The Office of Faculty Affairs (“OFA”) conducted a successful Meet and Confer on Thursday, March 31st. We were pleased to be joined by Senior Vice President and Provost Jennifer King Rice and Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Carlo Colella. Approximately 20 adjunct faculty members were in attendance. Prior to the meeting, OFA distributed a survey to all adjunct instructional faculty, which gave adjunct faculty an opportunity to offer comments and raise their concerns regarding their experiences as adjunct faculty at the University of Maryland. Below is a summary of the discussion at the Meet and Confer meeting, which addresses the main topics raised in survey responses, in addition to questions raised during the session.
Communication and Support. Several faculty members reported difficulty getting information related to performing their jobs from their units. Adjunct faculty come from a range of fields and experiences, often exclusively from outside academia, and expressed both a desire and a need for information that helps them understand the University environment, the University of Maryland culture, and essentials such as how to post grades and manage incompletes.
- There is a wide range of work environments on campus – some feel respected, supported and appreciated; others do not.
- Adjunct faculty are not always aware of pertinent university policies, trained on how to how to teach students with increasing demands, and included in faculty matters in individual units. While adjunct faculty are invited to attend new faculty orientation, there are challenges in identifying new adjunct faculty depending on their appointment dates, as well as challenges for some adjunct faculty to attend due to other commitments.
- One faculty member commented that it would be helpful to understand how the course they taught fit in with the curriculum – For instance, the faculty member commented that they are not aware of what underlying content has already been taught.
Role of adjuncts. Key questions that emerged included: What are the university's strategic plans for utilizing and maximizing the contribution(s) of adjunct faculty? What does the University want us to contribute?
- Participants in the meeting and respondents to the survey indicated that it would be helpful for the University to explain its expectations, wants and needs related to adjuncts and explain what adjuncts should expect from the university. In the future, UMD is committed to explore ways to strategically leverage the unique skills and professional experiences of the adjunct faculty.
IT and work matters. Access to UMD email accounts between appointments continues to cause issues for some faculty. For instance, students have no way of reaching them after a semester ends unless the faculty member is granted a non-paid appointment (for letters of recommendation, career advice, etc.). Last year OFA advised adjuncts, as well as unit heads, regarding the creation of unpaid appointments for adjuncts so that they may maintain access to UMD infrastructure and e-mail between teaching assignments. Further information regarding this is available here. Adjunct faculty may contact their business unit managers initially regarding this matter, or the Office of Faculty Affairs (firstname.lastname@example.org). An additional issue raised by those in attendance was the availability of office space and the ability of adjunct faculty to meet with students. Finally adjunct faculty raised the issue of access to technologies (e.g., phones, computers) for work purposes, particularly for those adjunct faculty who work/teach in fully remote situations. OFA understands that these are important concerns and is working on finding solutions.
Training/sharing important resources. Many in attendance suggested training specifically addressed to adjuncts. In addition, there were recommendations to host events in a hybrid fashion – online as well as in person – so that adjuncts could have access to training and other important information when it is most convenient for them. OFA will look into options to facilitate this more in the future. Faculty are reminded to go to the OFA events resource to see upcoming workshops and other training opportunities that are open to all faculty. In addition, you will find this information also on the monthly faculty affairs newsletter.
Working environment, conditions, and advancement. Some attendees raised questions about workload (number of courses taught, in some cases more than PTK faculty); compensation (especially in light of the recent graduate assistant/teaching assistant stipend raises); lack of benefits; exclusion from recent wage increases/bonus; lack of annual or other type of regular review by their units; and lack of wage increases over time (in one case, after 25 years of service as an adjunct. As noted by one individual: “Adjuncts who teach essential coursework (required coursework linked to accreditation) are undervalued both in terms of compensation and recognition. The onramp to increasing rate of pay for an adjunct is very long. Year over year teaching and positive course reviews should result in reward and recognition for adjuncts instead of recognition for teaching success only being awarded to faculty members, especially if an adjunct is teaching core program coursework, if the class is essential to accreditation the course should be valued differently."
UMD policy. The University defines all instructional faculty with an FTE below 50% as adjuncts. Research faculty with an FTE below 50% are considered part-time PTK faculty, and not adjuncts. There are two categories of adjunct faculty: Adjunct I and Adjunct II. See the University’s policy for information about each category. There are two permitted title series for Instructional adjunct faculty: adjunct professorial and lecturer. This can be confusing, since UMD also calls a number of instructional faculty over 50% FTE, Lecturers. OFA is aware of the issues this may cause and is currently exploring solutions to the issue.
Minimum adjunct wages. The administration sets minimum pay rates for adjuncts that academic units cannot go below. Specific pay rates are determined by the colleges and individual units. The appointing units also determine instructional load equivalents and how that relates to a faculty member’s percentage level of effort, which in turn determines whether a faculty member is benefits eligible (greater than 50% FTE appointment).