All about adjuncts

Tyler Springer |Staff Reporter

They teach only one or two classes per week, receive a lower salary than full-time professors and do not have to attend faculty meetings very often. These are Butler University’s adjuncts.

Butler currently employs about 65 adjuncts, according to data from Butler’s office of institutional research. Most of these adjuncts teach classes in the core curriculum.

The number of adjuncts varies yearly because their contracts only last one semester. If there is no longer a need for the adjuncts due to changing course demand, their contracts are not renewed.

The highest number of adjuncts teach physical well-being courses in the core curriculum.

Adjuncts taught 90 percent of PWB courses in fall 2011, according to data provided by Elizabeth Mix, faculty director of core curriculum.

On the other hand, Mix said more full-time faculty members are teaching first-year seminars than in previous years. In spring 2014, there were 19 adjuncts teaching FYS classes. Now, there are only five.

“We’re hiring fewer adjuncts everywhere except in PWB,” Mix said.

While PWB does have the most sections of any core course being taught by adjuncts, there has been a dip in the past few years. In the fall semester of 2010, 75 percent of PWB courses being taught by adjuncts. In the spring of 2013, that number went down to only 58 percent.

The only core course with an increase in number of sections taught by adjunct professors is analytical reasoning, with a 12 percent jump from 2010 to 2013.

Sally Perkins, an adjunct professor in the College of Communication, has been working at Butler since 2003, with only a couple of semesters off.

Before coming to Butler, Perkins worked as a full tenure professor in California. She said she decided to switch to being an adjunct at Butler so she could also pursue her other job as a professional storyteller.

“For me, it was time to make a transition,” Perkins said. “I have had all kinds of opportunities come my way because I’m not invested in the university life full-time.”

Perkins said she is aware of the consequences of being an adjunct.

“There is no job security and the pay is much lower,” Perkins said. “So it is definitely a trade-off.”

Adjunct professors do not always have stability, Deb Lecklider, associate professor of education, but she said it is usually their choice.

“Most of the people that we hire as adjuncts choose to work part-time here,” Lecklider said. “Many of them also have full-time jobs.”

Whether students enroll in a course taught by a full-time tenure professor or an adjunct, Lecklider said that students should not be able to tell a difference in ability between the two.

“We provide the adjuncts with the same type of opportunities we would with tenure track,” Lecklider said. “When you have a student paying the amount of money that they pay to come to Butler, they deserve these phenomenal educators.”

Freshman Emily Barton said while she does not see a significant difference between adjuncts and tenure professors, as an education major, she would prefer to be a tenured professor in the future.

“I feel like the job security would be a big thing that I would want,” said Barton. “It would be a good opportunity because they might (bring you back), but at the same time, it is just not that secure.”

For many colleges, hiring adjuncts may also be a way to cut costs.

“Every university hires some adjuncts because it is a cost-saving measure,” Mix said.

Perkins said she has taken note of the increase of adjunct positions across the country.

“Universities are using adjunct faculty more and more because of cost issues,” Perkins said.

Lecklider disagreed, and said money does not play a role in Butler’s adjunct hiring.

“It has nothing to do with Butler wanting to save money. That is ridiculous,” Lecklider said. “We are about quality. That is why people come to Butler.”

In the future, Lecklider said adjunct hiring will continue to depend on tenure professor’s course load and course demand.

Perkins said she is not concerned about job security and looks forward to pursuing her passions for both teaching and storytelling.

“I don’t get nervous about it,” she said. “I feel confident that I have done my job well, so that if they have a need (for an adjunct), I feel that I am more likely to be asked back.”