Students still tend to assume that there are set hours each week when they can count on finding their professors seated at their desks, ready to help all comers. But the push and pull over office hours is a daily challenge for adjuncts, who make up the majority of faculty in academe. For one thing, there’s the fact that most part-time faculty, like Smith, don’t have their own private office spaces. Adjuncts are also often pressed for time, especially if they’re cobbling together multiple gigs at different institutions to make ends meet. On top of that, there’s the money issue: Most adjuncts are not compensated for the hours they put in helping students outside the classroom.
For Smith, compensation (or lack thereof) is the key factor. She would be happy to meet with her students during set office hours, she says, if her college agreed to pay her for holding them.
“Some of my colleagues post office hours, but I refuse to,” Smith says. “I’m a second-tier faculty member and those in my classes are second-tier students. That’s a situation that needs to be changed, but it won’t ever change if I give away for free what my full-time, first-tier colleagues get paid for.”
Many adjuncts don’t have the luxury of following Smith’s lead, though. Most academic departments either require or strongly encourage adjuncts to have office hours, no matter the difficulties.
That can put part-time professors in an awkward position. “Adjuncts have a conflicted relationship to our professional instinct to make ourselves available to our students,” says Maria Maisto, president of the adjunct-advocacy group The New Faculty Majority. “This is part of our ethos. But on the other hand, when you’re not being paid for those hours, you feel like you’re being exploited.”