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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Can More Be Done To Protect All Members Of The Academic Community?

Like most institutions, the academic community is inherently built on a hierarchical system in which promotion is based on achievements in the fields of research and scholarship. While this may appear to be a just form of mobility  upward or otherwise  within academia, it must be noted that not all members are given the necessary opportunities, resources, or support needed in order to ensure continued sustainability and standing within an association of higher learning.

Those who are most vulnerable to falling victim to unemployment, low wages, and an overall lack of respect and appreciation from colleagues and students often consist of those considered to be part of the adjunct faculty.

The adjunct faculty is generally made up of those who have been hired by the university to solely teach general education or major requirement courses in place of main faculty members. This is necessitated in part because main faculty members often are too enthralled with their own research or are mostly disinterested in teaching the basic fundamentals of their discipline to a large number of students.  

Due to the fact that adjunct faculty are specifically hired to teach a certain number of classes and nothing else, they often receive a considerably smaller salary and fewer benefits than main faculty members and are frequently the first ones to be let go by a university during downsizing periods.

All of this can lead to feelings of inferiority, marginalization, and in some cases, suspicion of outright discrimination in an environment that otherwise prides itself as being a citadel for social justice.

The courses taught by adjunct faculty members directly contribute to the progression of students’ degrees. As nice as it is to attend a school that conducts advanced research, the main purpose of this university is education. Therefore, mistreating the adjunct faculty is severely detrimental to the university as a whole. 

If universities want to continue to portray themselves as one of the foremost pillars of egalitarianism, then much more must be done on their part in order to protect all members of the academic community, regardless of how much fiscal wealth and prestige they bring to the university.

Those who say it is not the university’s responsibility to look after the well-being of all of its operatives will cite the alleged increase in funding and expenses it will take on the university’s behalf in order to meet the goals of increased pay and job security for adjunct faculty members.

Naysayers will also point to their belief that members of the adjunct faculty do not produce anything substantial for the university in terms of funding, grants, or other accolades, and as a result should not receive a higher salary or other benefits, such as tenure.

If the university does not provide the means or opportunities for adjunct faculty members to conduct research, then how can one expect members of the adjunct faculty to contribute to the university in the way that others see fit? If a university cannot or will not give opportunities for members of the adjunct faculty to conduct research, then there must be alternative methods in which members of the adjunct faculty can display their importance and contributions to the university.

Currently such a system exists in the form of the instructor evaluations that students complete at the end of the semester. Unfortunately the process of evaluating an instructor is generally not taken seriously by some students and it often leads to inconclusive results regarding the instructor’s capabilities. Perhaps by reforming the system in which instructors are evaluated for their teaching abilities, a merit system can be put into place which rewards the positive work of members of the adjunct faculty.

In essence, more must be done by all members of the academic community to ensure the safety and well-being of all those who make up the university. The life of a student or a professor is hardly ideal at times, and if more people practiced compassion and empathy when interacting with others, then it will go a long way in enabling those who feel disenfranchised to feel a sense of belonging and safety in a setting that seeks the advancement of all peoples.

Hopefully by understanding the hardships that members of the adjunct faculty face today,  there will be further such efforts to aid those most vulnerable in the academic community and society at large.