I came across an article entitled Colleges Can Hire Adjunct Faculty Cheap — but Does that Harm Education? discussing whether hiring too many adjuncts hurts higher education. The author outlines some good cases and what others have stated about the process. The answer is "maybe" depending on how these adjuncts are connected to the university, their pay, and their accountability.
First, we need full-time professors to ensure that quality of the programs are high and there are core faculty that understand the inner workings and needs of the organization. It is true that many adjuncts won't necessarily understand how to make changes to curriculum or how to navigate the process for better educational outcomes. They may have no idea what the outcomes of their class are!
That doesn't mean they aren't doing their jobs but they are doing what is required from them based on their limited knowledge of the whole picture that can only be learned by being "in house". Thus full-time professors are extremely important to the functioning of adjunct faculty when they have the ability to oversee the work that is being conducted.
Pay is also important. Yes...cheap labor is great for universities. However, there is an issue of equity. People with PhD's spent many years in the educational field and incurred high costs in doing so. They want a return on that investment. If they are not able to earn equity through higher pay they may adjust their efforts to match the compensation they receive.
Being an educated person is as much about lifestyle as it is about compensation. They want to feel they are part of a community of thinkers and want their ideas validated through the university and the classes they teach. Creating a community helps them feel that connection and influence the environment in a way that ties them more closely to their work through personal ownership.
A few ways they can be connected to a community include:
- Direct contact with core faculty that can guide them and listen to them.
-Informed about university policies and changes.
- Given compensation and allocation for research they can use in their class.
-Inviting them to meet and socialize virtually and face-to-face.
-Providing gifts of appreciation and recognition.
-Letting them have more creative output in their courses.
- Soliciting their views and opinions through the senate process and during administrative changes.
-Providing feedback on how their classes are doing and developing them for greater responsibilities.
-Allowing them to do other types of work for compensation such as drafting proposals, book reviews, and outreach.
-Collaborate with other faculty to create new research.
Contract work has its inherent advantages and disadvantages built right into it. Its an issue because it is part of the inherent type of work related to being an adjunct and solutions are not easy to find. Most adjunct want to connect more and hear more from the university. There may be some that are just looking for whatever pay they can get and don't care about their students; but, I don't think this represents most. The one's I have met are very interested and have full-time jobs at other places. They continue to teach because they love it!