John Carroll University prides itself on its reputation as a Jesuit institution emphasizing the importance of leadership and academic excellence while teaching students the value of being men and women for others. As part of recognizing this mission, The Carroll News would like to highlight the efforts of adjunct teaching faculty who make sacrifices every day in their efforts to teach students.
Adjunct teaching faculty are employed by John Carroll to teach on a part-time basis. Some may only teach one class per year, while others teach multiple courses throughout each semester. However, adjuncts are only paid an average of $1,000 per credit hour, according to Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Margaret Farrar, although this varies somewhat by the experience of the adjuncts. In addition, adjuncts do not receive benefits such as health insurance or retirement.
Adjuncts make up 209 of the University’s 399 teaching faculty, according to Farrar. They comprise over half of the University’s teaching staff, but frequently go unrecognized by students and some of their colleagues and superiors.
Yvonne Bruce, a part time lecturer in the English department, has spoken out about the treatment of adjuncts, including a Faculty Commentary published in The Carroll News in the fall 2015 semester. Bruce has been teaching at John Carroll since 2004, and has been employed part-time for the entirety of her time at the University. After moving to Ohio from South Carolina, she had hoped to find a full time professorial position, but to no avail. She accepted a part time position because she enjoyed teaching, but over time she “became more sensitive to the drawbacks and burdens” adjuncts face.
“One is lack of professional respect, but the two-tiered faculty is the other problem,” Bruce said. “I don’t understand what the difference is between the two levels of faculty. I think there should be one faculty, and if some faculty need to focus on teaching and others on research, that seems like a reasonable division of labor. To have just a few tenure track faculty and then everyone else with no opportunity for full time employment, retirement benefits or health insurance seems like an unfair division.”
“I have plenty of part-time colleagues who qualify for food stamps, or are on Medicare, sell plasma, work at restaurants or do other work just to try to make ends meet,” Bruce continued. “That’s not all of them, but universities rely so heavily on adjunct labor and M.A.s and Ph.D.s graduate with the expectation that they’ll get a tenure track job that’s just not there. They’re young, they don’t realize it’s a dead end job. Unless you have plans to work in the civilian world, or if you have a partner or household income to support you, it’s not really a liveable profession.”
Carrie Buchanan, a full-time professor in the Tim Russert Department of Communication and Theatre Arts, has also been vocal on this issue. According to Buchanan, adjuncts “should be paid what anyone else gets paid.”
“If they have the expertise to teach a course at John Carroll, then they should be paid what a full-time professor gets paid. The teaching of a course at John Carroll should be something that goes for a standard rate of pay.”
“Why are they being underpaid so badly?” Buchanan continued, referring to adjunct teaching faculty. “Part of the reason is that administrations do it because they can….The administration might sort of care about the rights of workers, but it’s not their top priority. Their top priorities are different, and at John Carroll, certainly, balancing the budget has been one of their top priorities, and as the cost of education has gone up, they have abused some of their workers by underpaying them quite dramatically.”
Christina Rawls, a part-time lecturer in the department of Philosophy, mentioned the levels of uncertainty adjuncts face at John Carroll. “There’s no real job security each year, and for many adjuncts, there is no job security each semester,” she said. “In fact, you could spend a month preparing for a new course you are asked to teach all of August and then have the class cancelled at the last minute as the term begins.”
“I am currently full-time this term as an emergency situation,” Rawls continued. “I am grateful for the opportunity and pay, but I was not offered any medical benefits, which is technically illegal, although I agreed to the temporary arrangement.”
“I have no benefits from John Carroll, but they did approve, for the first time ever, my unemployment request last summer,” Rawls said. “I wonder what would happen financially for both John Carroll and the state of Ohio if all adjuncts here this term applied for unemployment this summer? Could they approve some and deny others? I just don’t know, but I know we are entitled to it.”
Richard Clark, a full-time professor of sociology and director of the Peace, Justice and Human Rights program, also commented on the hardships adjunct faculty face, including a time constraint that prevents them from conducting research. “They don’t have much time to do research,” he said. “When I do research and bring it into the classroom, it’s a benefit to students. But if I’m not doing that research, students don’t get that benefit.”
“Adjuncts don’t get those opportunities, and I think the classroom suffers,” Clark continued.
Rawls also discussed the treatment of adjuncts by other faculty. “I have been discriminated by full-time faculty at John Carroll, yes, but not really in the philosophy department,” she said. ”Luckily, I have had much support, as much as is possible, from the department I teach for.”
“That being said,” Rawls continued. “I have heard administration at John Carroll and other universities state that adjuncts ‘are like crack cocaine’ and to make them full time or even offer a living wage per class per semester is ‘just too expensive.’ I wonder what the parents of our students and students themselves might say and do if they knew that their high tuition costs were not going to pay their professors.”
“Full-time faculty are regularly showcased and honored for their research and original contributions to their fields, but part-time professors are not,” Rawls said. “What goes along with this is that we are then not offered any resources to continue our research from the University or our departments as well. It’s as if we don’t exist in academia at all, yet many if not all universities now rely on part time professors in order for their universities to run smoothly each semester.”
Sara Schiavoni, a part time lecturer in the department of Political Science, indicated some positive aspects to her position as an adjunct in the Political Science department. “We feel like we’re treated by our department as integrated members of the department, “ she said. “We’ve been through three chairs during my time here, and each of them was very supportive. We are invited to faculty meetings. We don’t vote, but we go, and they want our input on things. But, we know that differs in many departments.”
However, Schiavoni also discussed the lack of resources available to part time faculty.“There’s no professional development available for part time faculty, so if we want to do something where we’re presenting research, there’s nothing available for us. There’s no way to even apply for it. We don’t have voting privileges or voting rights on things that impact us or affect us.”
“We don’t have the opportunity for representation on governing bodies,” Schiavoni continued. “We aren’t apprised of those sorts of things. It wasn’t until the new Dean [Farrar] arrived that she made sure part time faculty members were getting information about the campus and what’s going on in regard to faculty.”
Bruce mirrored similar sentiments. “We’re not invited or expected to attend faculty meetings,” she said. “We’re not invited or expected to contribute to curricular development. We are strictly clock punchers.”
“Any time we want to spend serving on committees or advising students is done on our own time,” Bruce continued. “And a lot of adjuncts teach on multiple campuses, so even that’s not an option. You come here, you teach and you leave. It’s a segregated working environment.”
Mona DeBaz, another part-time lecturer in the Political Science department, noted some of the privileges she and Schiavoni personally receive in their department. “I think we are treated well in a lot of aspects,” she said. “We have an office, we share it, but I know that other adjuncts at other universities or departments don’t have that. In our case, we know that we are teaching every semester. So many adjuncts across the country don’t know if they have a job next semester.”
Adjuncts and the Jesuit Mission
Although John Carroll University devotes itself to instilling Jesuit values into students, many faculty within the community see an irony between this message and the treatment of adjuncts.
“I can certainly appreciate the terrible irony that a Jesuit mission would seem to obviate the use of adjunct faculty,” Bruce said. “It’s not just abstract ideas about social justice and dignity. There are Catholic documents that address labor and how it should be managed specifically.”
“One suspicion that I have is that the very identity or mission is used as a shield,” Bruce continued. “It’s like they’re saying, ‘We can’t be exploiting anybody, we’re a Jesuit university, so by definition, we’re not doing it.’ I won’t say that it is conscious, but it needs to be made conscious. It needs to be brought to the surface.”
“It’s an indefensible position to take and it’s hypocritical.” Bruce said. “I don’t care that adjuncts are cheap and the University can’t afford to hire people full-time. This reliance didn’t happen overnight; it happened over a generation. Truly, if we demonstrate the will to change it, we can take small steps together to try to reverse or halt the trend.”
Rawls also commented on the situation of adjuncts employed by the University. “Yes, as a Jesuit university interested so often and in many ways so wonderfully in social justice–take the Arrupe Scholars program for example, the work they do all year is incredible–I am amazed and saddened at how badly part-time professors are treated and/or ignored.”
“We are dispensable and so we are used to fill half the courses at John Carroll and disposed of when we’re not needed or can at least be easily and unexpectedly replaced,” Rawls continued. “We are paid well below the national poverty level and we have no benefits.”
Buchanan also discussed the treatment of adjuncts in regard to the Jesuit mission. “It’s appalling that a Jesuit institution would be abusing people this way,” she said. “It’s contrary to our values of valuing the worth and dignity of every person and of just compensation.”
“I think Jesuit institutions have to take this more seriously than other universities because they’re being quite hypocritical,” Buchanan continued. “We’re just mouthing the words when we talk about social justice if we’re not treating our people fairly.”
Clark commented on the treatment of adjuncts at John Carroll University. “If you’re going to be a Jesuit university and you’re going to live up to those Jesuit values and you’re going to talk about Catholic social teachings and you’re going to live up to those Catholic social teaching values, then how do you treat people at the margins and at the ‘bottom,’ if you will? It’s huge,” he said. “We talk about this stuff but we don’t always do it. I realize we’re human and I realize we have to balance the budget and we have to keep students here. But if you and I or the powers that be are going to say that this is a Jesuit institution, then we need to adhere to Jesuit values.”
“The major step John Carroll can take is to let adjuncts organize in some fashion to allow us to be heard, respected, and then to start making changes to relieve this inhuman treatment of the ones they rely on in order to operate each year,” Rawls stated. “We deserve better pay, benefits of some kind or opportunities for benefits that are adequate, offices and departmental resources when needed for our classes.”
“I realize that it is not realistic to allow part time professors to become eligible for a tenure track full time position,” Rawls continued. “That’s just not how academia works, at least not yet. But we do deserve for something to change and as soon as possible.”
“There’s no incentive for the University to alter its current system because we are dispensable,” she continued. “If they don’t want you to teach here or don’t like what you’ve done or said, or not done or said, you will simply, quietly not be asked back to teach.”
Schiavoni noted, “I think this is not just a problem that’s isolated to John Carroll.”
“This is endemic to higher education,” she continued. “When higher education started to be about running like a business and not about its mission of educating students, I think that the bottom line became more important than how they treat people.”
DeBaz said, “Students are interacting with adjuncts every day. I think the student community should essentially be lobbying for them once they know that, one, the amount of compensation is ridiculous; two, there are absolutely no benefits, no retirement, no medical insurance. Yet, these are the professors that are spending their time and energy teaching the students.”
Clark stated, “The adjuncts themselves have said they want more full-time positions.”
“I don’t want to speak for them,” he added, “but I think the University has to do something. You can’t just ignore this.”
Buchanan said, “How the university approaches it is going to be a challenge…but they’re going to have to make a plan to deal with the union because we may have to take a strike.”
“In Canada, the adjuncts at York University went on strike and they shut down the university,” she added. “When you have a majority of your faculty being adjuncts, you’re at their mercy. And if they get unionized, you can bet they will strike.”
“Nobody has a more just cause than these people,” Buchanan concluded. “I think the public would sympathize with them, too.”
Editors Note: Provost and Academic Vice President Jeanne Colleran was unavailable for comment prior to publication.
Clarification: At the request of Tonya Strong-Charles, Interim Executive Director of Communications, The Carroll News offers three additional points:
Plans are underway to create a more inclusive environment among all faculty. Margaret Farrar, Dean of Arts and Sciences, stated, “The College of Arts and Sciences sponsored two opportunities for conversation with adjuncts earlier during the semester. The purpose of the meeting was for me and the CAS associate deans to meet and hear from our adjunct faculty colleagues, who do excellent work for our students. I enjoyed the candid conversations we had; many different departments and a real breadth of experience were represented at both sessions. We’re reviewing the input the groups provided, and plan to use it as we think about investing in our faculty as teacher-scholars at John Carroll. I look forward to more opportunities to talk.”
The pay offered to adjuncts at John Carroll University is similar to, and in some cases, higher, than the stipends offered by other colleges and universities in Northeast Ohio.
The College of Arts and Sciences and the University will continue in the upcoming academic year to engage in dialog with faculty, including adjuncts, and their departments, on issues that are important to our faculty and to the teaching of our students.