Joshua Knopp / Senior Staff Writer
Over the next year, UNT will be eliminating adjunct-taught courses and adding more full-time faculty, veering away from national trends in the opposite direction.
Provost Warren Burggren said the school spent last year getting on budget and preparing for cuts to federal funding. But after consolidating its faculty and getting more funding than administrators anticipated, the school is able to hire more full-time teachers.
Burggren said UNT removed 18 vacant full-time positions last spring and plans on hiring between 40 and 50 new full-time teachers over the next year. The new teachers will take over 250 courses currently taught by adjuncts.
“There’s nothing wrong with adjuncts. We’d never put an unqualified person in the classroom,” Burggren said. “But by and large, we feel the greatest commitment to the instructors and to the department and to the students are the full-timers. These are people who are not coming in to fill a one-year hole. These are people we’re putting on a career track.”
According to John Curtis, director of research and public policy with the American Association of University Professors, the career track is an important distinction.
“The national trend, actually for the last couple of decades, has been to have more part-time faculty and fewer full-time faculty, and especially fewer tenured faculty,” he said. “They’re specifically hired into positions that are not leading to a review for tenure.
It is significantly an issue.”
Curtis said full-time, tenure-track professors are the ones in the best position to help a school improve by establishing new courses, teaching new curricula and staying with the university in the long term.
“All of this is about the end result of a better educational program for their students when you have faculty that have full support from their university,” he said.
However, the short-term reality for many adjunct teachers, such as sociology associate professor Susan Harper, will be losing their jobs at UNT.
“What I know is I’ve been here since 2012 and have adjuncted the same classes over and over and over again,” she said, shortly after teaching her last class for the summer. “And so I went to inquire with my chair about teaching in the fall, and he let me know that he’d gotten no funding for adjuncts for the fall or the spring.”
Harper, like many adjuncts, works at other schools and other jobs to make ends meet. She said adjuncts aren’t let go for being bad teachers as much as they’re let go for being on short-term contracts and being the most exposed when the budget is cut.
“Adjuncts are the backbone of the university system, but we’re also disposable,” she said. “We’re a very disposable pool of labor.”
Curtis noted that the AAUP’s policy is to hire full-time professors from the pool of part-time professors to negotiate this issue.
“Our recommendation is that the process be one of converting the adjunct or part-time positions into full-time positions and preferably full-time tenure track positions,” he said.
“So it is a problem when you have people who were teaching part time simply being let go. It is really unfair to the people who’ve been teaching part time up until now.”
Burggren said the university would be conducting a national search for the best people to fill the available full-time positions over the course of the next year.