Popular PWB course Wagging, Walking, and Wellness cancelled for Fall 2018

Becca Lewis, junior biology major, has taken the Wagging, Walking, and Wellness class. Photo courtesy of Vickie Cook.

MEGHAN STRATTON | STAFF REPORTER | mstratt@butler.edu

In fall 2018, there will be no wagging, no walking and no wellness, at least that is for Butler’s popular Physical Well Being course that takes students to the Humane Society of Indianapolis.

The service-focused course has been cancelled for the fall because there are no professors available to teach it, Mindy Welch, PWB scheduling coordinator for the College of Education, said.

Next semester, 16 out of 28 PWB courses will be taught by adjunct professors who specialize in the respective course matter. This semester, Wagging, Walking, and Wellness was taught by two associate professors. But for next fall, there are no adjunct nor tenured professors available.

This COE course has been offered every fall and spring since 2009. Additionally, this one-credit-hour course fulfills a student’s Indianapolis Community Requirement. However, the popular PWB course is scheduled to return for spring 2019.

Along with her duties as scheduling coordinator, Welch is also an associate professor in COE, and primarily teaches in the human movement and health science education major.

“It really boils down to resource capacity,” Welch said. “We want to provide the best possible course and instruction experience for our students. It really came down to that we didn’t have someone qualified to step in and teach the class.”

Azhar Dalal is one of 19 students who enrolled for the course before receiving an email stating the class was cancelled. Dalal is a junior biology student, whose non-traditional career path forced him to take a PWB and ICR in his senior year. Dalal also had priority enrollment for the fall.

“The timing of this email was horrible,” Dalal said. “I had plans to take other classes if I did not get into the PWB course, but due to the fact that the cancellation occurred after the enrollment period for most students, most classes had already filled.”

The three-sentence email told students to choose another PWB class. This was especially frustrating for upperclassmen who waited several semesters to take this specific course. Since it is such a popular course, registration fills up quickly. Additionally, Dalal now needs to take summer courses in order to fill his ICR requirement.

“I was also frustrated that the course cancelled by the administration is one that is full of seniors who all need to fulfill this requirement,” Dalal said. “I am not the only one in this situation, and the administration did not have a plan in place to accommodate the students who needed this requirement filled.”

The cancellation also left students confused and wanting more information. Caitlin Flowers, a junior digital media production major, wishes she had more information to accurately plan her schedule for her final semesters.

“When I first received the email, I was confused and upset,” Flowers said. “I’ve been waiting since freshman year to take this course, as it sounded interesting and fun. No explanation was given to us about why it was cancelled, and the tone of the email was harsh.”

Physical Well Being is one of six areas of inquiry that make up a Butler student’s core education. PWB courses are intended to increase awareness of health and wellness, and encourage students to develop life-long habits of good health and physical activity.

“The number is going to vary by semester,” Welch said, “but the College of Education does hire quite a few adjuncts. People’s roles and teaching assignments will tend to fluctuate each year. And I’m talking for the entire university, scheduling faculty teaching loads is a dynamic puzzle.”

The COE also employs many adjunct professors for classes other than PWBs. Additionally, adjunct professors play a large role at Butler University, specifically in the College of Communication and the Lacy School of Business. However, adjunct professors get paid significantly less than associate professors.

Daniel Comiskey is the deputy editor at Indianapolis Monthly and was previously employed as an adjunct professor in the College of Communication. He taught a self-designed course entitled “Magazine Making” for one semester. The course was designed to teach students how to both pitch and write magazine features.

“Teaching is a tremendous amount of work,” Comiskey said. “I created this course from scratch so it involved a lot of research in creating the material and the syllabus. However, creating and teaching lectures twice a week turned out to be way more work than the grading and other things you think of were.”

Comiskey’s magazine course only lasted for one semester because it was cutting into his other full-time jobs as a deputy editor and father. However, pay was also a significant factor in Comiskey’s departure from Butler.

“A big problem with a lot of small universities like Butler is that the pay is terrible,” Comiskey said. “It is simply not worth the amount of money that they can pay you, and that’s why it’s hard for universities to keep adjunct professors. Butler pays something around $2,000 for the entire semester.

Some adjunct professors, however, do not support themselves solely with teaching. Many adjunct professors teach at such a low salary because they have another job that pays the bills, or they have an immense passion for teaching young adults.

“I think this is a problem for universities because there are also very qualified professional people who would be great teachers, that would consider teaching as an adjunct if the pay was better,” Comiskey said. “As universities increasingly rely on adjuncts to teach courses, I think the smart universities are finding a way to pay those adjuncts a little better.”

The Lacy School of Business tries to limit using adjuncts to teach required courses in the curriculum, and usually employs adjunct professors in niche subjects, like real estate and alternative investments.

Bill Templeton has taught for 30 years as the Associate Dean for Undergraduate Programs for the Lacy School of Business. In addition to teaching finance, Templeton coordinates the recruitment and hiring process for adjunct professors.

“We try to limit our use of adjuncts and use them strategically as best we can,” Templeton said. “Now you’ll find adjuncts in classes with unusually high demand, like Business Ethics for example. However, for the most part, we try to use talented professional adjuncts in specialized courses where that expertise doesn’t necessarily exist in our faculty.”

In addition, the number of adjuncts fluctuates each year depending on class size. Other contributing factors include tenured professors on sabbatical, as well as retiring professors. Professor course loads have for the most part been decided for the fall of 2018.

Junior Hannah DeLozier is a health care and business major in the Lacy School of Business. DeLozier intended on taking the Wagging, Walking, and Wellness course to fulfill her ICR requirement.

“I still don’t think it’s hit me that they cancelled Wagging, Walking, and Wellness,” DeLozier said. “I feel that class has a legend among Butler students, and I was excited to reach the holy grail of Butler’s core requirements. I feel like this class would not take that much of a professor’s time, and I am extremely disappointed in Butler for taking this opportunity away from me.”

You can follow Meghan on Twitter @meghan_stratton.

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