Does JCU Value Adjunct Professors?

Issue 3: Reduction of Classes

Olivia Shackleton, Editor-in-Chief

Editor’s note: During the Fall 2018 semester, The Carroll News was alerted that adjunct professors wanted a public voice to address grievances they have with the University. There will be a weekly installment in the Campus section of The Carroll News that will focus on issues facing adjunct professors at JCU. This week’s installment discusses the topic of adjunct professors having fewer classes to teach. 

One major issue that John Carroll adjunct professors face is the reduction of classes they are able to teach. This problem arises for many reasons, such as a change to the core curriculum or full-time professors needing to fill their contracted hours.

“They need fewer professors, because the new core needs fewer hours [of philosophy courses],” said Neil Slobin, an adjunct professor in the philosophy department.

“The adjuncts were teaching the lower level classes, and the tenured professors were teaching the high levels. And so what is happening is as the [credit hour requirements] go down, and fewer people need philosophy courses, the lower level part-timers’ classes were filling up and the specialized areas taught by the full-timers were barely making registration numbers,” he continued. “So what they did, in an attempted solution to that, was to hide the more general classes, which are taught by the part-timers.” Due to a variety of factors, upper level classes are not getting filled forcing full-time, contracted employees to teach classes that previously had been taught by part-time faculty.

Slobin explained how the department opened higher level courses, such as 300 and 400 level courses, to be filled first by students registering prior to showing lower level classes. “The 200 levels were hidden, so those only opened once the 300 and 400 levels were full,” stated Slobin.

Students remarked that hiding lower level core classes affect them. “I didn’t know about this. If students knew that these cutbacks meant they have to take upper level courses [for their core classes], I can definitely see that frustrating a lot of people,” said junior Kyle Songer.

Sophomore Julia Mangold commented, “That doesn’t seem very fair.”

“Don’t put the burden on the students, since they are the ones shouldering the workload of taking higher level classes,” remarked Songer.

Slobin shared a story of how one of his classes had gotten cut in the past, “We get bumped. Full-timers have to teach a contracted number. About four years ago, there was a full-timer who’s classes didn’t [reach that number] and she bumped one of my courses, like a week before the semester, which was her right as a contracted employee. And so, I lost $3,000 that semester.”

In response to the cutbacks in the humanities, Rodney Hessinger, associate dean of humanities and social sciences, stated, “I know, for example, in philosophy there is some discontent. It goes deeper into the department’s history. Philosophy and theology and religious studies are the two departments where we have a particularly large concentration of part-time faculty.”

He continued, “And in part that is due to the fact all students are required to take two philosophy classes and two theology classes, and as a result there is a higher demand for those classes than say history or English or other departments because people have to take those classes to satisfy core requirements.”

“So historically, there has been greater use of part-time faculty in those divisions, so the part-time [in those departments] have typically worked here longer and have a more rooted sense in the institution,” commented Hessinger.

Hessinger emphasised that there is a focus on offering courses that students want to take as well as the courses needed to fulfill requirements.

“The real motivation is getting a handle on class cancellations. Even though we have taken steps to avoid class cancellations this semester, just in the humanities and social sciences, there were 44 different classes that had fewer than eight students enrolled in them which means we have to cancel that class due to insufficient enrollment,” explained Hessinger.

“But it is also a bad situation for both full-time and part-time faculty, and this has happened already just in the past few weeks, there have been classes where full-time faculty only have a few students in a class so we have to cancel that class, but then what we end up doing is giving them a class that is supposed to be taught by part-time faculty,” he stated.

He continued, “I’d rather predict in advance whether we should be offering a class to a part-time faculty and know that it’s going to fill and the other classes are going to fill, instead of swooping in and cancel someone else’s class and give it to a full-timer. Because contractually, a full-time faculty member is required to teach a certain number of classes a year.”

Hessinger discussed the logistics of how revising the system of class offerings can make scheduling of who teaches which course smoother for both full-time and part-time faculty. “If I was a part-time faculty member, I’d rather know in August that I don’t have a class in January, rather than finding out in December that a class I was counting on, I’m no longer going to be teaching. This is to me a more humane system, and less disruptive to students, advisers, full-time faculty and part-time faculty,” concluded Hessinger.