and demand (i.e. limiting graduate admissions to limit the supply of PhD's and EdD's), I don't anticipate we'll see any activity in the direction of changing the situation. Why change what is "natural" or "unconscious?"

Posted by: Cat at October 29, 2003 01:42 PM