As Rowan University grows by leaps and bounds, the administration is scrutinizing the role of adjuncts, the part-time professors who fill in the gaps in the teaching ranks.
Three months after raises were granted to adjuncts with the heaviest course loads, the administration is weighing whether it would be more economical to reduce their ranks and increase the number of full-time professors. The campus newspaper, the Whit, this month reported that adjuncts could be facing layoffs, and there is some tension on the campus as the new school year begins.
"Our plans are to hire 60 full-time faculty line positions over the next couple of years," said Jose Cardona, a spokesman at Rowan, whose main campus is in Glassboro. "That's our goal, and we need to look at how everything is structured."
Cardona said no decisions had been made regarding the adjuncts and that any such change in the structure would likely be at least a year away.
Rowan has about 650 full-time professors, who typically teach four courses a semester, and 210 adjuncts who are often called "3/4s" because they teach three courses per semester, Cardona said. An additional 800 adjuncts teach one or two courses at a time.
The 3/4s get renewable one-year contracts and typically earn 75 percent of a full-time professor's starting salary, which ranges from $60,000 to $100,000 depending on the discipline, the need and the demand, Cardona said. But they do not receive health benefits.
The other adjuncts receive individual contracts, typically $3,000 per course, though the negotiated amount fluctuates.
Cardona said the system of 3/4s was first employed by Rowan decades ago, but the numbers have ballooned during the last six years as enrollment at the university jumped by 7,000 students to 18,500.
Twenty-five years ago, industrialist Henry Rowan and his wife, Betty, donated $100 million to what was then Glassboro State College, funding that has allowed it to grow. The university was renamed after the benefactors.
Cardona said the discussions about the faculty configuration are "part of a conversation" about current and future needs. "We are examining whether to reduce the number of 3/4-time professors. And, if so, by how many and replace them with how many FT positions," he said.
One of the proposals calls for one-third of the 3/4 adjuncts to be phased out during each of the next three years.
Joseph Basso, president of American Federation of Teachers Local 2373, said the union would like the administration to convert the jobs into full-time positions. The union represents both the full-time faculty and the 3/4s at Rowan.
The issue of whether to phase out the 3/4s came up, he said, after a new contract with the faculty was ratified in July. The administration agreed to the union's request for $600,000 worth of raises, called step increases, for all of the 3/4s. Previously, the 3/4s did not receive such step increases.
The change led to a reevaluation of the faculty and the economics of paying these wages, said Basso, who teaches public relations and advertising at Rowan.
"Ultimately I would like to get these folks more stability and money and benefits. In a perfect world, I would want them to all have full-time positions, where there's a reasonable expectation of being hired. I would want them to be paid for the value they bring to the university," he said.
Basso said the union is in negotiations with the administration and he is optimistic they can reach an agreement on these issues.