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June 4, 2014

Inbox — June 4, 2014

Letters to the Editor

Willing and Able to Adjunct
I was pleased to see Sean Patrick Hill’s cover story detailing the plight of adjunct instructors (LEO Weekly, May 21). As an adjunct, I agree with many of the points raised in the article, but Joshua Mills-Knutsen’s conclusion that adjuncts are “unwilling” and “unqualified” to be full-time faculty is misleading and untrue.

First, I would love to be full-time and am more than willing to assume the responsibilities given to full-time faculty. In a single semester as an adjunct, I taught over 22 credit hours at two institutions on three campuses. Teaching a full-time load of 12-14 hours at a single location, with better pay, benefits, an office, phone and research space would be a dream job.

Secondly, the nature of adjunct work greatly hinders one’s ability to be qualified for many full-time positions. As a professor in natural sciences, it’s difficult to find the time for research. I lack lab space, am unable to apply for grants and am not eligible to be a principle investigator on research projects.

Despite these obstacles, I have successfully continued doing research and have a paper currently under review. My teaching skills are exemplary, and I was recently awarded the highest teaching honor given to faculty at the university where I work. If I’m qualified enough to teach and do research as a part-time employee, why am I not qualified to be full-time and given benefits?

So, what drives me to do adjunct work? I don’t want to have to leave Louisville to do what I love. I was born, raised and educated in Louisville, as was my husband. I want to raise our children here and want them to be close to family. I love Louisville — its parks, museums, restaurants, arts and culture. I am invested in the community and want to contribute my talents to make it better, but I can’t find a full-time university teaching job in Louisville with a PhD. In fact, I was recently passed up for a full-time position because of earning my PhD locally. If I had known this when I was younger, I would have left Louisville to get my undergraduate and graduate degrees so I could return to Louisville to establish my career. Something to consider for all those high school grads still trying to decide where to go to college — a university will sell you a degree, they just won’t hire you with it.
C. Adams, Old Louisville

A Major Problem
Regarding Sean Patrick Hill’s article “Gross income” in the May 21 LEO, I can’t help but notice that all of the adjunct instructors quoted/cited taught in the humanities: English, philosophy and foreign languages. No adjunct instructors in the social sciences or natural sciences are encountered in this article. Might the problem be a choice to go into the humanities, where teaching is one of the only options?

Last year, I taught one graduate social science course as an adjunct instructor. From my experience, I knew the pay was low when I signed the contract; I considered it subsidized volunteering to broaden my professional horizons. I have not returned to teaching adjunct because I have other professional options.

In the article, a philosophy instructor says, “Our society encouraged me to borrow money in pursuit of my degree on the assumption that it is socially worthwhile.” This sounds like a deflection of responsibility, as though society is responsible for the fact that he is “afforded fewer financial compensations than any full-time administrator.” We are allowed to choose our fields of study. I do not know the last time a humanities degree was in high demand, or how “society” encourages people to seek graduate degrees that don’t lead to full employment.

I do know that news story after news story about our economy emphasizes the lack of skilled workers for the jobs in high demand. Let Hill’s sad story about the plight of adjunct instructors serve as one more lesson to young people: Choose a field in which there is high demand, and you will not end up with a low-pay, low-benefits job. You will end up with a career.
Jessica Howington, Germantown

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