Universities across the country continue to rely on adjunct or part-time professors.
TCU is no exception.
As of last year, TCU employed 544 full-time professors and 233 adjunct professors.
A policy statement by the American Association of University Professors said reliance on adjuncts weakens the academic system.
The AAUP statement also mentioned excess hiring of adjunct professors damages student learning because students taught by adjuncts do not have as much access to the professor outside of class.
An over-use of adjuncts discourages academic freedom because adjuncts are not protected by tenure, according to the statement.
The TCU English Department employs five to 10 adjunct professors, depending on the semester.
Many adjunct professors in the English department are graduate students working on their Ph.D., and they’re teaching English sections added because of additional student demand, said Dr. Karen Steele, chair of the department.
“Our aim in hiring adjuncts is to ensure that our department offers a sufficient number of lower division courses,” Steele said. “Especially in the first-year and second-year [composition courses].”
The department is responsible for three core courses every TCU student must take to graduate, two undergraduate majors, three minors and two Ph.D. programs, Steele said.
Steele added factors such as a larger freshman class and a higher number of faculty on medical or research leave contribute to the need for adjunct professors.
“We simply do not have enough faculty to teach the number of courses necessary every semester,” Steele said.
The English department isn’t the only one at TCU heavy on adjunct professors, either. TCU’s graphic design program has eight full-time faculty members and employs six adjuncts.
Lewis Glaser, coordinator of graphic design, said for professional, business-oriented degree tracks like graphic design, having adjunct professors in the department enhances the quality of the educational product.
Although face-to-face contact is limited with adjunct professors, Glaser said these professors prepare the students to go straight into a working, business environment.
“Adjunct professors bring in the perspective of successful business people who are practicing creative problem-solving for a living,” Glaser said.
Senior nursing major Caroline Hill said her adjunct clinical instructor inspired her to become a better nurse.
“She was so helpful and easy to learn from,” Hill said. “She was young, worked at the hospital where we had clinical and was working on getting her master’s [degree].”
“I felt like she really understood where we were in our education, making it easier for us to ask her for help.”
Steele said the downside to hiring adjuncts is they are paid by the class, which can sometimes mean adjuncts must teach at multiple institutions to make a living wage.
“It’s not surprising that some adjuncts must teach many sections to make a living,” Steele said. “So they are forced to dedicate far less time than they would wish to their prepping, grading and innovations as instructors.”
Glaser supported the work-ethic of the adjunct professors in her program.
“The adjuncts we have in our program are hard-working and dedicated,” Glaser said. “They do not do it for the money. They teach for us because they recognize the quality of our program, and enjoy working with talented and enthusiastic students.”
Senior nursing major Wendy Weathers had a negative experience with an adjunct professor. Weathers said her adjunct clinical instructor made her feel uncomfortable in class and the workplace.
“It was hard to learn from her,” Weathers said. “She worked at the hospital where we had clinical and walked around like she owned the place – almost like she was trying to impress us and her co-workers.”
Weathers also said it was difficult contacting her adjunct professor after clinical and school hours. She said she had to email her multiple times to get a response.
Steele said adjuncts were valuable to the university because “in this new academic climate that offers relatively fewer tenure-track or full time academic positions, [adjuncts] are teaching more students for far, far less compensation.”