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Drexel's Adjunct Faculty Initiative

Update on Drexel's Adjunct Faculty Initiative (10/14/14)

 

Dear Member of the Drexel Faculty,

I would like to take this opportunity to welcome new and returning faculty as we begin the new academic year. I am writing to update you on an important initiative that directly affects all faculty members, but is especially applicable to those faculty members who hold adjunct appointments.

Since 2009, the Adjunct Faculty Initiative has continuously examined the needs and interests of our adjunct and part-time faculty members. Through actively engaging faculty with adjunct appointments and responding to their feedback, this initiative has led to an expansion of available resources as well as adaptation of key institutional policies to foster career development among adjunct faculty members. This reflects the important role of our adjunct and part-time faculty members in the education of Drexel students.

In 2013-14, a multi-disciplinary Adjunct Faculty Committee was established, chaired by the Provost, and with representation from full-time and adjunct faculty, the Faculty Senate, Human Resources, and members of Drexel’s administration. Through analysis of peer institutions and from the data we gleaned from Drexel’s 2014 Faculty Satisfaction Survey – which many of you completed – we have identified key action items. This letter summarizes those items below, and the efforts to provide substantive improvement both now and in the future.

Improve Two-Way Communication

The 2014 Drexel Faculty Satisfaction Survey indicated a strong and widespread desire to improve two-way communication. In light of this, a new section of the Faculty Development & Equity (FDE) website has been dedicated to topics of interest to faculty members who hold adjunct appointments and the Adjunct Faculty Resource Guide, published by the FDE, has been updated and revised. A concerted effort is being made to include new content of interest to adjunct faculty and highlighting their achievements in the Provost’s quarterly newsletter. In addition, particular attention has been focused on ensuring that communications to all faculty members, be it via email, the web, or in other forums, include adjunct faculty members in both consideration and delivery.

Two-way communication also necessitates having channels accessible and available to faculty. Feedback will continue to be sought from all faculty members through regular faculty satisfaction surveys and we hope that many faculty members will participate. All faculty members are also encouraged to share their thoughts and suggestions via the Office of Faculty Development & Equity at fde@drexel.edu or by visiting the office on the University City campus located in 234 Randell Hall.

Foster Shared Governance

The Drexel Faculty Senate voted unanimously last spring to give voice to adjuncts beginning in the fall of 2014-2015. Including adjunct faculty members in university governance reflects a cultural change, one supported enthusiastically by both President Fry and myself. In addition, the Director of the FDE and I will meet quarterly with the four adjunct faculty representatives on the Faculty Senate.

Support Professional Development

The Office of Faculty Development & Equity will pilot an Adjunct Faculty Professional Development Award program. This competitive award will fund a maximum of six faculty members who have adjunct appointments, at a maximum of $1,000 each, to attend professional conferences. Priority will be given to those applicants who are presenting professional work or otherwise participating in the conference. More information on this program can be found on the FDE website.

Adjunct faculty members have also indicated an interest in developing their teaching skills. To this end, the Drexel Center for Academic Excellence (DCAE) is increasing outreach efforts to include adjunct faculty members in all relevant events.

In addition, Drexel has recently secured online subscriptions for all of its faculty members to The Teaching Professor, an online newsletter published 10 times per year which provides ideas and insights to educators, and to Academic Leader, which fosters leadership development skills. Watch your email for the links to these important publications.

Technology also offers tremendous developmental opportunities in regards to teaching and learning, and all faculty members have access to numerous technology resources from the Office of Information Resources and Technology (IRT), such as training and workshops, classroom and online teaching technology, and downloadable software. Finally, access to the Drexel Libraries includes free online, off-campus access to journals and publications for all faculty members, including those with adjunct appointments, during the terms in which they teach.

Review Grievance Procedures

During a review of Drexel’s faculty grievance procedures we noted that adjunct faculty members have access to the same mediation and grievance procedures as full-time faculty members. For more information, please refer to the policy found on the Office of the Provost website.

Improve Contractual Issues

The faculty hiring and appointment process was reviewed with Human Resources and the colleges to ensure consistency for all faculty members – including those with adjunct appointments. We recognize that there are special complexities for our adjunct faculty who may teach in terms that are not consecutive and we will try to address those issues. Beginning in the 2015-2016 academic year, all adjunct faculty members will receive written information about title, salary, period of appointment, course(s) assigned, approximate number of students, duties, etc. To the greatest extent possible, adjunct faculty members will be appointed or reappointed at least 30 days before the start of classes and adjunct faculty members who will be rehired in the fall should be notified in the preceding spring term.

Provide Performance Evaluations

Qualitative feedback about teaching is very important to our adjunct faculty members. A performance evaluation system is being planned to evaluate adjunct faculty members when they teach their first course and periodically thereafter. The specifics of this performance evaluation system will be consistent with the performance evaluations for all Drexel faculty members, with adjustments for typical adjunct workloads and expectations. It will be based on national best practices, adapted by the Adjunct Faculty Committee, reviewed by the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs, and revised by the Deans and the Department Heads. The goal is to provide both summative and formative feedback to enable both developing and strong teachers to improve.

Foster Salary Equity & Opportunities for Promotion

A salary benchmarking study is underway to ensure that Drexel is compensating our adjunct faculty members fairly. We anticipate having results in the spring term. Adjunct faculty can also receive recognition for their productivity and commitment to Drexel by applying for promotion in academic rank from adjunct instructor, to adjunct assistant professor, to adjunct associate professor, and to adjunct professor. We will work closely with the Senate Committee on Faculty Affairs to begin revising the policy governing adjunct promotions in the 2014-2015 academic year to make the process and criteria for advancement more streamlined and more transparent.

Explore Health Benefit Options

While our faculty survey showed that many adjunct faculty members do not need health care coverage from Drexel as they have coverage from their own full-time employment elsewhere or through coverage obtained by a partner or spouse, some adjunct faculty members would be interested in participating in a Drexel health care plan. To explore this possibility, an experienced consultant is working with Human Resources on the feasibility of providing access to health benefits for long-term adjunct faculty members beyond what will be mandated by the Affordable Care Act for faculty who teach full-time. The goal is to ensure that faculty members with adjunct appointments who have a substantial workload and whose long-term and primary commitment is to Drexel are offered access to a high-quality and affordable plan. We are exploring the possibilities and will have additional information in the spring term.

Review Voluntary Benefits

Voluntary employee-funded benefits are available to adjunct faculty in the same manner that they are made available to all other full-time and part-time Drexel employees, including free admission to the Academy of Natural Sciences, discounted membership for Drexel employees to the Recreation Center, and access to flexible spending accounts and other self-funded benefits. In addition to the voluntary benefits enumerated on the Human Resources website, adjunct faculty members may also take advantage of many vendors offering Drexel employee discounts.

Provide Access to Meeting and Work Space

Space for faculty members to work and to meet with students outside regularly scheduled class time is a key issue for faculty as well as the students. While the limits of our urban campus restrict the space available, we have identified campus spaces for faculty members to meet one-on-one with students, in small groups, or for larger review sessions. A good way to find space quickly is through the Adjunct Resource section of the Faculty Development & Equity website.

Commit to Continuous Improvement

We look forward to making steady improvements for all our faculty members, but especially for those who hold adjunct faculty appointments. To discuss the Adjunct Initiative in more detail, please contact Janet Fleetwood, Ph.D., Vice Provost, in the Office of Faculty Development & Equity.

Sincerely,

James D. Herbert, Ph.D.
Interim Provost &
Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
Professor of Psychology