Vinson Pressly/ Contributing Writer
Students may have at one point or another taken a course that was taught by an adjunct professor. The practice of having adjunct professors teaching college courses is almost universal among colleges and universities but can become problematic if done excessively.
In 2010, FIU was in the process of being reaccredited, a process that occurs every ten years, when it was notified by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting body that the University was hiring too many part-time or adjunct professors.
According to Teresa Lucas, president of the FIU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, the union representing the University’s faculty, if the University does not address this issue, sanctions can be imposed on the University.
The notion that a university or college is hiring too many part-time professors cannot be attributed to only the University. According to Lucas, the excessive hiring of adjunct professors is a nationwide problem. She said schools are having to compensate for budget cuts by hiring more adjunct professors because it is cheaper than having a tenured full-time professor.
Adjunct professors do not receive the benefits or salary that a tenured professor would receive not to mention they are not protected by a union or a contract.
According to Lauren Christos, a library senator on the faculty senate and vice president of UFF-FIU, adjunct professors cannot be members of the union or be protected under the collective bargaining agreement, which is a contract between the Board of Trustees and the University’s full-time faculty that ensures the rights of the faculty are protected. The advantage of being tenured is job security, something an adjunct does not possess.
Although adjunct professors may not have as many advantages as a tenured-professor, there is a progression ladder: adjuncts are governed by a 4-4 contract, which means they will teach four courses in the fall and four courses in the spring semester, unless there is a special circumstance.
“The responsibility of an adjunct is teaching,” said Lucas.
After five years of service, an adjunct can become an instructor, which would yield a 10 percent increase in salary and after another five years of service, they can become a University Instructor which would yield another 10 percent raise.
Although there is a plan in place for advancement, until then, an adjunct may have to juggle several jobs in addition to their teaching duties to the University.
“Adjuncts have miserable salaries; they make about $2,500 to $3,000 per course,” said Lucas.
Despite the drawbacks of being an adjunct professor in comparison to being a tenured professor, the experience is not completely
Sarah Mason, who teaches English Composition 1101 and English Composition 1102 has been an adjunct in the past and said she enjoys the experience.
“Students are great and I appreciate that students want to be there [in my class] despite that it is a requirement,” said Mason.
She also believes that the faculty is supportive of the efforts of adjuncts and do not hesitate to offer help.
“I’ve never had a question go unanswered,” Mason said.
While Mason highlighted teaching motivated and enthusiastic students, Michael Young, a graduate student who is earning his masters in higher education administration discusses what it is like to be taught by full-time faculty.
“They can relate certain scenarios from the book to real life experiences [and] it can bring background knowledge,” said Young.
Young mentioned that most of his professors in his graduate program have doctorates or education specialist degrees along with years of experience in the field and teaching.
Christos also discussed the benefits of having full-time faculty educating college students: full-time faculty bring a “lifetime of teaching experience and research experience” to the classroom.
According to the FIU admissions website, the faculty to student ratio is 18:1. A full breakdown of the number of instructors, adjuncts and full-time faculty hired since the SACS recommendation were not available as of press time.