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Adjunct Professors: The Growing Debate

A growing trend within the world of academia is the additional use of and dependence on adjunct professors. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an adjunct professor as “a teacher ranking next below a professor.” Adjunct professors are college professors who are hired to teach specific courses for a designated length of time. According to Collegefactual.com, colleges and universities across the United States employ full-time professors fifty-one percent of the time, and Eastern University has a teaching faculty comprised of thirty percent full-time professors and seventy percent adjunct or part-time professors.

One of Eastern University’s mission statements asserts, “We maintain a high priority on excellence in teaching within the context of exemplary scholarship and research.” However, PBS states the average yearly income for adjunct professors is $25,000, which does not include health benefits or job security. Due to the low salary and lack of health benefits, adjunct professors are often required to work multiple jobs in order to make a decent income and provide themselves with health benefits. The need to juggle multiple jobs can cause the professors to stretch themselves thin, which means students are not always receiving the attention they are paying for, nor the attention they need to find academic success. Adjunct professors are typically provided a temporary office space for the days they spend teaching on campus. The office provided usually lacks the phone, computer, and office storage full-time professors are provided. So, students having courses with adjunct professors are cheated of ample office hours to ask questions. Hence, it is difficult to comprehend how a school with a staff consisting of mostly adjunct or part-time professors is able to provide students with excellent teaching.

While many note the difficulties of being an adjunct, some see advantages. Adjunct professors receive benefits that full-time professors do not. Most adjunct professors teach at multiple universities, which allows them to connect with an additional range of students. Being an adjunct professor can sometimes allow them to have a bit more flexibility in their schedule than a typical professor has. Finally, an adjunct professor is able to pursue other career opportunities, while being able to still pursue teaching. Several college professors work on publishing books or starting additional businesses, which can be difficult while teaching full-time.

Adjunct professors at Eastern University experience the positive and the negative aspects of the job. The school has a large amount of adjunct and part-time professors, but a small sample has agreed to share their feelings on the highly debated position. Professor Brienne Menut and Dr. Christopher McGrath are Eastern University adjunct instructors, who have each had an unique experience with some similarities.

To begin, Menut is an Eastern University alum; she teaches at three other colleges, and spends ample time driving to different campuses. Menut compared being an adjunct professor to being a “freelance educator.” She is able to create her own schedule and connect with multiple sets of students. New information and trends gathered from the various campuses where she teaches provide Menut with new ideas and concepts to share with other classes. While Menut appreciates the positive aspects of being an adjunct professor, she hopes to eventually become a full-time professor, which would provide her with the health benefits and office space she is currently lacking. She notes that Eastern University provides her with the lowest income, which, as she states, “seems odd, considering Eastern’s striving for faith, reason, and, particularly, justice. “

Unlike Menut, another Eastern Univesity professor, who remains anonymous, teaches at one other school and has a full-time job outside of teaching. They stated, “[I] had to get a full time job outside education, and get an additional teaching position to make ends meet [and provide myself with benefits].” Furthermore, when asked if they felt adjunct instructors receive the same opportunity and respect as full time professors, they responded, “No, not at all. There is no way anyone can convince me that adjunct professors get the same respect, opportunities, etc. as full time professors.”

Dr. Christopher McGrath is an adjunct professor at Eastern University, who teaches at four other universities part-time and one other university full-time. Dr. McGrath says, “ I started off part time to build my experience to get a full-time job.” However, Dr. McGrath enjoys teaching so much that he continues to teach at multiple schools and levels. There are very few complaints from Dr. McGrath about his role as an adjunct professor other than his time spent traveling and the requirements of learning multiple school policies. These professors share a similar experience, while each having a distinctive perspective.

The debate of adjunct teachers is growing in the academic world and with the professors themselves. Certainly, this trend is growing at all institutions, but the effects may be going beyond the professors and to the students. It seems that as education is becoming more costly, the choices of institutions keep diminishing the importance of full-time professors.

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