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Hiring rates for adjunct professors increase rapidly

May 2, 2008

Full-time and part-time instructional academic staff positions have increased nationwide to account for 65 percent of faculty positions. The number of Instructional Academic Staff (IAS) employed by UWRF has increased from 20 to 154 in the last “10 to 15” years according to the UWRF Academic Staff Council.

IAS, or adjunct professors, are non-tenured track professors who may teach anywhere from one class to a full teaching workload. Studies conducted over the past few years prove the growing sentiment among administrators and faculty that adjunct professor hires are increasing rapidly.

“Oh yes,” psychology professor Travis Tubre said. “It’s a trend not just here but nationwide.”

The increasing number of IAS is a complex issue stemming from the need to accommodate for the increasing enrollment across college campuses nationwide. As the percent of IAS has grown nationwide to 65 percent, 14 percent of full-time tenured track positions disappeared during that same time, according to a University of Michigan study.

“The number one reason is that full-time staff lines are stagnant and the number of students is growing,” Associate Dean of CAS Brad Caskey said. “That’s the only reason, really.”

The hiring of IAS allows administration to meet the growing demand for professors by potentially hiring part time professors with specialized expertise at a lower price.

“It’s a wonderful dynamic duo if it works right,” Chancellor Don Betz said. “It’s a nice balance but it can become an imbalance. You hire more people part-time because it costs you less money.”

But while administration is able to meet the growing demand for professors by hiring part time for less money, departmental faculty bear the burden of advising more students. IAS do not advise students and are not allowed to sit on department committees.

“Professors would like to have more tenured colleagues,” Tubre said. “It’s tricky for IAS—they don’t have the protection tenured professors do. It undermines the value of being a professor.”

Tenured professors have the security to tackle issues IAS may not ,because they cannot be fired over a complaint. Tubre said he had heard a story about an IAS at a different university being fired after a student complained about a comment that professor had made during a sex education class.

The bottom line issue deals with the desired number of IAS a campus should have, their role in specific departments and the benefits adjunct professors should receive from the university.

“I was shocked when I heard that universities should try to have less than 60 percent of its faculty be IAS,” Caskey said. “In my opinion a good figure would be somewhere between 10-20 percent.”

Betz sees the issue of adjunct professors in a different light.

“It’s not a yes or no, right or wrong type issue,” Betz said. “The real issue is how has higher education responded to financial issues; how do we continue to enrich the mix for learning.”