Adjuncting in Higher Education: Challenges and Recommendations

Adjuncting in Higher Education: Challenges and Recommendations

Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1049-9.ch053
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How leaders and management culture in higher education thinks about particular events as normal, and expected does not always fit with the experiences of college instructors, particularly the overworked, underpaid exploited contingent instructors teaching in higher education. Whenever people with money have power over people with less money, you have the potential for exploitation. As adult educators and administrators in this context, might there be better ways we can improve or change the way we treat our contingent teaching faculty by developing a better understanding of the issues facing nontenure track, adjunct, or part-time faculty? What is the strategic role of alternative approaches toward the treatment for these instructors? In this chapter, the authors discuss the need to use alternative frameworks as administrators make decisions to cut costs while maintaining education programs. This chapter discusses the motivation behind their exploitation, effect on student success, court cases, and realities for adjuncts, will be explored in this chapter as well as recommendations.
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Not only are high student debt, student loan default, excessive executive salaries and high remedial rates causing a crisis in higher education; the massive faculty layoffs and the widespread incorporation of hiring part-time faculty are causing additional fractures that are reshaping the infrastructure of higher education (Fulton, 2000; Nutting, 2003). If there is one word to describe the hiring trends of the 21st century workforce it is the word, adjunct.

The term adjunct is Latin for accessory. It refers to the teachers and instructors whose compensation and/or benefits, even at a prorated proportion do not equal those of full-time contractual or tenure-track faculty. Temporary, part-timers, contingent workers, or adjuncts are the words to describe trends in today’s workforce. This is a growing movement, from retail to banking, to K-12, to higher education hiring practices. Employers across the nation are exploiting temporary workers in order to avoid paying health benefits, cost of living and mandatory pay raises, and other benefits (Cashwell, 2009; Underwood, 2003).

This chapter explores some of the key issues regarding the growing use and exploitation of adjuncts by institutions of higher education and the challenges adjuncts face. The motivation behind their exploitation, effect on student success, court cases, and realities for adjuncts; what can strategic leadership and management do to stop this unjust practice will be explored in this chapter as well.

Exploitation of Adjuncts: A Human Rights Issue

Part-time faculties who work in higher education have recently received considerable attention by the courts and the media. Due to lack of fair salary pay, compensation and benefits, lack of unionization, and poor general working conditions, adjuncts are finding it difficult to make a living wage (Berry, 2005; Fulton, 2000; Underwood, 2003). Many community colleges and universities know this, but because it is a cost savings to their budgets they employ more adjuncts (part-time contingent faculty) than full time faculty. This hiring practice has crossed over to become a key 21st century civic rights violation, which is ironic because while institutions of higher education charge the faculty to impart civic engagement and democratic ethos to students, their administrations deny adjuncts the ability to be fully engaged and active participants in the campus community (AACU, 2014) while at the same time adjuncts are denied benefits and a decent living wage (Chronicle of Higher Education 2014; Institute for Policy Studies, 2014).

Having a high ratio of adjuncts affects student success. Research shows there are correlations between decreases in student persistence, coupled with negative student outcomes with the increase of exposure to part-time faculty (Eagan & Jaeger, 2009; Maynard & Joseph, 2008; Smith, 2010). Universities and colleges especially use contingent faculty in lower-level and introductory courses, a role less valued than upper course levels or engaging in research (Kezar & Sam, 2010b; Gappa & Leslie, 1993). College administration need to employ more inclusive techniques, it is questionable whether authentic learning can take place in an environment that does not foster inclusion, justice, and collaboratively oriented action (AACU, 2014; Nutting 2003; Smith 2010). Adjuncts respond positively to being cared for by being paid a living wage, consequently this positivity will in turn trickle down and be grasped by the students.

No one in higher education can doubt that issues surrounding the over-use of adjunct faculties at American colleges and universities have entered the social injustice language. The exploitation of adjuncts is becoming a human rights and social justice issue (Underwood, 2003). In addition, it is a violation of the Code of Ethics, as noted by the Board of Directors for American Association of Community Colleges-AACC.

According to the Code, the college or university chief executive officer and other members of the campus organization should strive to promote the following core values as noted from the AACC—both internally and externally:

  • 1.

    Trust and respect for all individuals.

  • 2.

    Honesty in all actions.

  • 3.

    Just and fair treatment of all people.

  • 4.

    Integrity in all actions (AACC, 2012).

Clearly, knowingly exploiting adjunct instructors is a violation of this Code.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Human Rights: Human rights in the workplace refer to a work environment that is free from victimization. This can include intimidation, bullying by coworkers, being denied a promotion, being moved to a position to lower responsibility, being refused further contract work or dismissal from employment (, 2016).

Social Injustice: The quality or fact of being unjust; inequity regarding fair play especially in social and economic treatment of workers. A situation in which the rights of a person or a group of people are ignored ( 2016).

Contingent Workers: Part-time instructors, or adjunct instructors in higher education that are often seen as “temporary” workers, but who would like to be full-time instructors ( Cashwell, 2009 ; Underwood, 2003 ).

Adjunct Exploitation: The word, Adjunct is Latin for accessory. It refers to the teachers and instructors whether in secondary or postsecondary education, whose compensation and/or benefits, even at a prorated proportion do not equal those of full-time contractual or tenure-track faculty ( Underwood, 2003 ).

Tenure Track: A career appointment for a college or university professor leading to stable employment that lasts until retirement, except for dismissal for just cause ( 2016).

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