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TCU 360

TCU 360

All TCU. All the time.

TCU 360

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Inside the life of an adjunct professor

Lydia Mackay, an adjunct in the theater department, leads her Survey of Theater class in a warmup on Feb. 11.

An adjunct faculty member in the theater department sometimes works 100 hours a week teaching at TCU and acting professionally throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

The Faculty Senate passed a resolution last week encouraging TCU to raise adjunct pay and to create more full-time faculty positions. Adjuncts are considered part-time employees and receive no benefits.

Adjuncts sometimes do not perform at the same level as full-time faculty because their salaries are low, their time on campus is short and their positions are limited, according to a Faculty Senate study.

Low salaries

Lydia Mackay, an adjunt instructor in the Department of Theatre, is one of many adjuncts who works two jobs, according to a study conducted by a subcommittee of the Faculty Senate.

Almost half of the 100 adjuncts who participated in the study said they also worked full-time jobs. Another 30 percent worked part-time, according to the study.

Mackay said she works two to three plays each year in addition to voice acting. She is also a co-founder and producer for The Drama Club, a nonprofit theater company.

“I make as much if not more of my living as a professional actor than I do at TCU,” Mackay said. “It’s how I get my health insurance because I’m a member of the Actor’s Equity Association.”

The Actor’s Equity Association is an American actors’ union. As a member, Mackay receives a weekly salary in addition to health insurance, she said.

Mackay said she wants to see TCU become more competitive with adjunct salaries.

TCU pays adjuncts between $2,500 and $3,500 per 3-credit-hour undergraduate course. The figures don’t compete with regional and national salary averages, according to the study.

For long-term adjunct faculty members, this means there is little room for growth. 

“I have essentially, at six years, reached the maximum level of compensation for what I do,” Mackay said.

Mackay said she teaches four courses in the theater department: two are 2 credit hours and two are 3 credit hours.

Her course load is not typical. About half of the adjuncts at TCU teach only one course. Each 3-credit-hour course requires about 12 hours of work per week, according to the study.

Mackay said while TCU is an “exemplary” school, the university “falls a little short when it comes to what they pay their adjunct faculty.”

Time on campus

Outside commitments can restrict the time adjuncts spend on campus with students, according to the study. 

That is a common problem for Mackay, she said.

Because Mackay commutes to TCU from her home in Dallas, she said she is only on campus Tuesdays and Thursdays, and her schedule fills up quickly.

Even meeting with students during her breaks does not give her as much time as students need, Mackay said.

“As much as I would like to be there more for my students and set up office hours beyond Tuesdays and Thursdays, it’s just not really feasible,” she said.

Balancing the workload means there is little time for procrastination, Mackay said.

“I just try to stay on top of everything as much as I can and stay healthy,” she said.

The study showed that adjuncts agreed they would have more committed time on campus if they could become full-time faculty members. However, that is not normally an option.

Limited positions

Lack of access to full-time faculty positions at TCU is dissatisfying for the majority of adjuncts, according to the study.

The Faculty Senate’s resolution suggested changing the lack of access by replacing adjuncts throughout the university with full-time instructors.

One goal of replacing adjuncts would be to decrease TCU’s dependence on adjunct faculty members, according to the resolution.

Mackay is hopeful that the resolution will become a reality. She said her goal is to become a full-time assistant professor.

By becoming full-time, “we are able to spend more time on campus with students in the classrooms doing things to better serve the university as a whole,” Mackay said.

The Faculty Senate’s resolution will move to Provost Nowell Donovan for further consideration.

“I remain hopeful that TCU will…increase adjunct compensation and pathways toward more full-time positions,” Mackay said.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated terms of the Faculty Senate’s resolution regarding adjunct pay.  The resolution did not recommend raising adjunct pay by a specific dollar amount. 

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