This archived article was written by: Nathan Manley
If you prefer having your classes taught by a full-time instructor rather than adjuncts, then USU Eastern is the place to be. However, if you do not have a preference, any other school in the state has a higher percentage of adjuncts with Salt Lake Community College and Utah Valley University leading the pack.
Dr. Greg Benson, vice chancellor of academic affairs and student services at USU Eastern, explained the role that full and part-time professors have, and the advantages and disadvantages of being an adjunct professor.
The first thing to look at is the need for instructors as enrollment ebbs and flows. Is the institution able to supply the instruction the student population demands? These adjuncts play an integral part to this scalability, Benson said.
Another angle to examine is the practical use at an institution. Here at Eastern, most departments have a need for adjunct professors, and augment the school’s curriculum in regards to specialty classes. On a per semester basis, they can offer classes that range from nutrition to sports medicine, and “it is a real blessing to call on these people when we need them,” Benson says.
The disadvantage to these transient positions can serve as an advantage as well. Because they teach limited classes, this gives them the freedom for full-time employment elsewhere, allowing them to teach at night, which ultimately many can benefit from.
Finding the right balance is the key for success of utilizing adjuncts without exploiting them. Every institution has a different tipping point for having either too many or not enough full or part-time academic workforce, and a growing trend across the nation showing these numbers being out of whack. Benson feels to have the right balance the percentage of part-time instruction needs to be in the 20-40 percent range, which is dependent on how the school expands and contracts.
According to USHE’s Faculty Teaching Workload of Part-time Faculty, the last two reported years for the (then) College of Eastern Utah was 20.1 percent for fall 2008 and 22.2 percent for fall 2009. After the merger with USU, the statistics were reported together. SLCC and UVU continue to have the highest percentages reporting 61.2 and 53.3 percent for fall 2011.
Eastern continues to find the right balance for the adjunct faculty and seeks to further accommodate them. Benson “feels good” about the quality and specialty of the faculty as a whole and hopes to maintain the correct balance.