Friday, January 2, 2015

Ways to Include Adjunct Faculty, Part 2

In a past post, I talked about practices for hiring part-time faculty. There are several steps we can take after hiring to ensure that part-time faculty feel as included as possible in their day-to-day jobs.

One of the issues that many part-time faculty members face is the availability of resources. Resources include not only office supplies, but also office space and access to the right people when they need help. This issue is even larger for those who teach evenings and weekends, when offices are closed and full-time employees are scarce.

One of the easiest resources to provide is information. Faculty need access to policy information, contact information, course descriptions and syllabi, and teaching materials such as mini-lessons, handouts and problem sets, exams and other assessments, supplemental materials, and links to websites with even more materials. All of this sort of thing can be posted on the department website. If getting materials onto a department website is difficult, there are plenty of ways to create outside sites for free. One can use a blog, or, to create a space where everyone can contribute, a wiki.

Other resources aren't so easy to provide, but are as necessary, such as office space for adjunct faculty. They should have a place to work, type up and print assignments, make copies, and meet with students. The more part-time faculty members an institution employs, the more space it should dedicate to office space for them. If possible, lockers or some other means of storage should be available. Cars too often serve as portable offices for part-time faculty.

Photo of workspace provided to residence in the health sciences program at Texas Tech University.

Part-time faculty need the basics as well. I continue to find it surprising how many part-time faculty report having to purchase their own office supplies, even paper for printing. Any office supplies that are available to full-time faculty must also be provided to part-time faculty. Office space and department offices should be stocked with paper, markers, pens, pencils, board erasers, etc. There should also be an easy way for part-time faculty to access whatever technology accessories they need, such as pens for SMART Boards, proper cords for connecting devices, keys to locked podiums containing computers, etc. If centralizing access to supplies is difficult (as it often can be), each department should disseminate information about where and how these items can be obtained.

Finally, probably the most important resource to provide is access to full-time faculty and staff. Departments should make sure their hours and locations are posted, and, if necessary, set aside special "office hours" for faculty. Full-time faculty, especially those who have leadership roles, should do the same. Part-time faculty should know their schedules and availability. In my department, our level coordinators make themselves available to answer faculty questions and assist in resolving problems. They even hold monthly office hours/meetings for faculty, where they devote their time to answering questions and checking in with "their" faculty. 

This access is especially important for faculty who teach evenings and weekends, when most of the college offices are closed. The best-case scenario would be for department offices to hold some evening and weekend office hours, even if only a few times a month. In addition, full-time faculty should be encouraged to teach in the evenings and/or on weekends, and they should make sure part-time faculty know when they'll be on campus and can answer questions or help out in an emergency. Evening and weekend faculty should also be provided with contact information and availability for any administrators who do work those hours.

Providing resources for part-time faculty can take some creativity, and may certainly take some sacrifice on the part of full-time department members. However, these resources are provided as a matter of course for full-time faculty. Since, as stated previously, part-time faculty teach 50%-75% of our classes, we are doing the students a disservice by not automatically providing them for part-time faculty as well.