Letter From the Editor
Look at the page preceding this one, and you will find yet another fabulous Matt Hall cartoon. Matt and I work together to come up with concepts several times each year. Believe it or not, I am often pushing him to poke fun at Adjunct Advocate. He did in a typically clever cartoon that had a pinata at a part-time faculty gathering made from pages of Adjunct Advocate. Inside, there was as the prize a one-year full-time temporary contract.
Matt and I, as you can imagine, have rollicking phone calls during which there is more laughter than should be allowed in the course of doing one’s job. Along with Matt’s editorial cartoons, he and I work on “Super Adjunct.” The last issue of the magazine contained the second and third installments of a three-part “Super Adjunct” series we cooked up for readers. SA landed a one-year full-time lectureship and…well…as is wont to happen to all part-timers, the reality of the lectureship wasn’t exactly what SA had expected.
This issue’s cartoon came out of a discussion Matt and I had about hiring practices in the Academy. I have written about this before and will do so again because I truly believe it is one of the roots of why part-time faculty are often viewed as second-class citizens by their tenure-line and tenured colleagues. Yes, tenure-line and tenured faculty are expected to publish. In fact, without publications it’s impossible to land a tenure-line job in some disciplines.
However, despite the myth that tells us part-time faculty do not conduct research and publish in their fields, our readers surveys tell a different story. Part-time faculty do conduct research and publish. It is not a lack of publishing that keeps part-timers behind the eight ball in their departments. As Matt’s cartoon cleverly demonstrates, part-time faculty hiring procedures are absurdly lax. Yes, some part-time faculty are experts in their fields, and those people are hired for their expertise and not necessarily their scholarly potential or even their ability to (God help us) teach.
Landing a part-time faculty position can be as simple as having been in the right place at the right time. For instance, one could have submitted one’s CV at just the moment the Department Chair was sitting down to staff a recently added course. Colleges and universities all hire part-time faculty at the last moment. In some instances, this cannot be avoided. However, it should be avoided whenever possible.
Otherwise, how can college and university officials justify the need for rigorous hiring practices for tenure-line and tenured faculty? Today, over 60 percent of college faculty are off the tenure-track in full-time and part-time temporary faculty positions. This means, in essence, that the majority of college faculty in the United States are hired at the last moment, using lax hiring procedures, and then subject to dismissal without the benefit of due process. Certainly, the faculty suffer immense hardship. However, and more to the point, the educations of millions of college students are impacted, as well.
Let me say very clearly that I don’t think for a moment that part-time faculty deliberately do a poor job in the classroom. Quite the opposite, in fact. Given the lack of institutional support the average part-timer faces, the quality of the instruction s/he delivers is absolutely astounding. What I am trying to say, however, is that I think with more rigorous hiring practices, mentoring programs, professional development, closer direct supervision (as opposed to relying on student evals.) and more comprehensive institutional support, the overall quality of any and every part-time faculty member’s instruction would improve.
On a different note, I want to tell you about this issue of the magazine. There is some first-rate content. To begin, Greg Beatty, who lives in Washington, answered my call to sit down with adjunct faculty activist Keith Hoeller. Some readers may have heard of Keith, or read his pieces in The Chronicle of Higher Education. For others, this may be the first time you’re hearing about this dynamic and determined man. I have known Keith Hoeller a long time, almost as long as I have been publishing Adjunct Advocate. I have followed his career with much enthusiasm and interest. He is a unique resource to the part-time community in the United States, and a bit of a thorn in the side of the education unions. Keith keeps asking one vital question: Are the education unions in our country representing part-time faculty members with the same vigor with which they represent their full-time faculty union members?
In this issue, Keith Hoeller answers that question. His piece on the American Federation of Teachers’ new legislative push on behalf of part-time faculty is a detailed analysis of the organization’s plan. Can the lot of part-time faculty members be improved through the AFT’s legislative efforts? Keith’s response to the AFT’s strategy is extremely well-reasoned. Of course, you may not agree with him completely, but I do believe it is important to think about the issues he brings up and to have open and honest debate.
Oronte Churm writes about academic “babies.” Again, not a subject one would naturally associate with college faculty, but Churm (as always) hits home with his keen observations. It’s all too easy to be a passive participant in one’s own life, to fail to take responsibility. Oronte Churm looks at this phenomenon without the context of higher education and work as a part-time faculty member. Just like with Keith Hoeller’s piece, you may not agree completely with everything Churm writes, but really total agreement is not the point. The point is to think about what he’s writing and have open and honest discourse.
Finally, I want to encourage all of our readers who teach online to consider submitting how-to pieces for our “Going the Distance” column. It is always a pleasure to hear from those part-timers who teach online, and your suggestions concerning content for this column are always insightful. So what are you waiting for? Crack open your laptops and share your tips, suggestions and advice with your colleagues. You’ll even earn a bit of extra money, as well if we accept your piece. Send submissions and column ideas via email to
In the meantime, thanks for reading Adjunct Advocate. Enjoy this latest issue! When you’ve finished with it, pass it along to a colleague, or leave it in the part-time faculty office.–P.D. Lesko
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