Book By: Wallin, Desna L.
Review By: Jeanette Gregory
Coordinator of Student Services
Cloud County Community College, Geary Campus
True or False: Roughly 2/3 of instructors at community colleges are adjuncts. True; this probably surprises few in higher education. What is surprising is that adjuncts continue to be looked upon – and treated like – temporary hires: a necessary evil in the system. Adjuncts typically receive no benefits, little or no training, no guarantees of continued employment, and are paid far less for their efforts and expertise than full-time faculty, who often view them at best as usurpers, at worst as scabs.
Small wonder, then, that a former adjunct instructor who rose through the ranks to become a community college president chose to compile an anthology dealing with these issues and exploring ways to narrow the gap between adjuncts and full-timers. The thirteen essays in this book are divided into three sections: Section One, “Understanding Part-Time Faculty” explores the benefits and deficits of employing adjuncts, comparing adjunct instructors to full-timers in terms of expectations and realities. Section Two, “Recruiting and Retaining Part-Time Faculty” delves into the details of hiring, training, development and retention of adjuncts- the four basic subjects that the book as a whole revolves around. Section Three, “Supporting Part-Time Faculty Through Technology” examines the creation of online support sites, electronic training modules, etc., for adjunct use. The message of the book is this: Adjunct instructors are necessary, will continue to grow in numbers and should be nurtured and valued as vital employees of the community college system.
The strength of this book lies in its even-handed approach to the question of how best to serve – and be served by – our adjuncts. The essays themselves are easy to move through; most are brief and professionally neutral in their tone. Essay 6, The Challenge and Effective Use of Part-Time Faculty by Alice W. Villadsen and Thomas I. Anderson, was particularly well-executed, providing the basics of the argument that adjuncts need and deserve training and professional development, that colleges must foster a sense of belonging in their adjuncts in order to improve their retention in a field where competition for adjuncts is growing as budgets tighten.
The weakness of the book – and it’s a pervading weakness – lies in its sheer repetitiveness. The same facts and figures – even the same reference (J.M. Gappa and D.W. Leslie’s 1993 book, The invisible faculty: Improving the status of part-timers in higher education, referenced in seven of the thirteen essays) popped up over and over. The introduction and preface summarized the information held within the essays so well that most of the essays are almost redundant. The saving grace is the sprinkling throughout the book of some of the more ingenious ways colleges have found to support and nurture their far-flung adjunct pool.
Regarding direct value to academic advisors, this book has little or none, as advisement itself is mentioned only once, and that only a note that adjuncts, despite their huge numbers, typically do not advise. An essay discussing the pros and cons of training adjuncts to advise was sadly lacking, as was a discussion on the growing trend of adjunct unionization. Busy advisors should recommend this book to anyone actively involved in the hiring, training and retention of adjuncts.
Adjunct Faculty in Community Colleges: An academic administrator’s guide to recruiting, supporting and retaining great teachers. (2005). Book by Wallin, Desna L., Ed. Review by Jeanette Gregory. Bolton: Anker Publishing Co. Inc, 246 pp.Price $39.95. ISBN #1882982819