Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

How Do We Communicate with Part-Time Faculty?

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

How Do We Communicate with Part-Time Faculty?

Article excerpt


Part-time faculty describe how students, faculty, and administrators communicate with them as well as their perceptions about how society communicates about them. Students perceive part-time faculty as academic members, but assume they are full-time. Full-time faculty, staff, and administrators communicate with part-time faculty only when a need arises. Part-time faculty perceive a lack of membership in the academic community as a theme of social discourse. These findings suggest practical changes for improving communication and fostering a better understanding the identity of part-time faculty.


In the past twenty years, there has been a significant increase in the hire of part-time workers and a reduction of the full-time workforce both inside and outside academe (Anderson, 2002; Beck, 2000). In this article, part-time faculty describe how they communicate with students, faculty, and administrators as well as their perceptions about how society communicates about them.

Literature Review

Communicating Identity

Since experience and meaning are assumed to reside in communication, this research focuses on communication as a means of explaining identity. Communication is defined as "a negotiation and exchange of meaning, in which messages, people-in-cultures, and 'reality' interact so as to enable meaning to be produced or understanding to occur" (O'Sullivan, Hartley, Saunders, Montgomery, & Fiske, 1994, p. 50).

Interaction is not just an encounter with two or more people that involves reciprocal action or effect. People create their identities by their interactions with others. Interaction with others within an organization also shapes one's meaning of work. Social discourse is the sociocultural knowledge or worldview that embeds people and things ideologically and politically (Mokros & Deetz, 1996). Discourse describes what is possible and permissible within a particular society and influences the everyday communication practices of people within that society (Mokros, 2002). How people communicate within that society reciprocally shapes the society in which they live. Identity is co-created by individuals as they interact with others and environments through a process of social negotiation (Gergen, 1991; Mokros, 2002). Identity is inherently a communication process embedded within social and historical discourses. "Identity creates and is created by the people, interactions, and environments in which it has, does, or will exist" (Hecht, Collier, & Ribeau, 1993, p. 30).

Part-Time Faculty

Nearly 49 percent of all college and university faculty were employed part-time according to the U.S. Department of Education (Leatherman, 2000). Examination of types of higher education institutions shows close to 65 percent of faculty at two-year institutions were employed part-time with nearly 33 percent at four-year institutions. The employment pattern of American academics is shifting from predominately tenured or tenure-track faculty to faculty that are temporary or part-time. Because of the critical mass of part-time faculty present in institutions of higher education, controversy over their employment is more evident. Many administrators and full-time faculty fear a decline in the quality of instruction, and demand that limits be placed on appointing part-time and nontenure-track faculty. In 1997, a meeting of 10 academic associations convened at the Conference on the Growing Use of Part-time and Adjunct Faculty to prepare a formal statement suggesting institutional guidelines and activities for good practices (ADE Bulletin, 1998). The American Association of University Professors (2006) has published recommendations that higher education limit adjuncts to 15 percent within institutions and no more than 25 percent within each department. These administrative guidelines are meant to restrict the employment of part-time faculty and to marginalize their presence in the academic community. …

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