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April 25, 2012

Advocates for adjuncts were focused Tuesday on a job ad that many felt went too far. The candidate for the adjunct position could not hold a full-time, part-time, or adjunct teaching position at another university, the ad specified. The job, at the University of Southern California's Rossier School of Education, was about “Framing the Social Context of High School Needs.”

It was the last paragraph in the ad, the one about the chosen candidate not being able to work at any other university, that had adjuncts agitated.

Many colleges and universities limit their tenure-track faculty members from teaching elsewhere, or discourage them from doing so. But to adjuncts, such limitations seem shocking because employers of adjuncts aren't offering full-time salaries or benefits, so working at multiple institutions is seen as a basic necessity. Many worried about the possibility of a new way of limiting their economic well-being.

Gwendolyn Bradley, senior program officer with the American Association of University Professors, said a member of her organization brought the ad to her attention. “It was baffling. It is not feasible for an adjunct to teach at one place only and make a living,” Bradley said. “Maybe they are looking for a certain kind of adjunct, and it didn’t come through in the ad. I know that some place cap the number of courses that one person can teach.”

More criticism came from Maria Maisto, the president of the New Faculty Majority, a coalition of non-tenure-track faculty members, who said the ad was problematic. "I can't see how it can be ethical for them to say what an adjunct can or cannot do to make a living. I can understand that is a specialized course, unlike, say, English composition, but people have a right to question as to how they can put that kind of stipulation," she said. "I'm curious about what the legal opinion might be."

Lawrence Picus, vice dean for faculty affairs at the Rossier school, said their assumption was that the adjunct, who would bring a very special kind of expertise, already had full-time employment as a professional, for example, as a superintendent of a school system or a school principal.

“We use adjuncts to meet very specific needs. They teach on an occasional basis and we want them to focus on our school, rather than across multiple universities,” Picus said. “Our intent is not to make life difficult for anybody. But we ask that the person not be teaching at a similar program at another university.”

The dean’s explanation might not be enough to placate adjunct faculty members, who seemed upset at the recruitment ad as a matter of principle. The AAUP Committee on Contingency and the Profession is planning to write a letter to the school, Bradley said, but further details were not available Tuesday.

The advertised job is an online/remote job for the School of Education’s master’s program in teaching, which went online in 2009 and soon quadrupled its enrollment.

 

 

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