The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Adjuncts discuss their unique successes, challenges

By Karen Gavis/se news editor

SE students Cameron Offutt and James Johnson speak with English adjunct Gregory Bade in the SE library. Bade began teaching on SE Campus in 2008 and has worked as an adjunct for more than 40 years. He is also a photographer and freelance writer.
Photos by David Reid/The Collegian

Budgets can be tough, and college budgets are no exception. In an effort to maintain balance, many teaching positions at TCC and other colleges are filled by adjunct instructors.

According to an article in the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Times Free Press, adjuncts currently on average make up about 41 percent of college faculty nationwide.

This semester, about 66 percent of the 1,915 faculty positions at TCC were filled by adjuncts, according to information obtained through an open records request by The Collegian.

TCC faculty academy dean Theresa Mouchayleh said adjunct instructors, like full-time faculty, love what they do.

“For many, many years, I was an adjunct at Amarillo College,” she said.

After becoming employed as a full-time administrator at Austin Community College, Mouchayleh continued to teach as an adjunct instructor and hopes to become a TCC adjunct this fall.

Mouchayleh said the problems adjuncts encounter are dependent upon the institution. Although she knows many adjuncts would like to connect more with their students, this may be difficult if they teach at night or on weekends and do not have extended office hours as they would have if they taught during the day.

One thing adjuncts can do is try to stay in touch with students electronically.

“That’s helpful,” she said.

Although unaware of a TCC adjunct association, Mouchayleh said deans and department chairs do a good job of keeping adjuncts informed, and adjuncts can take advantage of many opportunities available at TCC.

Last summer, a TCC committee report regarding adjuncts recommended, among other things, an adjunct resources Web page, a first-year mentor program and invitations to the Chancellor’s Breakfast.

“To my knowledge, the proposals have not been formally implemented on a districtwide scale, but many campuses are doing some of the activities in their own way,” NE academic support services coordinator Jeanette Jacobs said.

Jacobs said a TCC adjunct Web page or formal mentor program is not currently available.

Bradley Davis, an adjunct instructor on South and NW campuses who teaches world geography, physical geography and human/cultural geography, said adjuncts are disconnected, and he believes better communication is needed.

Davis compares adjuncts to mercenaries.

“You basically have no benefits, no rights, no privileges,” he said.

However, adjuncts do have the advantage of flexibility. One problem adjuncts face is they do not know whether their classes will be canceled because of low enrollment, Davis said.

“You have office hours, but you don’t really have an office, depending on what campus you are on,” he said. “It is not uncommon to have six adjuncts sharing an office.”

A generalization among adjuncts cannot be made because their situations vary. Some teach only on the weekends. And it is hard for students to distinguish between adjuncts and full-time faculty members because adjuncts are professional, Davis said. Effectiveness, however, depends upon the adjunct.

“[As an adjunct,] you have a little more freedom. You can be very opinionated or politically incorrect,” he said. “You really don’t care what you say.”

Davis went through an interview process for full-time faculty once on Trinity River Campus but never received a follow-up call, he said. Instead, he was later hired as an adjunct to teach one class in the fall.

Currently, TR has no full-time geography faculty.

Davis sees the current system as dysfunctional.

“There is no way to communicate,” he said. “We vent amongst ourselves, but as far as to anyone else, it is like deaf ears.”

According to The Chronicle of Higher Education, University of Georgia adjunct instructor Joshua Boldt has given other adjuncts space to vent by creating a Google document he calls “The Adjunct Project.” And one Tarrant County College adjunct has entered data on the spreadsheet.

The lone TCC English adjunct’s information on adjunctproject.com, which does not post employee names, lists a pay scale of $1,800 per semester with no benefits, no retirement, no governance/committee, no office and no phone.

“We meet students where we can,” the adjunct wrote on the spreadsheet.

The TCC adjunct’s information listed on the spreadsheet differs little from that listed by a Dallas County Community College adjunct. However, across the nation, information varies considerably.

Adjunct English instructor Gregory Bade has worked as an adjunct more than 40 years and began teaching on SE Campus in 2008. He is also a photographer and a freelance writer.

“I am not just someone who walked in here with a degree,” he said. “I’m out there in the trenches writing articles.”

Bade currently freelances for the Weatherford Democrat. When he discusses point of view, consideration of an audience and revisions, he speaks from experience.

“It is more than just textbook knowledge,” he said. “What makes me different from a full-time faculty member, the obvious differences notwithstanding (salary, tenure, benefits), is only that I am not called upon to do it full time.”

Bade was honored to become the first adjunct recipient of the excellence in teaching award, an award presented to educators on SE Campus. He commutes about 50 miles to work at SE Campus and passes other TCC campuses and colleges along the way.

“The reason I do that is I appreciate the people I work with,” he said.

Adjuncts are hired on an as-needed basis, Bade said, and there is never any guarantee they will have two or three classes.

“You teach, you get paid. You don’t teach, you don’t get paid,” he said. “It [teaching] gives me a reason to get up in the morning. Not that I wouldn’t get up, but it keeps your mind and body active, and as we get older, that is important.”

Bade said there is an interview process on SE Campus when applying for a full-time teaching position, and candidates will also make a 10-15 minute presentation as for a class. He began the process once and would consider it again if the opportunity arose, he said, but really doesn’t want to be teaching full-time when he is 70.

“Every full-time position is a competitive position,” SE vice president of academic affairs Barbara Coan said. “There is no automatic transition from one position to another.”

Some adjuncts have transitioned the other way and are quite content.

Before accepting a voluntary separation package last year, NE and South adjunct instructor Bill Lace worked as a TCC central office administrator for 30 years.

“I always enjoyed the job but always wanted to be an educator with the students,” he said. “I certainly wasn’t ready to cut the umbilical cord. I still wanted TCC to be part of my life.”

Lace worked as a journalist before moving to higher education and now teaches Introduction to Mass Communications and Reporting I.

“It isn’t for the money,” he said, “although in some cases, for adjuncts, I think it absolutely is.”

Many people just want to be part of the college atmosphere or enjoy teaching, and many adjuncts are former full-time faculty, Lace said.

“It is not for the money because in many instances, the money isn’t much,” he said. “The amount for the whole semester [for a three hour course] is about $1,700.”

Although TCC has many more adjuncts than full-time faculty, it does not mean they teach more because full-time faculty members teach many more classes than adjuncts, Lace said. Some adjuncts may teach only one class a semester as opposed to five taught by full-time faculty.

Life as an adjunct is not the way Lace envisioned retirement.

“It is a hell of a lot of work, but I’m really enjoying it,” he said.

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