you are an adjunct faculty member at Notre Dame, you might have
been here for many years, or you might also be a recent hire.
Your spouse/partner might have a tenure-track position and you
might hope for the same. Or the flexibility of an adjunct position,
which usually does not require publication or committee service,
might be just what you and your family want. You might have
a Ph.D. or you might have an M.A., M.F.A. or other professional
degree. You might teach a heavy course load, or you might teach
just one course per semester. If you are adjunct faculty in
the College of Business or in the Law School, chances are you
are a businesswoman or attorney who teaches a class or two as
an active member of the community to which the students aspire.
In all cases you contribute profoundly to your department and
Unfortunately, although you adjunct instructors and professors
teach in nearly every department across campus, and are thus
a crucial and devoted part of the faculty, you face a broad
array of challenges at Notre Dame. The categories of inquiry
in a recent survey conducted by the Modern Language Association
about pay and treatment of part-time and non-tenure-track
faculty members in English and Foreign Language departments
in the U.S. and Canada suggest areas of concern for adjunct
faculty here and elsewhere. These include salary, benefits,
basic office support, opportunities for professional development,
participation in department meetings and decision making,
and advance notice of teaching assignments.
Unfortunately, Notre Dame's treatment of adjunct faculty members,
particularly in the humanities and sciences, is seriously
lacking in many of these areas. If you are an adjunct faculty
member here, you have no job security from year to year, sometimes
not even from semester to semester, regardless of the length
of your service here. You cannot expect any regular salary
increases and you may not even earn a living wage. You most
likely do not receive health or retirement benefits or have
any paid opportunities to participate in professional conferences.
You may have a wonderful working relationship with your department
chair and have good relationships with your other colleagues.
Others of you, however, may not be invited to participate
in departmental meetings and may be essentially invisible
to some of your tenure-track colleagues. In worst cases, other
faculty members might treat you with condescension or hostility.
You may be given several weeks' notice about the courses you
will teach, allowing you to prepare in a thorough and unrushed
manner, but you may also be given last-minute teaching assignments.
Some semesters your course load could also change at the last
minute, which impacts your income, since you are paid on a
Amazingly, even though you may teach a higher course load
than any other member of your department, you may not even
have a welcoming, accessible space in which to meet your students,
nor a campus phone number at which they can reach you. And,
although you may have been frustrated by some or all of these
conditions, you have probably been loathe to address them,
fearing that your lack of job security would make you too
vulnerable to dismissal.
Notre Dame is committed to increasing the number of tenure-track
positions in many departments. Such a commitment could put
an important dent in the number of 'underemployed' Ph.D.'s
who are in non-tenure-track jobs but would prefer to be on
the tenure track. Nevertheless, such a laudable commitment
to the 'bigger picture' must not be allowed to obscure the
impact of hiring policies on the lives and livelihoods of
those adjunct faculty members who already serve the university
and its students. Any new hiring policies or goals should
co-exist with a commitment to fair and humane treatment of
existing adjunct and part-time faculty.
WATCH's Subcommittee on Adjunct Issues is currently attempting
to establish a clearer picture of adjunct 'life' at Notre
Dame so that we can more effectively address its problems