But after having read an article in my college paper, I've discovered that English and Math, especially the first year courses, are taught by part-timers so widely here that nearly 60% of our freshmen finish those important requirements without ever having been taught by a full timer, tenure-track, or tenured professor.
With that information and some national articles, like the one I note below, I went to my classes yesterday to teach them what I knew about the widespread usage of part-timers in colleges across America.
And my students beat me to the punch. Obviously - but somehow lost on me - they knew about it, and had much to say about the adjuncts they had met, primarily again in English and Math.
"My guy was good, but he worked 30 hours a week at a coffee shop, so he never got our work graded in time."
"I had a nice lady in Math but she sometimes had to leave class 15 minutes early because she taught a class in [another town nearby]."
"The adjuncts I've had have all been terrible."
It was if a light appeared in my brain that I'd dully not noticed all of these years. I admitted to my students that I didn't know enough about it, but that what I'd read - as a parent of a future college student (I hope...) - scared the hell out of me.
"I love every aspect of teaching," [Leleua Loupe says.] "The interaction with students, the research in my own field. I feel I'm contributing to creating a better world." It's that love of her profession that keeps her going, despite the obstacles she faces. Hers is a familiar story - that of the freeway flyer. Today she teaches on just two campuses -- five classes a semester at Cal State Fullerton, and one class at Mount San Antonio College. But there have been years where it was three campuses, and even more classes.
In the hierarchy of academia, lecturer positions are sometimes described as stepping stones to eventual tenure, and lecturers themselves denigrated as less experienced or knowledgeable faculty. This clearly doesn't fit Loupe's professional profile. Growing up between Seattle and Honolulu, she started in community college in Hawaii, did archeological field work at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, and then got bachelors, masters and doctorate degrees at the University of California in Riverside, in public history resource management. Since receiving her PhD in 2005 she's written books and many journal and encyclopedia articles, recorded oral histories, and presented papers "all over," she says. That, however, didn't get her tenure. That's no surprise, given that institutions of higher education now employ far more non-tenured faculty than tenured.