Colleges across the United States have been hiring adjunct faculty members at an increasingly higher rate, according to Inside Higher Ed’s Jan. 2017 report. Geneseo has been hiring adjunct professors on a temporary basis due to an insufficient amount of funds to employ more full-time faculty.
One hundred and ten part time instructional faculty members worked at Geneseo for the fall of 2016 out of a total of 361 instructional faculty members, according to Geneseo’s Common Data Set for Instructional Faculty and Class Size. Additionally, full-time faculty members teach 80 to 85 percent of the courses at Geneseo, according to Interim Associate Provost for Personnel and Diversity Kenneth Kallio. While Kallio acknowledged that hiring full-time faculty is more preferable than hiring numerous adjuncts, he also said that is not a plausible reality.
“Sometimes we don’t have enough full-time faculty or we don’t have the funding to support a full-time faculty member,” Kallio said. “There is a whole range of reasons we need to hire adjunct professors.”
Geneseo will also employ adjunct professors because some of these individuals have very specific fields of expertise that are required for certain courses, and at the same time a full-time faculty member may go on sabbatical or a full-time faculty member may retire completely, according to Kallio.
While there may be different rationales for colleges to hire adjunct professors, the main reason that sticks out to Associate Professor in the Ella Cline Shear Brian Morgan, is the cost.
“You wonder if the [college administration] could look in other areas that could possibly be trimmed, rather than cut back on full-time faculty,” Morgan said. “I don’t think adjuncts are worse teachers or instructors, so it’s not an issue of quality.”
Morgan asserted that the reason there are so many adjunct professors is because the job market is weak, so people are taking what they can get.
Adjunct Lecturer in English, Languages and Literatures, Faculty Fellow for International Programs and President of the Geneseo Chapter of United University Professions union Wes Kennison stated that UUP is currently negotiating with New York State over the next contract. While Kennison could not discuss the specifics of these negotiations, he did point to adjunct salary and job security as points the union may look to improve.
“Every time we negotiate the UUP contract, we want to address issues with adjunct salary and job security,” Kennison said. “These are two issues you have to look at together.”
While UUP may be able to negotiate a more favorable salary and better job security for adjuncts, the state may decide not to fund the contract, as Geneseo and other SUNY schools have been given less and less funding over the years from the state government, according to Kennison.
Funding is both the issue that often forces Geneseo to hire more adjuncts as well as what creates lower salaries and job security, Kennison said.
“The single biggest challenge that we face here at the university is workload,” Kennison said. “We have been asked to do less with more since Governor Pataki’s administration.”
The compensation adjuncts get for their work is not what it should be, according to Kennison.
“One of the arguments that I have made over the years is that when Geneseo—or any university—stakes a claim that they value teaching, one of the opportunities that you have to actually put a dollar value on is the hiring of adjuncts because all they do is teach,” Kennison said. “If you take an adjunct’s salary and you divide it by all the things you would like to see a skilled and engaged teacher do, you’d scratch your head a little bit.”u