May 022012
 
Authors: Amy McDaniel

The dictionary identifies the word adjunct to mean, “something added to another thing, but not essential to it; associated with lesser status.” This is the title given to approximately 70 percent of the professors in the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department at Colorado State University.

In fact, it is a title bestowed upon the majority of teachers in every department of the Liberal Arts College, particularly the English department, and is prevalent among the entire teaching community.

What is an adjunct? Many students have no idea, and most do not care.

“Most students are clueless about the differences we have about adjunct, assistant, or associate professors.” Paola Malpezzi Price, Chair of the Foreign Languages Department, says. “Adjuncts are the new teaching majority.”

Adjunct professors are non-tenured professors with contracts that explicitly state their at-will status. One article by Raymond Hogler, a professor of management at CSU, published in the Coloradoan called these contracts “merely a sham”.

“They can be fired if there are not enough classes to go around, or if the budget is for some reason shortened,” Malpezzi Price said. “I think that’s what, honestly, disturbs a lot of them, that they are employees at-will. It makes them very vulnerable. Sometimes I think the adjunct instructors have felt that they are the inferior rank. I know that there is a lot of frustration . . . some kind of resentment, because the professors work very hard.”

French Professor Madame Lynne M. Barnes explains that historically, in many departments adjuncts have been excluded from faculty meetings, underpaid and underrepresented.

“They’re still being paid by-the-course, with no chance to move up,” Barnes said. One victory recently obtained to improve their situation is the newly appointed advisory committee to the Faculty Council, which is comprised of adjunct and tenured representatives.

The committee has so far gained emeritus privileges for adjuncts and created a new Senior Teaching position. If attained, it would ensure more stability for the individual than adjuncts inherently have as well as more involvement in the department.

A bill to change the situation of at-will teachers is being proposed for the second time by Representative Randy Fischer of Fort Collins.

“If they passed that, it would eliminate a barrier,” Barnes said. “People need to know that they’re going to have a job for a year, or two or three; they’re raising children, they’re putting kids through college. So that’s another thing that gives us hope.”

Despite the constant cycle of “taking one step forward, then five steps back” in the struggle for progress, Barnes stresses the devotion and optimism of her peers.

“They love their work, they love their students,” Barnes said. “They’re outstanding people, and they’re dedicated, despite all the little negatives.”

During the month of October every year, the adjuncts on campus participate in CSU Equity Week to spread awareness to students. Their goal is to achieve better job security, better compensation, more representation and recognition, and increased access to professional development. According to Malpezzi Price, a change of contract also seems to be crucial in this endeavor.

“There has been progress if you look back over the years,” Barnes said, “But we have a long way to go.”
Adjunct professorship is not the only thing underappreciated in the university framework.

“Teaching isn’t valued either,” Barnes said. “Pay for tenured professors is not that great here, either. If you compare their salaries with, say, [the University of Colorado] or other institutions of the same size and celebrity, you would see that CSU doesn’t pay very well, generally across the board.”

Professor Chuchang Chiu said that it costs more to fire some employees at CSU than it does to pay them after she read an article listing the salary figures of the CSU athletic division.

“The amount of money paid to the football coach, Steve Fairchild, to be fired was more than ten year’s salary for an adjunct professor,” Chiu said.

In other words, when Fairchild was fired, the university owed him $350,000. An adjunct teacher with a full load of courses (eight courses taught within two semesters) will make about $31,600. Fairchild’s severance pay was indeed worth ten years of teaching wages for an Adjunct in the College of Liberal Arts.

When asked to describe how she felt about this fact, Madame Barnes had only one word: “Angry.”

“It is a message to the world that athletics counts first, before anything,” Barnes said.

Barnes and other faculty members have expressed their discontent with the backwards value system that prevails at CSU. “I’ve actually written to President Tony Frank,” Barnes said. “I wanted him to know how I feel. They’re building a stadium with what they say are “donor dollars”.”

To this she asks Frank and his donors “If they have this kind of money to spend on a stadium that we don’t need, why is that money not forthcoming for student scholarships?”

The concern stems from what is valued and what gets swept under the rug. When it comes down to it, some believe sports are more important than academics and the professors that keep the institution running. “It can be so demoralizing; I’m surprised that anybody wants to go in to teaching anymore,” Barnes said.

So why should students care?

“Because it is the benefit of the students, the university and everybody to have happy instructors,” Malpezzi Price says.

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