Part-time faculty becoming the norm at Chico State

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Chico State anthropology professor Melody Yeager has been teaching part time since 2007 and is still working without a long-term contract. Like many of her adjunct colleagues, she also teaches classes at Butte College. Photo credit: Michael Arias

Students aren’t the only ones who work part time.

The number of part-time teachers employed by Chico State has continued to increase during the last few years, and they now outnumber their tenure-track colleagues.

In 2009, there were 486 tenure-track faculty members, but in 2014 that number was down to 424. For the current school year, part-time teachers now constitute a majority of the faculty at 52 percent.

Tenured faculty at Chico State serve a crucial role, said Susan Elrod, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“The tenured faculty are the core of the faculty,” Elrod said.

Along with teaching classes, tenure-track faculty members are also responsible for advising students, planning programs, managing their departments and participating in the governance of the university, Elrod said. However, part-time teachers don’t have the same requirements.

“Part-time lecturers are only required to teach, although some do more than that,” Elrod said.

Whether instructors are part or full time, students should expect a high-quality learning experience, Elrod said. However, part-time instructors may be less accessible because they are not on campus as often.

Being available to the students regularly can be a struggle, said Melody Yeager, an anthropology professor who started teaching part time in 2007 and is still working without a long-term contract.

“Office hours is an issue being part time,” she said.

Yeager teaches year to year, and her employment is renewed each semester at the university’s discretion.

“It’s difficult having a family,” Yeager said.

With three kids to support, Yeager also works part time at Butte College along with the four courses she teaches here at Chico State.

Tenured faculty members are valued at Chico State because they are here on a long-term basis, Elrod said. This means they can form relationships with students throughout the course of their degree programs. Part-time lecturers are often only hired for a short-term contract, which makes it more challenging to form these kinds of relationships with students.

The primary reason for the trend of an increasingly part-time faculty has been cuts in funding, said Joe Wills, director of public affairs.

“There has been an overall reduction of state support to the CSU that has had an impact on the campus’ ability to hire tenure-track teachers,” he said.

From 2008–2012, California State University colleges lost $1 billion in state revenue. However, Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2015–2016 budget proposes to increase the system’s general fund allocation by $119.5 million as long as tuition costs remain steady.

With the uptick funding during the last couple of years, departments have been able to add 100 more tenure-track faculty members.

“Increasing the numbers of tenure-track faculty is a priority for the university, and we are making progress,” Elrod said.

Michael Arias can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.