Adjuncts face adversity

by Josh BrammerStaff Writer

A new Facebook group, Rock the Issues, started by senior Emily Salberg, has allowed students to raise concerns about issues on campus they feel need discussed.

One of the first issues that has been brought to the attention of student government has been about the number and quality of adjunct faculty employed by Simpson College.

This year, the college offers 525 traditional day-time courses on the Indianola campus. Of those 525 courses, 43 are taught by adjunct faculty, roughly 8 percent of the total courses.

Steve Griffith, vice president and dean for academic affairs, said this number is pretty consistent with what it has been in the past at Simpson, but acknowledged it is hard for him to judge exactly since he is beginning his second year on campus. Griffith also said adjunct faculty members are hired on an as-needed basis.

“Adjunct faculty members are hired when there is a specific curricular need,” Griffith said. “They are normally hired to fill in for faculty members who are on leave, or to fill a big need in a certain department.”

Griffith said lots of adjuncts are hired to teach sections of classes, such as composition and western civilization, that large numbers of students need to take. However, having adjunct faculty on campus does not come without some controversy.

One concern students have voiced is that adjunct faculty members are not available as much to students as are full-time faculty members.

“Some adjuncts have no office, so it’s hard to contact them,” senior Sara Best said. “Since they don’t have an office, they may not feel as at home or as involved as regular faculty.”

Junior Allison Coon also expressed concern about adjunct faculty availability.

“They are not on campus all the time, and you have to make appointments to talk to them,” Coon said. “I feel like I have a better relationship with full-time professors because I have more interaction with them. If I have problems with a class, I feel like I can talk to them because I know them better.”

Griffith also acknowledged this concern.

“Adjunct faculty are paid by the course, so they are not likely to be here as much as full-time faculty,” Griffith said. “Since adjuncts are not here full-time, students and faculty are losing important interaction.”

Another concern was raised by a student regarding inappropriate course materials.

“A friend of mine has often given me the ‘quote of the day’ from an adjunct,” Best said. “The quotes are not appropriate, because they have to do with drinking and the like. In an activity in one of my classes, I remember one of the questions had to do with going to the Adult Emporium.”

According to Griffith, there are a couple different ways to address concerns with a course or specific course material. First, a student should approach the instructor with concerns. If the student feels uncomfortable speaking to the instructor, he or she may contact the instructor’s department or division head. If the concerns cannot be addressed at those levels, Griffith said those involved could approach him with their concerns.

Simpson has many resources available to instructors to improve their teaching skills. One such resource is the Faculty Development Group.

Sal Meyers, director of faculty development, said the group is relatively new, and has not been approached with any concerns.

“Every instructor can improve on his or her methods,” Meyers said. “The Faculty Development group offers several resources to all instructors, adjunct or full-time, and is here to help those instructors that want help. It is not, however, the job of Faculty Development to be the ‘teaching police.'”

Meyers said not many adjuncts are available to take part in many of the workshops offered, but several have taken advantage of a monthly newsletter which talks about teaching issues and ideas.

Although students have raised concerns about adjunct faculty, not all students dislike their presence on campus.

“I’ve had a couple of bad experiences, but I don’t think all adjuncts are bad,” Best said.