Fairfield’s adjunct professors are challenging their working conditions and aiming for equitable treatment.

Part-time faculty members, also commonly referred to as “adjunct professors,” are challenging the University to take a look at their conditions, rights and privileges through a special task force.

Throughout the 2013 spring semester, this task force will examine the University’s treatment of the part-time faculty. Once this is done, a final report and recommendations will be presented to the Academic Council in September 2013.

This task force follows a motion made in August 2012, which asked the Academic Council to look deeper into the status, roles and conditions of part-time faculty at Fairfield.

One of the creators of the motion, Dr. Elizabeth Hohl, professor of history, said that the task force is essential to the employment of the nearly 400 part-time faculty members at Fairfield University.

According to Hohl, an adjunct or non-tenure track faculty member was originally a title given to an instructor who was employed outside of academia and only taught one course at a university for a single semester.

However, the job description has changed over the years, said Hohl. Now the term refers to a broad range of professionals, graduate students and teachers who have been employed with the University on a part-time basis for many years. The majority of these professionals hold the highest degree in their fields.

While some are also employed elsewhere, for others, this is their sole source of income. For example, Hohl has been teaching at Fairfield University part-time since 1984.

However, just because Hohl has been teaching at Fairfield for over 20 years doesn’t mean she’ll be here next semester. Part-time faculty are employed on a semester to semester basis with no guarantees that they’ll be invited back to teach.

This, said Hohl, is one of the many things the task force aims to fix. Ideally, qualified senior part-time faculty would be presented with multi-year contracts, guaranteeing their positions for multiple semesters.

The task force will look into the feasibility of providing some sort of proportional healthcare benefits for parttime faculty where there currently is none.

Finally, part-time faculty are interested in gaining a voice as a result of this task force. While some departments invite part-time faculty to staff meetings and to take part in some decision making processes, part-time participation is not standardized across the campus.

Not only are part-time faculty interested in representation at the department level, but in the governance of the University. However, according to Hohl, this will involve denouncing the long held view that “part-time faculty are here to teach their classes and nothing more.”

However, Fairfield University is a step ahead of other colleges in terms of treatment of part-time faculty. Fairfield provides each of its part-time employees with access to office space, a computer and a telephone, said Dr. Cinitha Gannett, Associate Professor of English and Director of Core Writing. Gannett is also a long-time advocate for the rights of part-time faculty.

“Unfortunately, most of these changes are dependent on finances and annual budgets,” said Dr. Robbin Crabtree, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

While Crabtree is an advocate for her part-time faculty members, she understands that budget restrictions will always impact the influence for changes that can be made.

“Tenure track faculty requires a substantial salary commitment from the University. At the same time, some part of the budget needs to be flexible. Having some portion of part-time faculty creates some flexibility,” said Crabtree.

She continued, “While the security that multi-year contracts would bring to offer part-time faculty would be beneficial to them, and even to the academic programs, positions for each semester are contingent on enrollment. It is next to impossible to guarantee all part-time faculty will be employed by the University each semester, as instructional needs are based on so many different factors.”

Regardless of the budgets and the numbers, in the end the equitable treatment of all faculty is a “basic social justice issue,” said Gannett. She stressed that we must show these members of the University community how valued they are during the time they are with us.

Adjunct Rights Awareness Video


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