Adjunct professors save colleges money. The administration’s incentive for opting for more adjunct professors is clear. Less clear is where these saved costs are ultimately going, and why this alternate destination proves more beneficial for students in the long run than full-time professors.
According to the Occidental Human Resources Department, 46 percent of Occidental faculty were not tenured/tenure-track faculty (T3) and over 50 percent of courses were taught by non-tenure-track (NTT) instructors in 2013-2014. The college’s current student-to-T3 faculty ratio reaches a whopping 14.4:1, while peer institutions settle around 11:1.
Occidental’s relatively low endowment could explain its struggle to keep up with its peers, however, this factor does little to justify the lack of transparency within the hiring process. The money required to fund a new tenure-track position comes from a pool the administration also allocates to its own raises and significantly larger salaries.
The administration must either divide this funding into separate pools or make its allocations more transparent for faculty and students alike. If the administration turns down a tenure-track request due to budget constraints, faculty can rest assured that their coming termination is not the result of an administrator’s decision to pat himself on the back instead. With this, administrators can avoid the wrath and skepticism of the rest of the school by putting all of their decisions on the table in an open and comprehensive package.
Dividing funds into distinct pools would save the school both time and money across the board. One of the main attractions of any small liberal arts school is small class size, conducive for close student-faculty relationships. Since students and alumni overtly value professors so highly and particularly, creating a distinct pool for professor salaries would allow fundraising mechanisms such as Telefund to replace their ambiguous donation requests with more targeted ones. Alumni are much more likely to donate when they know where exactly their money is going. In the end, the school would raise more funds, professors would be that much closer to receiving the salaries––as well as the possibility of tenure––they deserve, there would be greater trust and support between faculty and administrators and students would be granted more access to a higher caliber of faculty for guidance and mentorship.
At the very least, we must find a way to guarantee benefits and extended contracts for the adjunct faculty that have served our school and its students for decades.