Getting Rid of an Adjunct

When a university and its alumni association get in a fight, it may be dangerous to be off the tenure track, and an active alumnus.
August 18, 2009

Joe Manfredi thought he was going to be teaching at the New Jersey Institute of Technology this fall, and was preparing his graduate course in pharmaceutical facility design -- one of several courses that he has taught, one or two at a time, since 2002.

Manfredi has a full-time job outside academe, but likes teaching and the connection it gave him to NJIT, his alma mater. Students and professors gave him good reviews. So he was surprised last week to get an abrupt call from his supervisor telling him that NJIT had banned him from teaching there because he also happens to be a vice president of the alumni association, and that, as such, he was not wanted anymore.

The alumni association and the university are fighting in court over control of the alumni group -- and various other disagreements. Manfredi said that these issues have nothing to do with his course, and he never mentioned them in class. His case may illustrate a contention of many advocates for adjuncts: that they lack the most basic of academic freedom protections, such as disagreeing with the administration and holding on to your job.

While the department head didn't put in writing the reason for Manfredi losing his adjunct job at the last minute, he sent Manfredi an e-mail, which Manfredi provided to Inside Higher Ed. In it, he said that he was sorry for having to take back the teaching assignment they had discussed, that he was told by his superiors that he no longer had "the authority to hire you," and that he assumed this ban on his hiring Manfredi would extent "for the foreseeable future."

"I am personally disappointed and saddened by the fact that you will not be re-appointed as an adjunct professor at NJIT since you have been instrumental in the establishment of the highly successful pharmaceutical engineering (PhEn) M.S. program at NJIT in 2002 and you have taught PhEn courses every year since the pharmaceutical engineering program was first established. In my opinion, you have always been an excellent, highly qualified, and dedicated instructor for several of the pharmaceutical engineering courses that NJIT has offered over the years, both on campus and at industrial sites. This is confirmed by the official student evaluations of your classes and the feedback that I received from the students," the e-mail said.

He added: "From my own perspective, the inability to hire you as an instructor will make my job as director of the pharmaceutical engineering program more difficult and not just this fall, given that the semester starts in about two weeks, but also in the future, because of the expertise that you have consistently brought to our students, the help that you have provided in recruiting students and adjunct faculty, and the many other initiatives that you have contributed to develop, such as the establishment of the NJIT Student Chapter of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering."

Sheryl Weinstein, public relations director, after first asking for questions on the case to be submitted in writing and saying she would try to answer them, later said she could not do so Monday because the university needed to consult its lawyers.

She was asked specifically about the academic freedom implications of a respected adjunct losing his job when he was involved in a dispute with the university. (She did confirm to the Associated Press that Manfredi, who was listed in the course schedule for the coming semester, was no longer going to be teaching at the institute.)

As for Manfredi, he said: "I'm very disappointed that NJIT is so small-minded that their attitude is that they want total control. Anyone who voices their opinion gets punished."


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