Adjunct professors can give students insight into an industry because they are working professionals in a field. They bring relevant knowledge to the classroom that keeps students up-to-date, but when too many classes are taught by part-time professors, it could do more harm to students than good.
The School of Media and Public Affairs has 45 part-time professors compared to 28 full-time professors. Some adjuncts are working professionals in places like The New York Times, the Department of Veteran Affairs and the Center for American Progress. Adjunct professors’ experience in a professional workplace could benefit students looking to secure a job, but adjunct professors have limited time outside class to ensure their students succeed.
Adjunct professors often do not have the same amount of time to fully support students as full-time professors. Full-time faculty can dedicate both their prior work experience and time to their jobs, allowing them to build closer relationships with students. But adjuncts do not have the same amount of time to dedicate to students because they are also working a job at another organization. Students taught by adjunct professors are at a disadvantage because they could have fewer opportunities to ask for feedback on assignments or exams.
Adjunct professors also receive less frequent evaluations by officials. Tenured professors are required to complete an annual report on their teaching. But adjunct professors are evaluated by the University once every two academic years, with a more comprehensive evaluation every three years for some adjuncts, making it difficult for officials to adequately evaluate whether adjunct professors are offering students a quality education.
Full-time professors also have free access to professional development tools, like seminars and research workshops, which aren’t readily available to part-time professors. For instance, full-time faculty can freely use the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity to request expert webinars or peer mentoring. Adjunct professors have access to the same programs but are required to pay for the tools which cost more than the $700 that they can apply to be exempted from, which could deter part-time faculty from pulling money out of pocket for tools that could help them in the classroom.
When a school like SMPA hires more adjunct than full-time professors, it is tossing an opportunity for students to build close relationships with their professor. While part-time professors can bring up-to-date knowledge on an industry into a classroom, students may not be able to access them as frequently as full-time professors, causing the quality of their education to dwindle. SMPA needs to hire more full-time professors to ensure students are receiving the best education before they enter the workforce.
Hannah Thacker, a freshman majoring in political communication, is a columnist.
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