By Rebecca Lazzeri
Virginia Wesleyan students fear pedagogic disadvantages when registering for classes with part-time or adjunct professors.
A handful of adjunct professors teach for almost every major offered at Virginia Wesleyan. Adjunct professor teach classes part time and are generally involved with other colleges or universities in the area, or are invested in some sort of research that deals with their academic discipline.
At most universities, adjunct professors are uninvolved and distant from the campus. They do not receive the same benefits or salary, and therefore are not held to the same standard of full-time faculty. At VWC, our administration boasts of the personal relationships that students will form with their professors in their four years as Marlins. This however does not always apply with adjuncts.
“This college preaches maintaining a relationship with professors. With adjunct professors, this is harder to do. When you have adjuncts, it puts a gap in your learning capabilities,” senior Kwame Harris said. Harris is majoring in Business, which has more full-time professors than most majors at VWC.
During each campus tour given by Wesleyan Ambassadors, student tour guides stop outside of Dean O’Rourke’s office to present the curriculum written by our very own faculty. Each of the books on display was either written, coauthored or edited by one of our professors. 90 percent of the professors at Virginia Wesleyan College have a terminal degree in their field. The sign reads ‘These are the people who will be teaching your classes and writing your recommendations!’
These relationships, however, are more common with full-time faculty. Adjuncts are not as well-known on campus, and are less available to students. By the time students reach 300 and 400 level classes, they are so well acquainted with the faculty within their academic discipline that they are able to avoid adjunct professors altogether.
“Most adjuncts are hired because of their specialty that no one currently on faculty has,” professor of Philosophy Dr. Hultgren said. “They are teaching something that is unique to their skillset. In order for us to hire them, they have to meet the same standard or bring some sort of unique experience.”
Hultgren said the adjunct professors offer very unique insights to students that full-time faculty may be lacking.
Forbes wrote about adjunct professors, “What’s more, poor salary and benefits are the proverbial tip of the iceberg. Unhappy, underpaid, overworked, and sometimes under- or differently-qualified instructors provide less-than-ideal instruction.”
According to Forbes Magazine, in 1975, 30 percent of college faculty were part time. By 2011, 51 percent of college faculty were part time. At VWC, as of 2014, only 20 percent of classes are taught by part-time or adjunct professors.
According to the VWC Fact Sheet, the most popular majors at VWC as of 2015 are Business, Education, Biology, Criminal Justice, Recreation & Leisure and Communication. Many of these fields have a significant amount of adjunct professors to help lighten the workload of full-time faculty.
Although the business program has eight full-time faculty and three adjunct professors, adjunct professors outweigh full-time professors in the education program with six adjunct professors and four full-time faculty. The biology program has six full-time and two adjunct professors; the criminal justice has two full-time and four adjunct professors; recreation & leisure has four full-time and three adjunct professors; communications has five full-time and two adjunct professors and also additional staff who teach courses but are considered neither full-time nor adjunct.
Some students voice concern about the relational barriers they face with adjunct professors.
“It’s harder to get office hours with my adjunct professors,” sophomore Bella Blackney said.
“We have an adjunct office on campus but I hardly see it being used. I normally end up corresponding with them by email so it sort of takes away the personal aspect of learning.” she said.
Bella said she has the most adjunct professors in her classes that belong to less popular academic programs.
“For political science, our adjunct is here every day, is a good researcher and accessible to students,” professor of political science Dr. Gibson said.
Gibson said dedication is common among the adjunct professors within the political science department, specifically two who have been employed by the college over the past two semesters.
“For those two people, we made it clear that they need to be available to students because we all need their specialty,” Gibson said.
At a small liberal arts college such as Wesleyan, students have much more access to faculty and staff than they could ask for at a major university, and that is a major draw for prospective students. The faculty student ratio is 13:1, meaning that students may take full advantage of office hours and develop relationships with professionals in their field that could carry over to life after graduation. These faculty are incredible resources, and this means that for adjuncts, it is important that they are available to students as well.