Deans weigh appropriate use of adjunct professors

The financial problems hanging over the SUNY system has had an effect on the number of adjunct professors on Oswego State’s campus, with some schools on campus seeing a rise in the amount of temporary help to cover classes.

Due to the budget crunch plaguing SUNY schools, there have been classes cut and increased class sizes in the School of Business. This has increased the amount of student credit hours being taught by full-time faculty. The ratio also depends on the departments within the school. In accounting, there are more adjuncts used than in other departments, Richard Skolnik, dean of Oswego State’s school of business, said.

According to Skolnik the ratio between full-time employees and adjuncts is tracked with the Faculty Sufficiency, which shows the proportion of classes or student credit hours that are delivered by full-time faculty versus part-time faculty. According to the 2008-2009 Faculty Sufficiency, full-time faculty members taught 79.1 percent of student credit hours.

"Adjuncts play a very important role in the school, we value what they contribute," Skolnik said.
Adjuncts are usually professionals in their fields who want to share with students the knowledge they have gained over their careers.

The Chronicle of Higher Education, which reports on educational news across the nation, mentions that the average ratio of full-time employees to adjunct or part-time employees nationwide is 60 percent full-time and 40 percent part-time. According to America’s Best Colleges of 2008, the ratio at Oswego State was 87 percent full-time to 13 percent part-time, which remains about the same now.

For the School of Liberal Arts and Science, about 20 percent of the faculty is part-time employees, but again, the ratio is different among the separate departments. The English department has more adjuncts due to many lower division general education courses. According to Dean Rhonda Mandel, the biggest goal is to be able to cover all courses that students need. The first option is to cover them with full-time faculty, but some courses are being covered with adjuncts due to the budget situation.

"In a bad budget year, we get a lot of qualified adjuncts teaching because the actual pool of jobs goes down" Mandel said. "We have extremely qualified people in our adjunct program. Many of these people are people we would love to hire for full-time positions."

Fritz Messere, dean of communication, media, and the arts, said the ratio of full-time employees versus adjuncts really depends on the department. Often times, adjuncts are hired for specialty classes. For example, the mass media law courses are taught by adjuncts that are practicing lawyers. There are fewer adjuncts this year because electives have been cut and full-time faculty are covering more areas due to the budget situation.

The School of Education is made up of about 52 percent full-time faculty and 48 percent part-time faculty. According to Education Dean Linda Rae Markert, the reason for so many adjuncts is due to the number of student teacher supervisors needed for each of the 28 sections of student teachers. Normally adjuncts only teach one or two courses a semester and full-time faculty will teach three to four courses a semester. Full-time faculty must deliver at least 50 percent of the programs.

There is a significant difference in pay between full-time faculty and adjuncts. For an adjunct, teaching is usually not their primary source of income, but they can receive halftime health benefits if they teach two courses a semester. Adjuncts are covered by union contracts and have negotiable salary increases.

"I think a lot of adjuncts do it because they like the opportunity," Messere said.

"Part-time faculty brings a different perspective on the content and on the subject matter," Markert said.

The four academic departments of Oswego State have done their best to strategically place adjuncts in a way that will enhance the curriculum for students.
"Adjuncts play a very important role in the school," Markert said. "We value what they contribute."