Most interviewees felt that the hiring process should become more of a promotion system, like in most other industries. While I would argue that hiring from within should be the case, the pretense of a fair process can be demoralizing for adjuncts who are not the pick and discourage them from applying to jobs in the future. Conversely, the job criteria are often written so that none of the current adjuncts would rank very high, which allowed for an outside candidate to rank higher than the current adjuncts and thus secure the full-time position. This often led to anger and resentment as the adjuncts who did not get the job felt that they were being used by a system that will never reward them with full-time work.

One of my participants succinctly stated that, for better or worse, current adjuncts are a “known quantity” when it comes to the application and interview process. This suggests loopholes in current hiring policies that are intended to create equity are being exploited. Clearly, these laws need to be updated and changed as they are not fulfilling the mission they were created for. Recently AFT National President Randi Weingarten and others have begun speaking about a “ladder” or path to transition to full-time tenured employment for those who desire it. This seems like a more logical system as the adjuncts who work on that campus know the campus, the norms, the students, and the expectations. 

To be seen as adjunct is to be seen as less than

However, in multiple spaces I heard administrators and full-time tenured faculty state that just because someone is a good adjunct or has been on a campus for years, doing the work doesn’t mean they deserve to be full-time. This implies that while they are good enough to teach a class or advise students they are somehow unworthy of sitting on committees or doing other services to the campus. While some districts allow adjuncts to serve on committees or senates, they often do not compensate them for that work. This is demeaning to the work adjuncts do and dismisses their potential to be successful and impactful full-time tenured faculty. This logic also gives districts a reason not to invest in their adjuncts and it also gives the adjuncts reasons not to invest in the campuses beyond teaching. 

The idea that adjuncts are not worth investing in assumes that adjuncts do not stay on their campuses for long periods of time, yet most adjuncts work in their districts for years if not decades, often understanding their campuses better than newly hired full-time faculty. This impacts a college’s campus culture and its ability to perform vital duties such as curriculum development and student mentoring activities. There are typically not enough full-time faculty to perform these tasks and this gives the districts a reason to hire administrative specialists to do work once done by faculty. Creating an internal promotion system, or “ladder”, would incentivize the districts to invest in their adjuncts through professional development and integrate them into the campus. It would also motivate and incentivize adjuncts to invest in their campuses and become more involved in campus life.

No more excuses – the time for change is now

The treatment of adjuncts and the hiring process are systemic problems that must be addressed on a systemic level. We cannot continue to point to hiring laws as the reason that things cannot be changed, while adjuncts fight for dignity, respect, and professionalism on each campus at which they are employed. Laws can be changed and updated and the current laws do not reflect the new reality of higher education faculty, especially when there are proposals to recruit current community college students to go on to get their MA degrees and come back to teach in the community college system and receive loan forgiveness. Will those students be given full-time work when so many currently in the system have been unable to find it? Will those students receive loan forgiveness as adjuncts when so many current adjuncts have struggled to get that same loan forgiveness? The system needs to address those who are currently struggling in this system before it worries about how to bring new bodies into the system.


About the Author

Bobbi-Lee Smart, Ed.D., is the CPFA Southern California Representative.  She teaches Sociology as a Part-Time faculty member at both Cerritos College and Los Angeles Southwest College.  She is the Executive Director for Adjunct Faculty United and is on the CFT Part-Time Committee and the AFT Membership Committee. She can be contacted at

Print Page