Issue 4, Autumn 2007


Adjuncts: Let's Have More of Them!
by Joe Reese


I’ve been reading a good deal in The Chronicle of Higher Education about the problem of part-time professors. Many people seem to feel that there are too many part timers. The full-time faculty are retiring and are being replaced by adjuncts that get paid poorly without benefits and who have neither office space nor time for students. And the problem grows as the number of courses taught by these part timers continues to rise.

College administrators, on the other hand, defend the use of adjunct faculty. I’ve taught at several different community colleges over the past few years, and I’ve had various administrators tell me I’m part of a very good thing. Most colleges host an annual luncheon for all of us part timers, and we’re told publicly how much we’re appreciated. We’re an essential part of the institution, helping it to fulfill its mission. We’re dedicated; we have fresh ideas; we bring new insights to students; and because of our selfless devotion to teaching and willingness to work for low wages, we help make higher education affordable.

I’m very moved when they talk to us this way, and I agree with them wholeheartedly. I think having so many adjunct faculty is such a great idea that we should take it one step further: let’s develop a system of part-time administrators. I mean, if it works for English teachers, why shouldn’t it work for deans, deanlettes, various academic VP’s, comptrollers -- even college presidents.

Let’s imagine how it might work at Hillsburgdale Valley College (it must exist somewhere). Rather than one president, who makes more than $100,000 annually, the college will now have three part-time presidents. Each will make $10,000, or about five times what the part-time faculty make, which seems about the proper ratio, given that the presidents never actually teach anything. President #1 will breakfast with the Rotary Club and give a speech about the goals of higher education in today’s technically oriented society. Then she’ll meet with the booster committee to discuss the new stadium.

After that, she’s done for the day -- at least here. If she wants to be a part-time president at another institution where she can make another $10,000, she’s free to do that. But she can only work afternoons and evenings because Hillsburgdale Valley has her for the morning.

President #2 arrives at lunch and eats with the Planning and Development Committee. Since I’m just a teacher, I don’t know what a Planning and Development Committee is, but all colleges have one, and they always meet over lunch. Between 2 and 3 in the afternoon the president has “Open-Door Time,” when, because he’s genuinely concerned with students and how they’re doing, he sits and listens to individual students, thereby keeping his finger on the pulse of the campus. Then he’s gone. The evening president does dinner with some potential donors and then goes to hear the college symphony.

What have we spent here? Thirty thousand dollars plus food, but we save a lot of building space since none of the presidents has an actual office. But the main thing is that we get new ideas, fresh blood, genuine dedication -- and, since there is now a lot more money in the budget, the trustees can give a banquet once a year for the part-time presidents and tell these people over baked chicken and green beans just how much they are appreciated.

I think it’s a truly great idea. There will be doubters, of course. Some will insist that college presidents have major responsibilities involving crucial decisions that change a great many people’s lives. I used to think that could be said of college professors, but we live and learn.


The above article first appeared in The Teaching Professor newsletter.