Adjuncts cut from programs, students struggle

A move to reduce the number of adjunct professors has decreased the number of sections opened in some programs next semester, according to College of Arts and Sciences Dean Kay Mussell.

Among the programs affected are the Graphics Design Department and the American Studies major.

"We determined that sections didn't need to be offered because they had been offered recently, and we had more classes than needed to meet enrollment," Mussell said.

Students in both departments said they were surprised and disappointed by the administration's decision.

"[This is] ridiculous because they want the Graphic Design program to be credible but refuse to offer the necessary classes, and so [we're] having a hard time graduating because they don't offer the classes we need," junior Becky Brown said.

For example, a core class, the History of Graphic Design, was cancelled for the spring semester, Brown said. She hopes it will be offered in Fall 2004 but fears it will fill up quickly.

"New students and upperclassmen are all fighting to register for the few open spots in each graphic design class," Brown said.

Professor Bill Leap, head of the Anthropology department, which oversees the American Studies program, said the move was made to make the programs more streamlined and efficient.

Lowering the number of adjunct faculty was also a point in University President Benjamin Ladner's 15-point plan, which outlines his vision for the University. Announced in 2001, it describes AU's plan to increase full-time faculty while reducing the number of "extraneous course sections and special topic offerings." No more than 10 percent of undergraduate courses, 5 percent of master courses and no doctoral courses will be taught by adjunct faculty, it said.

"The instructional mission of the department has not been compromised because in the long run, if we do this correctly, the overall undergraduate education, the range of courses and the quality of professors will improve," Leap said.

The change affects approximately 26 declared American Studies majors and minors. While its unclear how many students intend to major in Graphic Design, an Art department spokesperson said a "vast majority" of the 125 students enrolled in the department are in Graphic Design.

Enrollment for both programs is low, and that has affected the number of sections offered, Mussell said. When a class might have been offered four times a year, it might now only be offered three times, she said.

CAS administrators, aware that students are upset or even panicking, have taken action to address the situation.

"We have coded in what the student can take for a cancelled course while exploring new funding possibilities to increase the number of classes we offer," Leap said.

The panic is understandable as students have a right to be concerned about unexpected changes, Leap said. The spring might be difficult for them, but the long-term outcome will be worth a semester of frustration, he said.

Students in both programs said registering for the Spring semester will be very difficult.

In the past, graduate students who taught were considered to be in a separate category from adjunct professors, but the new policy now designates them as adjunct professors while limiting the number of adjunct professors who can teach.

"The University is taking away our teaching experience while many grad students don't get the opportunity to be paid," anthropology graduate student Michelle Carnes said. "It's not a lot of money, but it sure makes a difference in our budgets."

Carnes said she was devastated, as it means "I can't get the experience that I need to get a teaching job when I graduate."

Students are taking action by appealing the decision or making backup plans.

While all the graduate Anthropology students signed a petition to protest the decision, some have made plans to go to a different institution to get their teaching experience, Carnes said.

As students try to overcome the challenges of this transition period, Leap said he encourages students to go talk to their advisors, look at the options and find ways to meet their needs.

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