Like others, Southeast is relying more often on adjunct professors

Monday, February 25, 2013
Gelanie Lockhart lectures to students taking her Rhetoric and Critical Thinking class Friday at Southeast Missouri State University. Lockhart is one of 203 adjunct professors teaching at the university during the 2012-2013 academic year. (ADAM VOGLER)

When students register for classes at Southeast Missouri State University, some may expect to be taught by tenured professors with years of experience. But Southeast, like other universities, increasingly is relying on part-time instructors, or adjuncts, to teach a variety of courses -- particularly those viewed as entry-level.

Southeast has 395 full-time faculty and 203 adjunct faculty members in university departments for the 2012-2013 academic year. The adjunct faculty total represents an increase of 48 since the 2010-2011 term.

"I don't know if this university could survive without them," said Dr. William Eddleman, vice provost and dean of the School of Graduate Studies. "That goes for many universities across the country."

Eddleman said faculty retirements and record student enrollment accounted for the increased reliance on adjunct faculty at Southeast. The retirements can be attributed to a large number of faculty hired during departmental expansions at Southeast during the 1970s and 1980s, he said. Enrollment at Southeast has risen significantly with a record number of more than 11,000 undergraduate and graduate students enrolled for the 2012-2013 academic year.

"We had 40 faculty-member searches last year, and this year there are currently 20 being conducted," Eddleman said. "The adjuncts serve a valuable purpose because the existing full-time faculty can't cover every spot left by those who have retired or have otherwise left the university. They also help cover the overflow of students we're experiencing in certain classes."

Most Southeast adjunct instructors at Southeast teach entry-level classes required of all students, such as English and mathematics. But some may teach higher-level classes based on what specialties they possess.

"In the Department of Political Science, Philosophy and Religion, we have qualified local pastors teaching religion courses as adjuncts," said Dr. Rickert Althaus, professor of political science and member of the Faculty Senate. "Because we're not in a large metro area, we're fortunate to be able to fill those spots."

Austin Crowe, an assistant prosecutor in Scott County prosecutor's office, teaches criminal law two nights a week at the school's Sikeston, Mo., regional campus.

"It's a three-hour course, one semester a year," Crowe said. "It's something I like doing and it keeps me up on the law."

Adjunct instructors earn $680 for each credit hour they teach but receive no health-care or other benefits. Crowe will make a little more than $2,000 this semester.

"I enjoy giving back to the community. The money and lack of benefits aren't an issue because with me it's strictly a matter of teaching the class. I just want to share what I know with the students," Crowe said.

Eddleman believes adjunct instructor applicants should know they won't be making a lot of money or be eligible for benefits.

"We look for qualified applicants who have at least a master's degree to teach classes part-time," he said. "The position is a supplement for most people, not a full-time job."

Gelanie Lockhart lectures to students taking her Rhetoric and Critical Thinking class Friday, Feb. 15, at Southeast Missouri State University. Lockhart is one of 203 adjunct professors who teaching at the university during the 2012-2013 academic year. (ADAM VOGLER)

Gelanie Lockhart, who works in real estate in the Cape Girardeau area, is one of 16 adjunct instructors in Southeast's Department of English. She has taught part-time at the main campus since 2006, when she earned her master's degree from Southeast.

"I'm teaching two entry-level classes this semester and I taught three last semester," she said. "I would like to teach full time, but I'm doing well enough in real estate so that it would be a hard choice for me to make."

Lockhart genuinely likes teaching.

"It's very rewarding," she said. "The memory that sticks out was in one of my English Composition courses. I had reviewed the work of a student and it had all the signs of someone who suffered from dyslexia. I asked him if anyone had ever talked to him about having the problem, and he said, 'No, I've always been told I was stupid.' It's feels great to be able to help someone."

If Lockhart could change anything about the status of adjunct teachers, it would be having more of a voice within their departments.

"We have no vote in departmental meetings," she said. "It creates sort of a stigma about us. But I still like what I do."

For anyone considering the life of an adjunct professor, Lockhart said, "All part-timers do it, or should do it, because they want to, not because they need to. If it were about money, I could be making more at a pizza place. That's the truth."

klewis@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent address: 1 University Plaza, Cape Girardeau, Mo.

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