Letter to the editor: Respecting the time and effort of DePaul’s adjuncts

St. Vincent's Circle, located between the Schmitt Academic Center and the John T. Richardson Libarary, reminds students of the Vincentian values that are inherent to our school. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)
St. Vincent’s Circle, located between the Schmitt Academic Center and the John T. Richardson Libarary, reminds students of the Vincentian values that are inherent to our school. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

While I enjoyed the DePaulia’s recent front page story on adjunct faculty trends both at DePaul and around the U.S., I felt the narrative needed some additional nuance.

I am the Director of the School of Public Service (SPS) located in DePaul’s Loop campus. We are a graduate-only unit of around 400 majors offering degrees in public, international and non-profit management, as well as leadership in public policy studies.

In a recent internal audit of our teaching workload at SPS, we discovered a near perfect split in the three main classes of instructional professionals that teach our courses: one-third full-time tenured and tenure track faculty; one-third full time teaching faculty; and one-third part-time adjuncts.

Considering the goals of our programs, I cannot begin to express my appreciation for our full-time teaching faculty, who largely come with lengthy and relevant professional backgrounds as well as our adjuncts, who tend to hold full time professional jobs and teach for us for reasons mostly unrelated to their compensation (which, I will argue below, should be a bit higher).

Some of our adjuncts hold a degree from SPS, and now find themselves working in positions of importance in their professional fields (including here at DePaul) and have a strong desire to give back to the next generation of public service management professionals.

Most of our adjuncts, alum or not, get a personal and professional boost from teaching at DePaul.

Clearly, teaching at a highly respected university like DePaul conveys significant social and professional status to non-academics, especially in management and social service fields.

That said, the benefits to using adjuncts goes both ways, as our students appreciate the real world experiences, skills and professional connections these folks bring into the classroom.

Our current roster of adjuncts include practicing lawyers, full-time consultants, leaders of private and non-profit organizations, current and former directors of state, local and federal public sector agencies and retired academics.  A very strong group of professionals indeed.

Now to offer my nuance: SPS adjuncts do not rely on their teaching wage as the primary financial support for themselves or their families.

The question of whether we have set up an economically exploitive relationship with our adjuncts, however, is an    important one.

The proposal put forward in your article for a $15,000 per class minimum wage seemed a bit hopeful, as there are many people who would happily teach a class for us for a third of that total.  The proper wage for us, considering the mutual utility factors mentioned above, would be moderately higher than we currently pay.  While I have only been here for less than a year, I have gotten requests for raises from our adjuncts, not from an “I need the money to pay for food, shelter or health benefits” perspective offered in your expose, but more from a desire for more “respect for the time and effort I put forth for your students” standpoint.

DePaul should consider compensation innovations such as paying adjuncts a bonus upon their first successful offering of a course, which would reward      preparation time.

They also might think of structuring pay based on class enrollment size — which acknowledges that teaching 25 students is far more time consuming than 10 due to grading work — would be a good start to making adjunct relationships more equitable. l hope that your article starts a more nuanced conversation going forward on the role of adjuncts at DePaul and how they can be more fairly compensated.

—Robert Stokes, director of School of Public Service