- The Current Landscape and Changing Perspectives of Part-Time Faculty
This monograph provides an often oddly satisfying juxtaposition of corporate, institutional, and unionist views of part-time community college faculty members. As is characteristic of the Jossey-Bass New Directions series, this volume suggests that it will offer a focus on practitioner concerns, yet also offer some theoretical perspectives. In a variety of ways it succeeds.
As all of the chapter authors note, community colleges have come to rely on part-time faculty members; thus, it is increasingly important to understand who they are, what work conditions they experience, and their levels of satisfaction with their positions. One consistent and important reminder in the volume is that student evaluations are typically as positive for part-time as for full-time faculty members. Thus, institutions lose very little, if anything, in the quality of the classroom experience.
Nevertheless, as some of the chapters illustrate, community colleges must address the fact that part-time faculty members have little opportunity to offer the highly important contact between an instructor and students outside the classroom. That limited opportunity is not only constrained by the instructor’s likely need to go to another place for another job but also by the too-common failure to provide an email address or telephone, much less an office, to those instructors.
The chapters addressing examples of community colleges with successful support programs for part-time faculty members make it clear that providing this infrastructure results in positive practical outcomes such as faculty satisfaction and retention. In at least one instance, institutional activities targeted at engaging part-time and full-time faculty as colleagues achieved success, a notable achievement indeed given full-time professors’ preference to keep discussions of curriculum and courses in their domain.
Nor is it wise for institutions to treat all part-time faculty members as uniform. Their motivations for teaching at a community college are varied, ranging from full-time income needs to the desire to communicate about career fields through the classroom. In fact, several of the volume’s analyses of part-time faculty members divide them between those in the arts and sciences and those in vocational and technical fields. The two groups report different satisfaction levels on a number of issues (salary, position, etc.). In more than one chapter, authors offer an even broader context through contrasts and comparisons with full-time faculty members. In sum, part-time faculty members in the arts and sciences are, more often than not, less satisfied than part-time faculty members in vocational and technical fields and full-time faculty members.
Unions offer some protection and support for part-time faculty members, although usually not with the same attention that their full-time colleagues receive. Two chapters address unionist perspectives, documenting notable successes in securing parity in such matters as salary and benefits. Unfortunately, equally notable are the ongoing battles waged by organizations representing part-timers against state legislatures, individual institutions, and even faculty unions themselves.
Although the Editor’s Notes provide a clear overview of the remainder of the volume, it would have been helpful to have outlined the remaining chapters with consequent consistency, a consistency as minor as numbers and as important as themes. While the editor achieves much of the latter in the Notes, the former was at times disconcerting. For example, many chapter authors used different sources to identify the number or percentage of part-time faculty members; while the proportion was consistently about two-thirds of all community faculty members, the various sources can, at the least, cause a reader to pause rather than to continue with the flow of the argument.
The preponderance of themes in the chapters derives from a conception of the community college as an instrument of the global economy; hence, analyses of, and arguments about, faculty satisfaction tended to focus on how well community colleges use part-time vocational and technical faculty members. Like many discussions about practitioner concerns, it seems as if...