Note: Dr. Elizabeth Hohl clarified, “Part-time faculty did have two representatives on the Task Force that submitted a report to the Academic Council in September. We chose not to conduct focus groups because of time limits, among other factors.”
She also clarified average pay for adjuncts at Fairfield University: “Average pay per course at Fairfield varies from $3,840 to $5,000, a better pay scale than Sacred Heart’s. However, Connecticut College offers a range between $4,500 and $5,800 while St. Joseph in Hartford lists $5000 as the salary for a course in the sciences. Nearby, Quinnipiac pays between $3,000 and $4,525.”
A task force for adjunct professors at Fairfield was launched last year to examine the treatment of adjunct professors and other part-time faculty. This semester, it published results indicating that such faculty members have unstable employment and a lack of voice and respect due to their roles, compared to full-time faculty.
This task force was created following a motion made in August 2012, asking the Academic Council to look into the status and conditions of part-time faculty. Last month, a final report and recommendations of the findings were presented to the Academic Council.
The report which they created for the Academic Council to investigate has resulted in the creation of a faculty and staff handbook and will be meeting again in March 2014 to discuss more policies.
An adjunct professor is a part-time, non-salaried, non-tenure faculty member who is paid for each class he or she teaches.
There are about 300 adjunct professors employed at Fairfield. These professors are dedicated to fighting for equitable treatment with full-time faculty.
“We requested two subcommittees to prepare a proposal on overall policy and to make the case for a handbook committee. Both motions passed and the subcommittees are in formation,” said Elizabeth Hohl, Ph. D., a history professor.
“[The handbook program] will create a permanent vehicle on issues related to part-time faculty employment – that measure has to go before the General Faculty. There are many other recommendations but we felt strongly that we needed to encourage an ongoing institutional response,” she said. Hohl is one of the creators of the motion from August 2012.
In order to fulfill the mandate required for the Academic Council, these subcommittees examined the components of contingent employment, such as gathering data on the number of part-time faculty hired and discussing part-time faculty and governance. A profile was also created for part-time faculty by carrying out a survey through the Office of Institutional Research, which had 90 responses.
Based on the results of the survey, most non-tenure faculty at Fairfield are older, skilled persons who teach two course sections per semester. The survey determined that the biggest issues facing this group are insecure employment status, feelings of disvalue and lack of voice.
In this report, there are a variety of recommendations from part-time faculty.
The first ones have to do with issues of structure and governance. This includes developing a vision statement which would ensure lasting planning and policy conditions on the employment of part-time faculty. This would reflect voices from many fields such as administrators, non-tenure track faculty, and full-time staff working together to outline the institution-wide faculty mission.
The report also suggests a long-lasting Faculty Handbook Committee for the part-time faculty and their employment statuses and conditions. There is an argument for opening up governance structures in an attempt to increase representation for such faculty members.
One section of the report details employment conditions. The primary recommendation here suggests developing a setup for one or multi-year contracts for part-time faculty. Other policies listed include establishing better compensation for part-time faculty who engage in campus activities and establishing guidelines for teaching assessments.
According to Hohl, the information passed by the Academic Council was barely discussed with the actual adjunct professors.
She said that she heard nothing about the subcommittees which were part of the task force. All she knew that was after the force had finished a year of work, “the council passed two motions to establish better policy framework.”
However, Hohl explained that some adjunct professors fear talking about their struggles.
“People don’t feel free to speak. If they talk, they might not get a contract. They might talk to me, but not other administration,” she said.
Because of this, it is difficult to develop a large group of adjuncts to fight along with the task force to obtain more benefits.
Mark C. Reed, Ph. D., an adjunct mathematics professor for the last 13 years and senior vice president for administration and chief of staff, said he was in a unique position as both an adjunct and an administrator.
“We don’t have academic administrators who retaliate against adjunct faculty. In fact, it’s been my experience that our university community is very open to people expressing their thoughts, views, questions, and concerns on a wide range of topics and matters,” said Reed.
Hohl, along with English Professor Sonya Huber, Ph. D. discussed the problems that come along with being an adjunct, part-time professor.
The biggest and most obvious problem is job security and stability, according to the two professors. Two-thirds of the adjunct faculty here at Fairfield are regularly employed. However, even after seven or eight years, their contract is still non-tenure.
“Technically, you have to reapply every semester,” said Hohl, who has been an adjunct professor at Fairfield for over 20 years.
“At Fairfield, in the English Department as one example, our high number of adjunct instructors and the tight spaces available leads to two or more instructors routinely sharing an office and a computer. They tend to stagger their meeting times and office hours to not overlap. This is actually a better set-up than other schools, but it’s a challenge for part-time instructors that I think students might not know about,” said Huber.
This makes it very difficult to meet with students outside of classes during office hours. Adjunct professors often share their offices with other professors, which makes it nearly impossible to meet with students in a quiet environment.
“I’ve had to meet students in the library,” Hohl said.
Two other problems adjunct professors face are the access to health insurance and governance of Fairfield. Currently, there are no health care benefits available to part-time faculty. However, this is one of the main focuses of the task force which has looked into the feasibility of providing some sort of benefits for such professors.
Also, the adjuncts are interested in representing both at the department level as well as in the governance of Fairfield. While this would be a nice benefit, it would denounce the view that part-time faculty are hired to teach their classes and nothing more.
However, regardless of the problems the adjunct professors face at Fairfield, they are offered better benefits here than at other schools. The average adjunct professor at Fairfield receives $4,100 per course. According to The Adjunct Project, the average pay for an adjunct professor at any other four year private nonprofit college is $3,000. The average pay for an adjunct from any other Connecticut college is $2,700.
The report concluded suggesting that the Academic Council appoint subcommittees to develop a long-term mission statement for the employment of part-time faculty and establish a general purpose for the Faculty Handbook Committee. The subcommittees will report back to the Academic Council at a meeting in March 2014 to see which new policies to pass.
On Tuesday, Oct. 29, there will be a panel titled “Imagining One Fairfield” in Barone Campus Center Room 200 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. as part of Campus Equity Week. This panel will focus on part-time instructors at Fairfield and students are invited to join. Its aim is to discuss the challenges facing part-time faculty and think about solutions to some of these problems.