Throughout the week, posters hung on the walls of Lo Schiavo read “We Love Adjuncts!” and “Come talk to us!” Members of the USF Faculty Association – Part Time stood in front of the signs, asking people who passed by to spin a wheel and answer questions about what adjunct faculty do at USF.
Adjuncts teach a limited number of classes per semester and are not required to do research or service for the university. Rick Roberts, an adjunct professor in the performing arts and social justice and rhetoric departments, said, “Often, students are not aware which professors are adjuncts and which are full-time,” but differences between the two positions do exist. This June, adjunct faculty will negotiate the terms in their contracts for their next years with USF, a negotiation that happens every few years. Contract terms up for negotiation include: pay, benefits, units taught per semester, conditions and the environment that they teach in.
Associate rhetoric Professor David Holler recalled the difficulty in being an adjunct professor. “It’s possible to work up to being an associate and get on tenure track, but adjuncts are often working between two universities, which I did as an adjunct,” he said, “It’s a lengthy process to go from adjunct to associate to full-time.”
One difference from some universities is that faculty, both adjunct and full-time, at USF are unionized. The president of the part-time faculty, media studies professor John Higgins, said, “USF treats part-time faculty better than most of the places I’ve seen. But the national trend, and the way it still works here, is that there is an assumption that there is a full-time job [to support them] as well.” Ruck and Higgins are both supported by spouses who have full-time jobs.
Natacha Ruck, a professor in media studies, said, “I’m able to be an adjunct because my husband works full-time and I have private clients outside of teaching.” Higgins’ wife, Mary Jane Niles, is a tenured member of USF’s biology department. For this reason, Higgins is involved in both full-time and part-time faculty events and feels that he is able to see the differences between the two positions. In particular, Higgins noted that the concerns of full-time faculty are around when they can take sabbaticals and what kinds of research they can do – issues that are far removed from those of adjuncts. “The more people have, the more they feel entitled to,” he said.
Rick Roberts has been teaching as an adjunct professor at USF since 1993. Roberts took this semester off to recover his health, but still has a stake in the contract negotiations because he will be teaching a public speaking course over the summer. Roberts said he prefers being an adjunct. “I get to focus on just teaching and students as an adjunct, which I really appreciate,” he said.
The focus on teaching is a sentiment shared by Ruck. She came from Stanford University to teach at USF and said, “I wanted to teach more and at Stanford, I was an academic professional. I felt my contributions were not valued.”
Both Ruck and Roberts noted the difficulties in being an adjunct professor. Roberts said, “Adjuncts are always working to have a greater presence and be included in decision making, since we make up a majority of the faculty.”
Featured Photo: Adjunct professors working in the adjunct lounge in Malloy. Their union is renegotiating contracts soon. HURSH KARKHANIS/FOGHORN