Washington Monthly - September/October 2015 - 77

ASSOCIATED PRESS of the recession, despite growth in revenue, public and private research universities cropped their education-related spending. One adjunct teacher, JJ, posting a comment online, calculated his/her pay as an adjunct as $65 per student per semester, adding up to the princely sum of $2,000, noting that "each student paid $45,000 in tuition and took about 4 classes a semester.... I think their parents would be rather upset to learn that only $65 of the $45,000 went to pay one professor for an entire semester." Of course, what parents really care about is whether their students are benefiting from the money they're spending. So the real question is whether the shift to adjunct teaching has helped or hurt Nothing to lose but your grades: Part-time educators at Central Connecticut State University education outcomes. That turns out take part in a "grade-in" as part of National Adjunct Walkout Day in February. to be a hard question to answer definitively, because comprehensive data on student outcomes is hard to come by and the va- ured professors (who, for the most part, aren't hired for riety among adjuncts (part-time, full-time, graduate stu- their teaching ability). What seems to make a difference dents, and so on) and schools (selective schools, open ad- is how adjuncts are treated. At most schools, adjuncts missions schools) makes comparisons difficult without simply aren't getting the tools, training, support, or even good data. According to some research, adjuncts get high status that they need to do their job. Mary Grabar, who marks. One study found that freshmen at Northwestern worked as an adjunct for many years, sums it up: University learned more in introductory classes taught by non-tenured faculty. Another study, of a public four-year Consider the harried part-timer pulling her cart from school in Ohio, showed that students who took science the car to the "office." This was necessary, for in most and engineering classes from adjuncts were more likely to places one could expect at most part of a file drawer for take more classes in those fields, especially if the adjuncts storage, or if she had some seniority among adjuncts, were older (the authors theorized that the real-world ina small locker for her coat and papers next to a cubidustry experience of these older instructors may have cle in the hallway near the regular faculty offices. At captured the students' imaginations). the state university we had one large room called "The Other research, however, points strongly in the opBullpen." It contained cast-off desks and chairs. If your posite direction. A study of community college students office hour happened to not be at a popular time, you found that those who had more exposure to part-time would be lucky and get a place to sit, along with a chair teachers were less likely to transfer to four-year unifor your student. I seemed to get the desk with the worst versities. Another detailed study of six public universichair, one which required a delicate balancing act, as ties within one state found that at four of those schools, it wobbled precipitously. There was certainly no leanfreshmen who had more time with part-time faculty were ing back into a reverie about the poetry I was about to substantially less likely to return sophomore year. Interteach! That was too dangerous. estingly, however, at the other two universities in that state, freshmen with higher exposure to part-time teachAnd Grabar says she certainly didn't have much time ers were slightly more likely to persist to sophomore year. to spare for students with similar reveries, or students The difference, the researchers discovered, is that these who simply had questions. two schools gave their part-time instructors more supWith contracts that last only a semester, adjuncts port, including them, for instance, in new faculty orienare hard-pressed to do more than just find the next tation programs. term's job-updating their courses, mentoring students, This last finding gets to the larger point. As a class, and writing letters of recommendation has to come out adjuncts probably aren't any worse at teaching than ten- of time in which they are writing their own applications Washington Monthly 77

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Washington Monthly - September/October 2015

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