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Most adjuncts at universities receive their course assignments two to three weeks before an academic term begins. As a result, they have little time to prepare to teach the courses.

That finding is part of a survey of adjuncts being released today, focusing on start-of-the-semester issues.

The report, by the Campaign for the Future of Higher Education, is based on a survey by the foundation of the New Faculty Majority, which seeks to educate the public about adjunct issues. It paints a bleak picture, and the above scenario is one example of less-than-ideal support for such faculty members. “They [adjuncts] are given, at best, inadequate access to sample course syllabi, curriculum guidelines, library resources, clerical support, and the like. They often have only limited, if any, access to personal offices, telephones, computers, and associated software, and technological tools and training,” the study say.

The survey found that the following percentages of adjuncts receive these resources less than two weeks before classes start:

  • Copying services: 47 percent
  • Library privileges: 45 percent
  • Office space: 38 percent
  • Sample syllabuses: 34 percent
  • Curriculum guidelines: 21 percent

Adjuncts are not very “visible” on campus and are often referred to as “staff” in class schedules, says the survey, which is titled "Who is Professor 'Staff,' and how can this person teach so many classes?"

"The existing survey tool is on our website. It can be downloaded and if universities want, they can keep track of their own practices when it comes to adjunct faculty,” said Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, and a co-author of the report. “We want administrators to see what the exact conditions are on their own campuses.”

The 500 adjuncts who responded were identified through contact lists of the New Faculty Majority and other faculty organizations.

These faculty members said they often did not know that they would be teaching a course until a week or two before the beginning of the term. “In the worst experiences, almost two-thirds reported receiving three weeks or less notice to prepare for their class,” the survey says. One respondent was told the week classes started, while another got less than two weeks to prepare a syllabus and lectures.

“By not giving me the time and materials I need to be prepared, my department is, in effect, limiting my ability to be successful in the classroom,” said a survey participant.

Ninety-four percent of survey participants said they do not receive any campus or department orientation even though 49 percent were new to the campuses where they were teaching. “If universities and colleges fail to engage professors as professionals whose work extends beyond an isolated class to include interaction and relationships with other faculty as well as with students, they are also failing to engage the students in ways that clearly have a significant impact on their learning,” the survey says.

Some survey respondents said they spend their own money to make copies or buy software for class, even as they live in poverty, so that their students can have a good classroom experience.

“Our survey data suggest that campus administrations have too often reached beyond the demands of flexibility to a level of arbitrariness in hiring practices unrelated to fiscal prudence, reasonable flexibility, or any real educational purpose,” the survey concludes.

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