Rather than debating the merits of using part-time faculty members in higher education, university administrators should look for ways to integrate part-timers into university communities, writes Pamela Balch, the vice-president for academic affairs and dean of the faculty at Bethany College, in West Virginia. "Part-time faculty members often feel excluded from campus events," she writes.
Although some university administrators are concerned that institutional quality may be compromised by part-timers who don't devote enough time to students and activities outside the classroom, few administrators offer guidelines that "articulate the role that part-time faculty should play in the overall mission" of the university.
Many administrators and full-time faculty members fear that the use of part-timers may jeopardize teaching quality, yet few universities offer instructional workshops for part-timers or invite them to participate in faculty meetings. And even though part-time faculty members teach 25 per cent of all college courses, little care is taken to screen them, Ms. Balch says. "Recruitment and hiring of excellent part-time faculty members should be as important as the process of selecting full-time faculty," she writes.
The duties of part-timers should be clearly defined, and they should be encouraged to participate in the decision-making process, writes Ms. Balch. Furthermore, part-time faculty members should be evaluated and compensated based on their qualifications, experience, teaching quality, and contributions to the university community, and they should be rewarded for their service and teaching excellence, just as full-time faculty members are.
Part-time faculty members "are here to stay," writes Ms. Balch, and it's high time university administrators take notice. Administrators who incorporate them into the community will "enhance the quality of teaching" at their universities and reap many benefits, she concludes. The journal's World-Wide Web address is http://www.scup.org/phe.htm