The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Part-time faculty bring diverse experiences to classroom

By Alex Park

As colleges across the country rely on part-time faculty more than ever before, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has proposed new recommendations to protect the job security of part-time professors, a consideration already adopted in Macalester’s long-standing employment regulations.

The proposals recommend that school administrators evaluate their part-time faculty after seven years of service, and either consider them for part-time tenure “where such exists,” renew their contract or fire them, the AAUP, an organization that promotes faculty rights, announced earlier this month.

Gwendolyn Bradley, who chairs the committee that drafted the regulations and will be responsible for its revisions before ratification, said the proposals are a necessary step toward securing job security and academic freedom for part-time professors.

“This is forcing institutions to evaluate their contingent faculty carefully, and see if they’re suitable for that school in the long term or not,” she said.
The regulations, casually referred to as the “seven-year rule,” were proposed because at institutions throughout the country, part-time faculty are consistently denied consideration for full-time employment, long-term contracts or any kind of job security after years of service. Part-time professors may teach at two or more different institutions at once, without having a long-term contract at any of them.
Roxane Gudeman, a professor emeritus at Macalester who sits on the AAUP’s National Council, said she was in favor of the new regulations in part for this reason, and because of a growing trend among universities of relying on part-time faculty. She described it as a kind of “outsourcing” within higher education.
“This is a major problem nationally. More and more classes are being taught by part-time faculty,” Gudeman said.

According to the most recently compiled Department of Education statistics on the subject, the proportion of college professors who are employed part-time has increased virtually every year for more than two decades, largely because of budget constraints at universities and efforts to keep up with rapidly growing undergraduate populations.

In 2003, some 46 percent of college professors were employed on a part-time basis, compared to 35 percent in 1983.

Currently Macalester employs 72 part-time professors out of 223 total, constituting 32 percent of the entire faculty. Gudeman said that, unlike many schools, Macalester has not failed to guarantee its part-time faculty either academic freedom or job security.
“Macalester’s done a pretty good job of building an equitable system for part-time faculty,” she said.

Macalester’s Employee Handbook, which constitutes the school’s official employment policy, has long been written with the AAUP’s existing guidelines in mind, in accordance with the faculty’s wishes, Gudeman said.

However, nationally, part-time faculty are often denied the same level of academic freedom that tenure provides, another reason for the AAUP’s proposed regulations.
Earlier this year, a campaign was launched to fire a lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for asserting that the 9/11 terrorist attacks were planned and executed by the U.S. government. Observers of the controversy commented that the campaign would not have gained so much momentum, nor would it have gotten so far, if the professor had been tenured instead of hired on a part-time basis for the year.

The professor kept his job, but the controversy still highlights the necessity for assuring equitable rights for part-time and adjunct professors, Gudeman said.

“It’s not good for some faculty to have academic freedom while others don’t,” Gudeman said.

Unlike certain schools where part-time employment is seen as a kind of purgatory where professors await full-time employment or tenure, part-time employment at Macalester is entirely outside the tenure track.
“There are some really good reasons to have part-time faculty,” Gudeman said, citing the ability of part-time professors to incorporate day-to-day professional experience into their teaching, something full-time professors cannot always do.

Part-time professors are generally hired to teach classes otherwise taught by tenured or tenure-track professors who are on leave at the time. With few exceptions, including certain adjunct professors, part-time professors at Macalester do not seek and are not eligible for tenure. People hired to part-time positions at Macalester generally do not aspire to tenure-track status.

“We are not keeping anyone in part-time positions because we do not have the funds to keep them full-time,” said Ellen Guyer, Dean of Academic Programs. “If a department wants to tenure a professor, we will fund it.”
The final draft of the AAUP’s 7-year rule is expected to go to the National Council this November. If it is ratified it will become the official position of the AAUP and universities and colleges will have the option of adopting it into their own employment policies and regulations.

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