Adjunct-faculty future unclear

BY HOLLY HINES | JUNE 19, 2009 7:21 AM

Serena Stier, who teaches a class in the School of Art and Art History, said she will face a 50 percent pay cut if she stays in her position.

She may be forced to abandon a job she’s held for 14 years.

Adjunct professors — who typically teach part-time, often in addition to other various forms of employment — teach nearly one-third of all classes offered at the UI, yet may be the first casualties to the university’s budget cuts.

In addition to suffering pay cuts, adjunct faculty members at the UI may be at a greater risk for layoffs than full-time members, said David Drake, the UI Faculty Senate president.

As a writer without other employment, Stier said she’s lucky to have a husband who works.

Non-tenure faculty — mainly adjuncts — make up roughly half of total faculty nationwide and 55 percent at the UI, said university spokesman Tom Moore.

While cutting adjunct positions may save money, some faculty members say the university may lose instructors with a diverse range of unique skills.

“We’re really the ones who season the UI with all sorts of backgrounds and abilities,” Stier said.

Lecturer and musician Steve Grismore provides this kind of background to his teaching. Grismore, who plays in several bands, teaches jazz classes at the UI and Augustana College in Rock Island, Ill. He is also the musical director of the Iowa City Jazz Festival.

“I’m doing less than I used to,” Grismore said. “Hopefully, I will get to the point where I’m just teaching and performing.”

Others contribute to diversity by teaching unique subjects. Rachel Tsachor, an adjunct assistant professor in the School of Music, is a specialist in therapeutic movement.

Tsachor is currently in New York, where she teaches at the Laban/Barteneiff Institute of Movement Studies. On top of teaching at two institutions in two different regions, she has a third job: running a practice in her specialty in Iowa City.

Tsachor said if her course at the UI were canceled, the music school would miss a requirement for music majors.

Her movement techniques aim to help students deal with demanding physical tasks that could affect their performance, such as hauling their books and instruments to far-off locations because last year’s flood has closed much of the Arts Campus.

But there is also the practical side of taking on side gigs while teaching part-time: the money. Adjunct pay at the UI can fluctuate depending on what a department head has to offer.

“There’s no security in this position,” said Mark NeuCollins, an adjunct assistant professor of art and art history and the owner of a graphic-design business.

Many adjuncts lack benefits and sufficient pay and say dual employment as a necessity.

But despite the challenges of working is an adjunct, NeuCollins said he continues to teach because he loves the job and because it’s valuable to his own artistic pursuits.

Officials have yet to decide which faculty members will be hit by layoffs. In the meantime, not all adjuncts are equally concerned.

Roy Justis, who teaches a course in the UI journalism school, is one of them. In addition to teaching, Justis works part-time for the Iowa athletics department and conducts interviews on the UI’s online talk show, “Talkin’ Black and Gold.”

“What will be will be,” he said. “You’ve got to trust the university to do the best it can, because that’s what it’s there for.”

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