Hard-working adjuncts deserve better

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Cartoon by Blake Tomczak

Cartoon by Blake Tomczak

He should not have had to, but political science instructor Rusty Nichols began his first class with an apology. He promised that he would make time for his students and that he is dedicated to their success. He promised that if students want to meet, they can try to schedule something with him and they can talk in the cafeteria or at Jason’s Coffee Cart. Because he is an adjunct, Nichols has no office hours and no office.
Meeting up with a professor in a coffee shop to discuss the intricacies of government may sound fondly scholastic, but the reality is that the nearly 800 SWC adjuncts who work hard to ensure the success of their students have no corner of campus they can call their own.
There has been a reluctance to hire adjunct employees as full-time faculty, despite years of vocalized objections. Adjunct hiring was addressed at a forum during the accreditation visit last fall. It has been the subject of numerous on-campus rallies and remains the unfunniest joke among college professors who find gallows humor the best way to cope with distasteful circumstances.
Students need to speak up.
Full-time students need full-time faculty. Students are here at all hours of the day and have schedules that are odd and varied. Reliable office hours and a quiet place where they can sit and talk with their instructors – their guides and mentors – can be the difference between graduating on time and tacking on a few extra semesters with shaky GPAs.
A job worth doing is worth doing well. Education must not be served to students half-baked. Give professors a home on campus so they can answer our questions or provide guidance that many students cannot find outside this college.
Students want the people who help them build their futures to be treated well. Students today are paying more money for their education than any previous generation. They expect nothing less than excellence, given the student loans they will be chaining themselves to for the next several decades.
This predilection for hiring adjuncts is not conducive to cultivating an ideal education. Forbes found that nearly 70 percent of U.S. collegiate instructors are adjuncts or non-tenure track. Their analysis of this figure is disparaging. Low wages and lack of job security may deter the brightest minds from taking adjunct positions, depriving future generations of their knowledge and expertise. Forbes found that more than half of the nation’s adjuncts make less than $35,000 a year and many of those take second jobs to help cover their bills, dividing their attention and making them less accessible to their students. More than 50 percent of SWC classes are taught by adjuncts and SWC’s minimal compensation for the time they spend with students outside of class covers usually no more than two hours per a semester.
No one who carries out the noble calling of educating the world’s hungry minds should have to live in fear of a pink slip or scavenge by on low wages.
SWC is not the only college discussing the treatment of adjuncts. A nation-wide discussion has emerged with many claiming that adjuncts’ opinions and concerns are not given credence, a complaint which many of SWC’s own beloved adjunct instructors would echo.
This is a bigger issue than filling time slots. Yes, financial considerations are involved. Administration may be doing the best they can.
It is time both educators and students were given the resources they need to succeed.
It is time we graduate our adjuncts.

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  • natbee

    It’s a nationwide trend that gets worse every year. Administration-heavy colleges and universities run on the backs of low-wage adjuncts. Students are suffering as a result. We should join forces and walk out together if administrations nationwide don’t do something to mitigate this race to the bottom.