Q & A: adjuncts at Bethel

April 28, 2014 | 11 a.m.

Focus | Jenny Hudalla, Rachel Wilson and Greta Sowles

At Bethel, it is not likely that a mysterious man at the front of a giant lecture hall or his aloof teaching assistant has penned the grade on the top of a student’s test. With an average class size of 18 students, it is common for students to have quality relationships with professors. But many students don’t know that for some of their instructors, teaching is just a part-time job. In fact, in fall 2014, Bethel’s college of arts and sciences will have 90 adjunct instructors. 

According to Associate Dean of Arts and Humanities Barrett Fisher, adjuncts are professors whose responsibilities differ from those of full-time professors. They are paid only to teach and are not expected to serve on committees, advise students or produce scholarship. Adjuncts are issued contracts on a semester basis with no guarantee that they will be offered a course on a consistent basis. A full-time faculty member teaches the equivalent of seven 3- or 4-credit courses per year, whereas an adjunct faculty member is limited to the equivalent of five courses. 

Additionally, adjuncts are often not paid as much as a full-time professor. A Bethel adjunct’s level of pay is determined by a combination of post-graduate work, which often means higher education, teaching experience and other relevant work. The average salary for an adjunct is about $3,800 for a 3- or 4-credit course. 

With the prioritization and review, one may ask where the fate of a Bethel adjunct instructor lies. Fischer said that salaries were reduced for retired, full-time faculty who return to teach after retirement and adjunct faculty who were designated “extended faculty,” or who had taught at Bethel long enough and well enough to qualify for a higher salary scale. The salaries for both of these groups are now more closely aligned with the pay for full-time faculty who choose to teach an “overload” of courses, or more than the required amount. 

“In a sense, adjunct faculty are most directly affected by one of the causes that led to prioritization and review: a smaller student body resulting in fewer courses being offered in some areas and thus less demand for adjuncts,” Fisher said. 

Regardless, there are major benefits for the university in hiring adjunct professors. Hiring adjuncts enables Bethel to meet staffing needs and provides the institution with the flexibility to respond to fluctuations in demand for certain courses. 

“Since adjuncts are hired only to teach, they usually do so with a high degree of expertise, and in many cases, with unique experiences and qualifications,” Fisher added. 

Perhaps one of your instructors is an adjunct. Let’s meet a few: 

 

CARLA BARNHILL 

What department do you teach in? 

College Writing and Introduction to Liberal Arts 

What degrees have you earned? 

Bachelors in English and Philosophy and a Masters in Literature 

How many hours do you teach each semester? 

Six to nine credits per semester. 

What are the benefits of being an adjunct vs. full-time professor? 

Mainly, it’s about commitments outside the classroom. I am not an advisor, so I don’t have advisees. We have fewer meetings, I dont serve on any committees and I don’t have any publishing requirements. Mainly, I don’t have as many outside the classroom requirements, which are pretty substantial for a lot of people. 

Are there drawbacks to being an adjunct? 

While I really like being an adjunct, there are some downsides to it. For example, I don’t get benefits. Also, I’m a little bit adrift-- we have to be very intentional about being collaborative. I don’t always feel connected to the bigger community because I’m not part of a faculty team that meets regularly. You kinda miss out on that professional collaboration. 

Since you share an office, where do you typically meet with students? 

I share an office with six people, located in the townhouses, so I typically meet with students in BC. 

Do you get a TA? 

I could have a TA, but I don’t usually use one for College Writing. I do have one for ILA, however. 

Do you do anything on the side? If so, what? 

Yes! I’m a freelance writer and editor. 

What do you think the role of the adjunct is at Bethel? 

I think it’s, in a lot of cases, to meet the demand for more classes. It’s a way for the school to be able to flex with the number of students who need a particular class. I teach required classes, so there’s always a need for more sections. Most full-time professors aren’t able to squeeze another section into their already packed schedule. 

What’s been your experience as an adjunct at Bethel? 

I’ve really enjoyed my experience. I’m only teaching two classes, so I like that I’m able to meet with students on my own time. It’s been a way for me to teach, which is something I’ve always wanted to do, and still maintain my other job, which has been important to me as well. 

What unique benefits do adjuncts offer to students? 

Students can benefit from having adjuncts, as most adjuncts are also working in their field so they bring some real world experience into the classroom. As a writer and editor, I currently work in the field, and I can tell you what is happening right now. Professors bring a more academic perspective, which is also helpful. It’s a good balance. 

 

JOANN YOST 

What department do you teach in? 

I teach College Writing, some gen ed courses, and I also teach in CAPS/GS. 

What degrees have you earned? 

B.A. in English and psychology, M.A. in English with an emphasis on education, and ABD with Ph.D in curriculum design with an emphasis on English education. 

How many hours do you teach each semester? 

Two or three. 

What are the benefits of being an adjunct vs. full-time professor

It allows you to do multiple things and have more than one career. 

Are there drawbacks to being an adjunct? 

Yeah, there are huge drawbacks. Job security is always in question, and the pay is significantly less. 

Do you get a TA? 

I do, for two hours a week. 

Do you do anything on the side? If so, what? 

I’ve taught at other colleges. I also have personal things, like real estate investments that I manage. I have also prepared taxes, which has been kind of a paid hobby of mine. 

What do you think the role of the adjunct is at Bethel? 

Bethel’s tendency is to have adjuncts teach general education classes and some specialty classes if full-time faculty don’t have the expertise or desire to teach the class. 

What’s been your experience as an adjunct at Bethel? 

I’ve enjoyed the students and the involvement in the academic community, as well as the ability to pursue academic interests within the context of Bethel. I like the mission of Bethel to develop whole and holy person, and I’m glad I can be a part of that. 

What unique benefits do adjuncts offer to students? 

I think the adjuncts are very dedicated to teaching the courses they teach, especially the general education courses that full-time professors prefer not to teach. We teach them whole-heartedly. Adjuncts can meet students’ needs without having other responsibilities, and they have unique skills as well. Some of my office partners have been a talented music director and one of the top two Minnesota history authors. I don’t think students would get that experience without the adjuncts. 

 

LUKE REITER 

What department do you teach in? 

Journalism 

What degrees have you earned? 

B.A. in Journalism from Bethel University. 

How many hours do you teach each semester? 

I teach two classes on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and then I have office hours for about an hour and a half on each of those days. So actual time on campus at Bethel, 10-12 hours a week and then there is grading and correspondence and all of that stuff that goes on. 

What are the benefits of being an adjunct vs. full-time professor? 

For me, its an opportunity to interact with this sphere, hopefully impart some of my experiences as a currently working journalist. I am still a journalist at this point, and it gives me an opportunity to continue with that and continue practicing my trade. 

Are there drawbacks to being an adjunct? 

It is something that it is pretty well reported that institutions are going through academic struggles, Bethel included, and one of the ways that schools are adapting to this financial climate is putting more and more of the work on adjuncts. The downside of that is that you have a lot of adjuncts who are well qualified for full-time positions, and they are just not available. If you are a career academic, it can be kind of a limbo you get stuck in, teaching as an adjunct for a long time… It is not my primary trade, and I think I would have much more significant concerns and I would think a lot harder about how I would approach adjunct teaching if this were going to be my primary trade. 

Do you get a TA? 

I had a TA my first semester, and she did a great job. Now that I am spending more time in the office here, I don’t think it is really necessary in this case. 

Do you do anything on the side? If so, what? 

The first two semesters that I was adjuncting, I was also working full time as an editor for a suburban community newspaper company. I had never taught before... It wasn’t something that I was seeking out when I was first asked. I guess I still view myself more as a journalist than a teacher. 

What do you think the role of the adjunct is at Bethel? 

I think one of the great benefits of having adjuncts is that they can bring diverse experiences to the classroom. I think there are people like me who consider themselves more practitioners than teachers. I try to make my classes very much skill oriented, very much related to my experiences, things that I am dealing with on a day to day basis in the field and relate that to the classroom. Hopefully that has the benefit of preparing the students for real-world issues that they will be encountering. 

What’s been your experience as an adjunct at Bethel? 

I’ve had a great experience working with everyone in the department. They have been very supportive as I’ve kind of figured out what I’ve been doing. It’s been fun to have time to grab coffee with professors I had when I was here and ask them all the questions I could never ask them as a student. 

What unique benefits do adjuncts offer to students? 

Bringing in adjuncts that are coming from different places is helpful for broadening perspectives - maybe for connecting students to issues that their professors who are very academically well-versed are not encountering because they are coming at it from a different perspective and place. 

 

ALYSSA HAMRE 

What department do you teach in? 

Physics 

What degrees have you earned? 

B.S. in physics from Wheaton College with a math minor and my Masters in physics from the University of Minnesota. During that time I did research in the space physics group there. Then I also had a teaching license in 9-12 physics, and the education coursework that I did for that was here at Bethel University. 

How many hours do you teach each semester? 

I am probably looking at around 7-12 hours in the classroom plus probably at least double that amount of time in prep outside of that. 

What are the benefits of being an adjunct vs. full-time professor? 

Sometimes it can be nice to have more flexibility. 

Are there drawbacks to being an adjunct? 

Being part time. If I am part time here, then it means that I am also probably going to be doing something else part time. So having a couple of part time things put together. 

Since you share an office, where do you typically meet with students? 

I do share an office with Jack Netland, but it is usually not a challenge. As long as I don’t have like five students in my office, I have students come to my office. I am extremely fortunate to have an office in the physics department because that means that students know where to come and find me. 

Do you get a TA? 

I work with departmental TAs.

Do you do anything on the side? If so, what? 

I also do some tutoring on the side through Huntington Learning Center. 

I have done some physics, some math and some ACT test preparation. 

What do you think the role of the adjunct is at Bethel? 

The purpose of being an adjunct is to help build up the Bethel community and to be a teacher and mentor and hopefully also a role model to our students. 

What’s been your experience as an adjunct at Bethel? 

My experience here has been that I am so blessed to be able to teach in this environment. I get a chance to do what I am passionate about with colleagues that I respect in a community that is Christ-centered and I get to teach really great students that I just have a lot of fun teaching. 

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