Editor’s note: This letter is in response to an article titled “Economic Injustice at Holy Cross” that appeared in our September 27 issue.
The essay by Clara Joy Gibson ‘21 in the Sept. 27 Spire raises an important issue in higher education; one that as Provost I have been concerned about for some time. A number of colleges and universities are increasingly using adjunct or visiting faculty to cut costs and cover growing course loads for too-meager pay and no benefits. Ms. Gibson rightly identifies these problems as detrimental to the success of both the professors and their students.
However, I want to make clear that we try to do things differently here at Holy Cross. As detailed in a recent piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Holy Cross has worked hard to establish a culture where visiting faculty are made to feel a part of our community of scholars and teachers.
Overall we have a smaller percentage of visiting faculty than many other institutions and most of our visiting faculty are employed full-time, which means they receive a full-time salary and benefits. They have access to other faculty benefits as well, including support for their scholarship, access to all our faculty development workshops and support to attend professional conferences. They are full voting members of the faculty assembly. Many of our part-time visiting faculty are completing their degree and want some teaching experience, or are employed full-time in other areas but appreciate the opportunity to teach. We appreciate the different perspectives they bring to the classroom. Our pay rate for part-time visiting faculty is higher than other schools in the area, more than double the $2500 per course cited in Ms. Gibson’s article. Visiting faculty here, like all our faculty, are guaranteed academic freedom.
Our visiting faculty members, like many of the thousands on the academic job market every year, are highly qualified and talented scholars and teachers. We want their time here to be a benefit both to the College and to themselves, and we are committed to seeking new ways to support their professional development. Our department chairs and other colleagues work to mentor all visiting faculty, full-time and part-time, as teachers and as scholars in order to support their career goals. Additionally, over the last several years we have moved some positions that were long-standing part-time visiting positions to full-time status with full benefits and longer term contracts.
We are eager to continue our work to find better ways to support our talented and dedicated visiting faculty on their way to tenure-track positions. It is unfortunately true, however, that there are far fewer tenure-track positions in higher education than there are qualified people to fill them. This is indeed a problem that needs addressing, and I thank Ms. Gibson and the Spire editors for raising it and contributing to this important discussion.
Provost and Dean of the College