Visiting Faculty

P.D. Lesko

I WANT TO begin this month’s column by expressing my sincere
hope that this issue of the magazine finds all of our readers
and their families safe and sound. In July and August, I visited
New York to meet with marketing representatives from many
of the academic and scholarly publishing houses located throughout
Manhattan. I feared most, though, for my friends at the Modern
Language Association, their new offices located just a few
blocks from the site of the disaster. I’ve been told that
the MLA’s staff was evacuated without serious injury, and
their office building has since been deemed structurally sound.

I also want to talk a bit about this issue of the magazine.
When I sent the magazine’s staff and free-lance writers out
to find out more about visiting faculty in America, I had
high hopes that they would come back with some surprises.
Jennifer Berkshire reported back to me during the process
of writing her feature piece that there just weren’t any statistical
data out there which would pinpoint the exact number of visiting
faculty in this country. We decided, then, that she would
collect anecdotal information. My hypothesis in devoting an
entire issue to the theme of “Visiting Faculty,” was that
the numbers of temporary appointments for visiting faculty
is steadily rising.

The surprise, of course, is that there really isn’t much
data being collected. Let me back up a few steps, though,
and explain just why I wanted to devote an entire issue of
the Adjunct Advocate to the subject of “Visiting
Faculty.” Many of you out there may have heard that the
latest Department of Education figures on the employment of
part-time temporary faculty indicate that the adjunct faculty
nation stands steady at 43 percent of the American professorate.
In other words, the Department of Education reported that the
employment numbers as they reflect adjunct faculty employment
were holding fast. Good news? I had my doubts based on other
indicators within the higher education employment marketplace.
For instance, the mathematical associations are reporting
banner employment figures.

However, the Modern Language Association, various historical
associations and the American Association for the Advancement
of Science have all reported flat to minimal growth in the
number of tenure-line openings available in their respective
disciplines. However, undergraduate enrollment is up, up,
up. By the year 2010, the Department of Education predicts
there will be over 16,000,000 undergraduates, a 15 percent
overall increase from the number of undergraduates enrolled
in 2000. So, who’s teaching the undergraduates? Are more full-time
faculty slots being created? No. There is no statistical data
to back up that notion.

I think college and university officials are sick of reading
about the exploitation of part-time faculty on the front pages
of The New York Times, Washington Post, Philadelphia
, etc…. On the other hand, these same administrators
are not prepared to forego the convenience and affordability
of temporary faculty. The answer? More full-time temporary
faculty. Keep in mind that the 43 percent figure I mentioned
earlier doesn’t include full-time temporary faculty, such
as visiting faculty, sabbatical replacement faculty or full-time
temporary lecturers.

Thus, this issue of the Adjunct Advocate is devoted
to the use of visiting faculty. Are their numbers rising?
Who are they? Where are they? What is the life of a visiting
faculty member like? Are visiting faculty more satisfied with
their jobs than, say, adjunct faculty? What does it take to
land a post as a visiting faculty member? We have tried to
address these questions and more. My hope is to draw attention
to this trend and have it reflected in future studies and
research examining the use of temporary faculty in higher
education. I want to thank the many visiting faculty who agreed
to be interviewed for the features in this issue. I sent out
an e-mail message to many of the visiting faculty who are
registered users of the magazine’s Web page.

The response was overwhelming. These women and men work both
in the United States, as well as abroad, in a variety of academic
disciplines, and have varying levels of experience in the
visiting faculty arena. The one characteristic these visiting
faculty have in common is a desire to share with the readers
of this magazine their experiences and stories. I have found
their extraordinary stories moving and inspirational. I sincerely
hope you will, as well.

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  • AdjunctNation Editorial Team: @Jeffr thanks for pointing out the distinction.
  • Jeffr: Note that adjunct faculty are considered to be on a “term” basis and receives no protection except...
  • Scott: I believe Sami is correct in that this no reasonable assurance language will allow adjuncts continuing access...
  • Nancy West-Diangelo: It’s as if we’ve lost the ability to listen critically. If the point of the work we...
  • Freddi-Jo Bruschke: An excellent description of this editorial.