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[fair use reprint for scholarly commentary only] TENNESSEAN (Nashville) 02/27/95 PART-TIME PROFESSORS FILL CLASSROOMS By LISA BENAVIDES Call them the temps of the ivory towers. Part-time professors are taking over college classrooms in greater numbers for the same reason temporary workers have replaced many full-time positions in the business world. The part-time instructors also called taxicab professors or adjuncts are paid less, aren't on a tenure track and don't get benefits. But with the number of part-time professors averaging 40 percent nationwide, students are more likely to be cheated of after-class counseling time, skilled instructors and commitment by professors, critics say. "There's definitely a difference between the adjuncts and full-time professors," said Rick Perry, a freshman at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, where 11% of the faculty is part time. "I had a math professor and she lacked a little bit of the education and couldn't communicate well with students, so the class had a hard time." From the university's point of view, part-time professors help handle student surges and increase course offerings. "Many of these are practicing professionals and can bring more real experience to the classroom than a person who hasn't done accounting work in five years," said John Butler dean of academic affairs at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. But some educators fear that the trend toward using more part-time teachers amounts to exploitation that could undermine the basic structure of higher education. "Part-time instructors are the slave labor of higher education," said Philip Altbach, professor of higher education at Boston College. "You can't build a modern university on the basis of part-time faculty because they are not expected to have a full commitment to the institution." Part-timers rarely do research, don't have a say in decisions regarding admissions and curriculum, and are not really part of the culture of their universities because they're only paid for time in class, Altbach said. Charles Holt taught for 23 years at Austin Peay and now teaches two classes from retirement as professor emeritus. About 22 percent of the school's faculty is part time. "Office space for adjuncts is either cramped or nonexistent, and that could be bad for morale and could transfer over to the classroom," said Holt, who retains an office from his full-time teaching days. "It's a very, very good thing from the standpoint of the financial advantages to the university, but it can be a less than desirable experience for students." For universities in a fiscal squeeze, part-timers provide welcome relief. Besides not getting benefits, adjuncts at Tennessee Board of Regents schools make $450-$650 per credit hour they teach, compared with $1,000-$1,800 for full-timers. "The pay is the definite disadvantage," said Minoa Uffelman-Evans, who has taught history at Austin Peay part time for two years. "I couldn't support myself if I didn't have a husband that worked." But the flexibility of teaching one or two classes a semester and not being pressured to publish or go to conferences works to Uffelman- Evans' advantage, she says. Community colleges tend to have more part-timers than research-based universities. At Volunteer State Community College in Gallatin, 47 percent of the professors are part time, compared with 13 percent at Vanderbilt University. A national professors group is alarmed that more universities and colleges are turning to part-timers to fill spots vacated by full-time professors or pick up the slack from higher enrollments. "Obviously there are times when part-time professors are very valid," said Iris Molotsky, spokeswoman for the American Association of University Professors. "But in many cases it's exploitive." The association recommends that all schools cap the percentage of part-timers at 15 percent. Boston College's Altbach said an example of what excessive part-time professors can produce is Mexico, where nearly 75 percent of the professors are part time. "The professors aren't colleagues, they're just employees. They're not committed to the institution," he said. "They have some excellent universities, but most are not so good on average." ---30--