The San Antonio Express-News is reporting that the University of Texas at San Antonio administration has advised the faculty of its biggest college that fiscal belt-tightening moves may stymie the rehiring of adjunct faculty next semester.
While no official decision has been made yet, a loss of adjunct faculty members in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts could mean larger class sizes and heftier workloads for the remaining professors.
“We are realigning our resources,” said Joe Izbrand, chief communications officer for UTSA.
He said any changes would come as part of the university’s new strategic plan called 2020 Blueprint, which aims to bring the university closer to Tier One status and emphasized the fate of the adjuncts can’t be determined until student enrollment numbers for the spring semester solidify.
Interim Provost Mauli Agrawal said in an email obtained by the San Antonio Express-News that UTSA’s budget situation is “very tight” because it could not increase tuition and it pays about $12 million a year so veterans and their family can attend UTSA for free, as per the Hazlewood Act.
Out of the about 337 faculty in the college, 123 — more than one-third — are adjuncts paid by the course, semester by semester.
The remaining faculty in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts include 177 tenured or tenure-track professors and about 37 who are on multiyear contracts. Overall, the college enrollment is 6,650 students out of almost 29,000 who attend the university.
President Ricardo Romo said in an email that UTSA hired 40 new faculty members across all colleges this year.
Alistair Welchman, an associate professor of philosophy and a member of the Faculty Senate, said he’s concerned for adjuncts, some of whom he says have taught at the college for as long as he has.
“I didn’t really take it seriously until I heard my colleagues talking about being worried about not getting rehired,” he said. “One of them emailed me as a senator asking, ‘What can you do to help me?’ One of them asked for a letter of recommendation because they’re considering applying at other places.”
Welchman first learned of these possible changes through an email from his chair Oct. 11. That email said up to 50 percent of adjunct faculty could be without a job next semester, he said.
Walter Wilson, an assistant professor of political science and geography, also learned about the potential budget adjustments from his department’s chair, Daniel Engster, via email that day.
Engster’s email indicated the college had typically exceeded its budget in the past and was allowed to do so under the previous provost. But now, Agrawal would not allow colleges to spend beyond their allocated budget — which means millions of dollars less for the college.
But Izbrand said that while the college had overspent on “a few occasions” in the past, he did not characterize the situation as a budget shortfall.
The College of Liberal and Fine Arts “has a budget allocation and they’re expected to live within it,” he said. “They’re expected to keep their focus on student success, and the dean and the provost are very focused on promoting that. That’s the purpose of the university, to help these students.”
Wilson and Welchman said they were told tenured and tenure-track professors would have their workload agreement revisited — which they surmised meant that if there are fewer adjunct faculty next semester, and student enrollment doesn’t drop between semesters, they’ll be expected to pick up the slack.
“We will evaluate — similar to what we’ve done, similar to every semester — we’ll evaluate the needs of some of these adjuncts, and tenured or full-time professors may be asked to teach a core class,” Izbrand said, adding the professors may have to stop teaching an elective to pick up one of these core classes.
Wilson is worried that professors won’t have as much time to do research if they’re taking on classes formerly taught by adjuncts, which in turn would affect UTSA’s efforts at becoming Tier One, or a nationally ranked, research-focused institution.
He said that if the hiring freezes and swelling faculty workloads come to pass, “it would be sort of the second-class college within the institution.”
“It would basically be faculty and students having two different kinds of experience at UTSA depending on which major they chose,” he said.
Engster, Wilson and Welchman all expressed frustration at a lack of clarity about what to expect from potential budgetary changes and believe faculty should have been notified earlier.
Engster said one core class in the spring that was tentatively down to have 300 students could increase to up to 450 students under the changes. But Izbrand said significant increases in class sizes weren’t expected.
“It all sounds very sensational,” he said. “But everybody does business based on what their budget allows them to do, what economic times allow them to do, and a university is no different.”