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Campus Equity Week: Full-Time Respect for Part-Time Professors

PHOTO: On a poster for Campus Equity Week, the caption is "Welcome to my office!" It's a nod to the fact that many part-time college instructors don't have a desk or office space from which to work or meet with students. Courtesy AFT Washington.
PHOTO: On a poster for Campus Equity Week, the caption is "Welcome to my office!" It's a nod to the fact that many part-time college instructors don't have a desk or office space from which to work or meet with students. Courtesy AFT Washington.
October 28, 2013

SEATTLE - This is Campus Equity Week, in recognition of adjunct or part-time faculty members who are teaching most college classes today in Washington. They have all the responsibilities, but few of the perks, that come with being a professor. Some have no health insurance and work at more than one school to piece together a steady income.

Annette Stofer calls herself fortunate to have two part-time jobs at the same institution, South Seattle Community College. She said many adjuncts don't know from one semester to the next what or where they'll be teaching, which makes it a lot like being a substitute.

"Sometimes, we'll go to the office to say, 'Oh, I need some whiteboard markers, or I need this...', and we're told, 'Well, you can have one.' Sometimes there's a stinginess around tools and equipment that are just basic tools for our job," she said.

Colleges say using adjuncts gives a school greater flexibility, although it also means they don't have to pay for these workers' benefits. While some people choose to work part-time, Stofer said others long for the stability of a full-time position.

The teachers' union, AFT Washington, sees part-timers as more evidence of a longtime trend of disinvestment in public education. Stofer said adjunct teachers often have the same academic qualifications as full-timers, as well as bringing experience from the business community into the classroom.

"The part-time faculty often have a connection with industry, so they may be more up-to-date than some of the full-time faculty," Stofer noted. "The newer faculty coming in are very technologically savvy - they're teaching online and using the most up-to-date tools."

Gov. Inslee has declared this Wednesday "Adjunct and Part-time Faculty Recognition Day." His proclamation says they should be "fully appreciated for their dedication and service" to the state.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - WA