I have been teaching Expository Writing in the English and Media Studies Department at Bentley University since the fall of 2013. During my time here, I have become increasingly involved in the adjunct union because the vision of a unified faculty community has captured my imagination. Bentley University is committed to creating an inclusive and welcoming community, and I want to see that ideal realized by part-time faculty being given the opportunity to move from the margins to the center of campus life.
Bentley hires part-time faculty members because of what they can contribute to students’ education. To successfully create one faculty, the professional expertise of part-time faculty needs to be acknowledged and valued. This can be done by:
- Improving our working conditions.
Students expect the same excellent instruction and should have the same type of experience in a course regardless of whether a section is being taught by a full or part-time faculty member. At times, however, the working conditions of part-time faculty members stands in our way. For instance, students in a class being taught by a part-time faculty member may not be able to have one-on-one conversations with that instructor due to a lack of sufficient office space. Cramming large numbers of adjuncts into one small office makes it difficult for students to meet with their instructors privately, which is especially problematic when students want to discuss sensitive issues such as their grades.
- Providing us with more pedagogical opportunities.
We are qualified professionals who have a lot to offer our students, and our students recognize this. Many of the students we teach want to continue working with us as they pursue other academic endeavors, but we have to say no. When students ask us to be their advisor for a Capstone project, for example, we have to tell them that we are not allowed to do that—we are not “real” professors. Students understandably find this confusing, and part-time faculty members deserve more opportunities to contribute to student learning and to be involved in pedagogical decisions.
- Supporting our professional development.
Since I started working at Bentley in the fall of 2013, I have attended three academic conferences on my own dime. My participation and engagement in my professional field greatly enriches my teaching. Since students directly benefit from the subject matter expertise of part-time faculty, Bentley should encourage and financially support such professional development.
Part-time faculty are an integral part of the larger Bentley community and we deserve improved worked conditions, more pedagogical opportunities, and professional development support. We are committed to Bentley, and Bentley now needs to commit to supporting our professional development. If you are interested in talking with me more about these issues or the bargaining process in general, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Summar C. Sparks