In December, at their last meeting of the Fall 2019 semester the Faculty Senate voted unanimously to grant “standing committee” status to the Senate Adjunct Issues Committee, which previously had been labeled “ad hoc.” This means the committee’s prior temporary status has now been made permanent. The historic vote was a sign of the growing recognition of the problems facing part-time teachers in American higher education today.
Approximately 70% of college teachers are now part-time. They face difficulties such as low pay, lack of health insurance, and uncertain job security.
Following the Senate action, The Viking News spoke to adjunct faculty member Claudia Jacques De Moraes Cardoso, one of the two co-chairs of the committee. The other is Elizabeth Miller, a full-time member of the Sociology Department.
Cardoso has been working in the Art Department here at WCC since 2001. With a degree in education from Brazil and owner of a graphic design business, she was hired as an adjunct professor. Now, Cardoso holds an array of degrees, including a BA in photography, an MFA in Computer Art, and a recent Doctorate degree in Interactive Art.
But nearly 20 years later – through major career advances – she is still an adjunct professor. Last year, she got involved in the ad hoc Adjuncts Issues Committee, created by the Faculty Senate to investigate the problems facing adjunct teachers at WCC and report their findings back to the Senate. According to Cardoso, this is the first ever adjunct committee to exist in SUNY schools.
Cardoso views the creation of this committee as a positive thing for the college. “I think that the first step to fixing something is to realize there is an issue. That is not a bad thing, it is a good thing.”
The committee hopes to bring to light the various problems currently being faced by the diverse population that is the adjunct staff. Many of these adjuncts, says Cardoso, are cherished and esteemed professors, helpful librarians, and providers of other services.
Currently, says Cardoso, full-time professors are vetted more thoroughly than adjuncts. a process that actually does not work in the adjuncts’ favor. Ideally, she would like to see more equity between adjuncts and full-time faculty. “You have adjuncts that are not happy, and full-time faculty that are overworked,” says Cardoso. “So how do we go about changing that?”
“It may be wishful thinking, but there should be more equity and opportunity for adjuncts to grow and become full time faculty when there are openings.”
The committee has already begun its work. Periodically, as a standing committee, it will make recommendations to the Senate for possible future actions.