Connecting Non Full-time Faculty to Institutional Mission
A Guidebook for College/University Administrators and Faculty Developers
Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2007
The role of adjuncts in academe has grown to become a major component of modern higher education; who they are and what they do now exerts a substantial influence on critical measures such as student retention, quality of classroom teaching, scholarship, and full-time faculty morale. Adjuncts, however, are often marginalized as a group, lack access to resources, and are not robustly integrated into effort to achieve the institutional mission. Baron-Nixon suggests that the major change in the role of adjuncts in higher education during the past thirty years requires a new conceptualization of the role of adjuncts and a better "connection" of part-time faculty to the institutional mission.
In this brief book (105 pages), the author suggests that connecting adjuncts to the institutional mission can be carried out by discrete, concrete action in five areas, the five chapters of the book: the institution, the department, teaching, student relations, and scholarship. In each chapter's introduction, the author describes one or more challenges facing American higher education. The introduction is followed by an "Action Plan" that provides a series of sections covering the areas in which the institution could take action to meet those challenges. The sections contain action steps that are presented in a concise and prescriptive manner and cover topics ranging from small procedural matters such eligibility of adjuncts for bookstore discounts to the integration of adjuncts into the scholarship of teaching and learning.
The book's strength lies in its comprehensive scope and practical guidance. The book is well-suited to distribution directly to adjuncts as well as providing material for learning circles, departmental discussions, and institutional committees dealing with the role of adjuncts on campus. The text is written in a simple, lucid style without digressions or reliance on professional jargon. The text does not present theory or research; in fact, the discussion is without any citations either within the steps or in the presentation of the challenges in the introduction. However, the extensive bibliography (conveniently divided into monographs/books, unpublished dissertations, and other sources) provides an excellent resource for research regarding the assertions and recommendations in the text. For example, the bibliography includes 112 unpublished dissertations since 1984; the monographs and books presently in print on the subject; and a comprehensive selection of pertinent reports, conference presentations, and news reports.
The chapter relating to a department's responsibilities and opportunities in utilizing adjuncts illustrates the author's approach. The challenges identified in this chapter are creating connections among adjuncts, full-time faculty, and staff; creating connections between adjuncts and the educational processes; and addressing the common conflicts between departmental autonomy and institutional standards. The Action Plan's first section is "Collegial Integration." This section contains the following steps that the author suggests will lead to connection of the adjunct to the department:
Each step includes advice about actions that could be taken. The advice ranges from a sentence to a paragraph; the advice is written in a general manner: "Once or twice per term, informal discussion circles made up of part-time faculty as well as full-time faculty and other professional staff (such as lab technicians), can go a long way toward collegial relations." (page 49).
Chapter 4, "Connection 4: To Students: Steps in Fostering and Sustaining a Supportive Learning Environment" is the weakest of the five chapters. While the introduction was longer than any other chapter, the six pages of action steps held little more than a brief discussion of common approaches. For example, the second section in the action plan for this chapter is "Advising and Mentoring of Students" where the text notes that advising and mentoring can be carried on even when not a part of the formal job assignment. The action steps in this section were for the most part one-sentence bullets that advised adjuncts to refer students to source of information about good study practices; to provide information regarding support mechanisms on campus; to offer opportunities to discuss career choices; and to give encouragement to seek formal advising. While the study steps appeared useful for leading a discussion group, the very limited and summary coverage appeared too brief for substantial assistance to a new adjunct struggling with finding ideas and approaches.
Overall, the text would be better done at twice the length with more "how to" discussion as well as reflection and comments by the author who appears to have an excellent grasp of the issues and the literature. However, I would strongly recommend the book, despite the shortcomings, for any new adjunct and as a good practice checklist for use on campuses to evaluate the integration of adjuncts into the institution's core functions and structures and to suggest improvements.
University of North Carolina at Asheville