Equity for Part-Time Faculty

By Brian Soika

May 21, 2021

Part-time faculty members at USC Rossier smile for a photo during an event held over Zoom

A screenshot taken during the Part-Time Faculty Recognition and Networking Event

In fall of 2020, California passed AB736, legislation stipulating that private, nonprofit colleges may expand the professional exemption of its part-time teaching staff. The law gives schools an option to address the challenges experienced by many part-time instructors, which often includes disparately low pay and career instability. 

AB736 comes at a time when some schools are expanding their efforts to recognize the value of its adjunct professors and lecturers. 

In a recent online event, USC Rossier leadership acknowledged the contributions of its 143 part-time faculty members. Susanne Foulk, EdD ’07, chair of the Part-Time Faculty Committee, led the recognition and networking gathering. 

In addition to a formal acknowledgement of part-time faculty service, the event was significant because it “provided an opportunity to articulate our individual goals and establish collaborative opportunities as they relate to the larger USC Rossier mission” says Foulk. 

Faculty members were joined by USC Rossier Dean Pedro Noguera as well as Lawrence Picus, the Associate Dean of Faculty Affairs and Richard T. Cooper and Mary Catherine Cooper Chair in Public School Administration. Both expressed appreciation for the part-time faculty contributions. “Thank you for your service [and] commitment… and for being part of this important work we do here,” said Noguera. 

The Dean also commended the 65 part-time faculty members who have taught at USC Rossier for five years or more. 

Similar events have been held at the school, but this was the largest of its kind. The presence of the Dean was also a first. Melanie Brady, EdD ’12, described the attendance and acknowledgement of Noguera and Picus as “monumental,” and said it “validates the importance of part-time faculty work.”

An Evolving Relationship

“Major strides are being taken to address equity for part-time faculty” at USC Rossier, says Foulk. Part-time faculty now hold an elected seat with the school’s Faculty Council in addition to regularly held meetings with an elected committee, which includes Picus as an ex-officio member.

“Our part-time faculty are an essential part of our program offerings,” comments Picus. “We rely heavily on their knowledge and expertise to ensure that all of our classes maintain the high standards expected by our students.” 

 Foulk, who regularly teaches in the Doctor of Education in Organizational Change and Leadership online program, has been part of USC Rossier’s part-time faculty for 12 years, and is quick to praise the collaborative relationship among the full and part-time faculty members. “We’re all playing different roles on the same team,” she says.