Campus News Editor
When looking at colleges, most of us take many of the same things into consideration.
The food, campus beauty, athletics, class size, curriculum, class structure and even professor availability all play a crucial role in our final college decision.
With just over 3,000 undergraduate and graduate students on campus, Springfield College is known for its intimate and personal setting.
Unlike many larger colleges, professors here are more open and welcoming to talk to students, not only because they can remember their names, but because they want to help students grow, learn and be prepared for the future.
“I love the students so much,” said Meeghan Ziolkowski, a Springfield College adjunct professor. “It feels human here. It’s not like I am a faceless professor in a lecture. I really do feel that I can have honest and meaningful conversations [with students].”
Professors, much like their students, are buried in work throughout the school year. From grading papers to planning class schedules, being an educator is no easy feat.
Even with all the work that goes into a semester’s worth of classes, many professors face a tougher, more daunting battle, which seemingly goes unnoticed by students.
“[Adjunct professors] are used to just fill the gaps,” said Dan Goldstein, who has been an adjunct professor at Springfield College since 2006. “[Adjuncts] slowly became a feature of higher education and something institutions relied on because they don’t have to pay [adjuncts] benefits and they can let [adjuncts] go any time they want.”
Originally, adjunct professors were specialized instructors who would come and teach specific courses at various institutions or to step in for a professor on medical leave.
“We use adjuncts at all of our campuses,” stated Dr. Jean Wyld, the vice president of Academic Affairs. “They are an important part to each department.”
Now, adjunct professors make up about half of the college workforce throughout the country. Typically teaching three courses a semester, one less than a full-time position, adjunct professors often carry almost the same workload as full-time employees.
Many adjunct professors have the same credentials and teaching experience of full-time, tenure- and program-track faculty, and yet they are compensated at a much lower rate of pay. At times this is an inescapable reality, as colleges and universities need to be able to hire adjuncts to fill short-term teaching needs.
The real issue is when there has been sufficient demand for an adjunct to cover particular courses for years. At that point, is it ethical to continue describing (and paying) those positions as “adjunct” ones?
Not sure whether their institution will bring them back for another semester, adjunct professors also generally work at two to three other colleges throughout the year on a semester-by-semester basis, with no guarantee of returning.
In comparison, a full-time professor’s schedule is almost always set out year after year, while adjunct professors never know what classes they will be teaching the next semester – if they even get asked back at all.
“It’s a little unnerving not knowing if you will be employed or not,” said Goldstein. “It’s really at the will of the institution. If they don’t need you or want you anymore, there isn’t anything to prevent them not renewing the contract.”
Perhaps one of the biggest obstacles for adjunct professors is their availability for students. With other jobs during the week, many adjuncts spend very little time on campus, thus limiting their time to help and connect with students.
“It just puts us in an awkward position,” said Ziolkowski. “Of course I want to read essays, write letters of recommendation or talk about grad schools, but sometimes it is really difficult because I have limited time.”
With fewer minutes on campus, adjunct professors, like most part-time employees, feel secluded and left out at times, almost as if they aren’t as important to the college as full-time professors are.
“Most of the [adjunct professors] have other jobs, and scheduling to incorporate them into department events is key,” commented Wyld. “A lot of departments try to do that because these are good teachers; if they weren’t then we wouldn’t bring them in here.”
The adjunct professor dilemma is not just a Springfield College issue. Many adjuncts around the country feel that their stories need to be heard and changed.
This does not mean it should be ignored. Springfield College is an institution that prides itself on training students to be leaders in service to humanity. Being a leader in the adjunct dilemma is one more way that the college can lead its students by example.