Wellesley provides non-tenure-track faculty with competitive benefits: Adjunct professors face poor working conditions at other universities


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Wellesley remains unaffected by a nationwide campaign to unionize non-tenure-track faculty, including adjunct professors and lecturers.

According to the Boston Globe, non-tenure-track faculty may face a lack of health insurance benefits, low pay and bad working conditions. Dean of Faculty Affairs Kathryn Lynch believes that Wellesley treats all faculty similarly, regardless of tenure or non-tenure-track status.

“I believe that we demonstrate our respect for and commitment to our non-tenure-track colleagues through a salary and benefits program that really allows them to develop a professional career here,” Lynch said.

During their first four years at Wellesley, full-time non-tenure-track faculty members teach five courses while tenure-track faculty teach four courses per year. Afterwards, non-tenure-track faculty teach the same number of courses as tenure-track faculty if they earn a promotion and sign onto a five-year contract to teach at the College.

Non-tenure-track faculty receive the right to vote at Academic Council and may serve on Council committees after two years of employment. Continuing faculty who work at least half-time may apply for the same research awards offered to tenure-track faculty. All faculty who work half-time or more also have access to the same health insurance plan.

According to the faculty roster for the 2013-14 academic year, Wellesley currently employs 41 visiting lecturers, 20 lecturers, and 26 senior lecturers.

Lecturers have the highest degree in their field of study, which is a PhD in many fields or a Master’s degree in some fields. For some faculty, being a lecturer offers a more flexible career path than being a tenure-track professor.

James Oles is a senior lecturer of art at Wellesley who chose to be a lecturer because he lives in Mexico for half of the year.

“For me, it gives me an extraordinary chance to be dedicated to the College when I’m here,” Oles said. “I teach full courses. I’m paid the same as my colleagues. I get all sorts of benefits.”

Non-tenure-track faculty at Wellesley are also eligible for subsidized faculty housing, parental and medical leave and disability insurance, and they receive pension contributions for retirement.

At other universities, some adjunct professors work without an office space or teach many classes to earn a living wage.

According to the Adjunct Project at the Chronicle of Higher Education, adjunct professors at four-year private, non-profit universities earn a median of $3,000 per course. In comparison, adjuncts at Wellesley earn a median of $6,750 per course, a sum that excludes compensation for research or other roles fulfilled within the College.

Full-time beginning lecturers and visiting lecturers at Wellesley have a starting salary of $55,000 that increases annually.

Kristina Jones is an adjunct assistant professor at the College whose main role is to serve as the director of the botanical gardens in addition to her teaching and research in the Department of Biological Sciences.

“I used to be a regular assistant professor, and then I left the College for a bunch of different reasons. I came back in this dual role, and I had a choice of being a lecturer or an adjunct, and I think of myself as more of a professor,” Jones said. “So I chose the adjunct role.”

Wellesley has only five adjunct professors, of whom four are assistant professors and one is an associate professor. Adjunct professors typically do not hold permanent or full-time teaching positions, but there is no specific definition for the role of an adjunct professor at the College.

“I do know that the College has made an effort to have more tenure-track positions and fewer adjunct and non-tenure-track. I’m not positive, but I think the general notion is that if you’re sort of committed to the College through the tenure process then it’s more likely to be a long term engagement, which tends to benefit both parties,” Jones said.

In the Boston area, 67 percent of the teaching faculty in 58 four-year private, non-profit colleges are not tenured or on tenure-track. The Service Employees International Union is currently working to organize non-tenure-track faculty at Tufts University, Bentley University, Northeastern University and Lesley College.

“I cannot speak for individual faculty members, but I do not think that Wellesley is part of the national problem,” Lynch said. “Our non-tenure-track faculty are valued members of the faculty community, eligible for multi-year contracts, benefits, support for professional development and office space.”

According to Lynch, non-tenure-track faculty who reach full-time, lecturer status or beyond at Wellesley receive similar benefits that tenure-track faculty receive, except for tuition benefits for their children and a mortgage plan. The College attempts to compensate for the latter by allowing non-tenure-track faculty to live in subsidized housing for an unspecified amount of time.

Currently, both the art and writing departments at Wellesley currently employ five visiting lecturers each.

“What’s frustrating is that it’s hard to pick an advisor when you’ve taken classes taught mostly by visiting lecturers,” Anna Blige ’16, an intended architecture major, said.

According to Oles, the art department hires visiting lecturers to help ease the flow of professors leaving or retiring, especially when hiring a professor in the middle of an academic calendar may not be convenient.

Both Oles and Jones assure that the status of the faculty member does not determine the quality of education students receive at Wellesley.

“There would be many due people in the world who would be great amazing teachers, but have either financial independence or other jobs,” Oles said. “So they would never want to give up that other role that they have to be a tenure faculty at Wellesley, but they would be as good as any tenured faculty.”

Xueying is a sophomore studying English and Economics. She is a China-born Seattleite. Follow her on Twitter at @XueyingC.

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