Short-term teaching contracts restrict faculty potential, negatively impact classroom

Staff Editorial

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Though the number of full-time teaching positions at Tulane has remained constant, the number of adjunct positions, meaning not full-time, has increased, which has resulted in adverse effects for the Tulane community. Students may develop less meaningful relationships with adjunct professors, and adjuncts are not able to survive solely on their per-course wages, stifling their participation in the Tulane community. 

Adjunct professors are typically offered contracts on a per-semester basis, and those who use this salary as their primary way of making a living have an unsteady source of income and little job security. Tulane pays adjuncts around $4,000 per course they teach. The average annual salary of an associate professor at Tulane is $92,000, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. This discrepancy can greatly diminish the quality of classroom instruction. For some adjuncts, the pressure of not knowing whether they will return next semester can discourage professors from challenging their students because it requires more attention and focus.

Even if adjunct professors are quality educators, students are not able to form long-lasting, meaningful relationships with them because they often leave universities with little notice. The tight-knit student-teacher relationship is one of the crowning jewels of a Tulane education and one that Tulane administrators love to dangle in front of prospective students. If this relationship is diminished, students lose a vital academic and professional resource.

Because adjunct professors are often not permanent members of the community where they teach, they do not receive staff benefits. Tulane provides benefits to any faculty member who works half-time or greater, but this policy often excludes adjuncts, withholding employers’ healthcare for them or their families.

Newcomb-Tulane College Dean James MacLaren has supported a plan to fill faculty positions with professors of practice in lieu of adjuncts. Tulane offers professors of practice multi-year contracts, which allow flexibility in their careers and offers them some job security. This move is a great first step, but this plan has not come to fruition as the number of adjunct professors has increased. To better the quality of a Tulane education and enhance the lives of academic professionals, Tulane invest resources in increasing the number of long-term and tenured positions.