Editorial What We Should — and Shouldn’t — Do to Fix the Adjunct Issue
Adjuncts have a place in the modern American university.
Professional adjuncts have offered members of this editorial board valuable opportunities to get an inside view to their desired profession. On the academic side of things, it makes sense to use adjuncts to teach classes the University isn’t positive it’s going to be offering year in and year out and to fill extra sections if enrollment exceeds expectations.
But employing three adjuncts for every two full-time faculty does not make sense.
The only motivation for filling the ranks with adjuncts to the degree that Youngstown State University and other higher education institutions have is because they are under pressure to get budgets down from both the state and student. Adjuncts provide a cheap source of labor that can be exploited.
The problem is that it diminishes the quality of the education students receive. Not because adjuncts are bad at their jobs, everyone we spoke to for these stories was adamant that they do great work and provide a wonderful educational experience. It’s because you end up with people that are overworked and underpaid. They have to rely on other jobs to feed, clothe and shelter themselves, so they can’t provide the same access and opportunities to students that other full-time faculty do.
If teaching is their sole source of income, now they have to travel to two or three campuses to make a decent living because of restrictions The Office of Human Resources imposed on workload hours to avoid having to provide adjuncts with health care.
This wears on people. It’s impossible to consistently bring your A-game under these conditions.
We are not suggesting that all adjuncts should receive full-time tenure-track positions. The University has a responsibility to hire the best applicants. If they happen to be adjuncts, that’s great. But often they aren’t, and we shouldn’t prioritize rewarding adjuncts for loyalty by denying students the ability to learn from truly exceptional professors.
What we need to do is pay them for the work they do, so that they don’t have traverse the entire state of Ohio in order to put food on the table. College students are notorious for surviving on ramen, but when college professors are subsisting on nothing but Cup-o-Noodles, that’s a problem.
In some places, it makes a ton of sense to offer more full-time instructor positions. We have something more than 100 sections of English composition classes, and we’re always going to have more than 100 sections of English composition classes. Offer the people who would like to teach those classes full time the opportunity to do so, they’ll do a better job than the ad-hoc committee of overworked adjuncts to provide students with vital communication skills.
What’s clear is that the current approach is hurting many of the people the University relies on to deliver a quality education, which in turn hurts students, which in turn damages the credibility of the University when those students enter the workforce with skills that are lacking.
We can’t offer everyone tenure-track positions, but we can do more to support the people who deliver the University’s educational product.
The editorial board that writes editorials consists of the editor-in-chief, the managing editor, the copy editor, and the news editor. These opinion pieces are written separately from news articles. They draw on the opinions of the entire writing staff and do not reflect the opinions of any individual staff member. The Jambar’s business manager and non-writing staff do not contribute to editorials, and the advisor does not have final approval.