The American Association of University Professors and Dr. Troy Smith recently hosted Ellen Boesenberg to speak on the subject of adjunct professors and the struggles of the profession. Boesenberg also spoke at the Tennessee State AAUP Convention on Thursday.
Adjunct professors are professors who are brought on part-time by universities to teach courses that cannot be filled by tenured professors. These classes are generally general education courses and composition classes. Adjuncts are not hired, but are instead contracted a semester at a time. They are not involved with administrative issues at all, and are typically forbidden from attending faculty meetings. There is no standard pay for adjuncts; their pay is on a university to university basis.
“Administrators are being told more and more, ‘You have to do more with less.’ Adjuncting is a way to cut costs,” Boesenberg said.
Boesenberg went on to say that adjunct professors often end up stuck in that position with no recourse for becoming tenured professors.
Mark Stephens is the senior associate provost in the Department of Academic Affairs.
“Adjuncts serve an extremely important purpose on campus,” Stephens said. “They keep our sections from being 200 – 300 students. They allow us to grow our students while managing class sizes. They are looked at as one way to deal with budgetary constraints.”
Stephens also said that adjunct professors’ salaries are set by the Tennessee Board of Regents. The Department of Academic Affairs has supported proposals to raise adjunct pay, but community colleges have not been open to those ideas.
Dr. Troy Smith is the Head of Tech’s AAUP Chapter.
“Tenure exists to preserve academic freedom,” Smith said. “It gives professors the ability to teach at the best of their ability regardless of whatever politics is going on at the time. It doesn’t mean you can’t be fired or lose your job.”
The AAUP’s primary concern is that it can be very difficult for adjunct professors to teach enough classes to even reach minimum wage. Adjuncts also make it difficult for regularly hired professors to achieve tenure.
“When I finished my research, I came away with the idea that students, professors, adjuncts, college workers; we all have things in common and issues that affect all of us,” Boesenberg said.