A modest proposal: Fully include part-time faculty in teaching

Until recently, I saw no connection between myself and INFORM-ED because I’m neither a student nor a full-time faculty member. It occurred to me, however, that as a part-time faculty member, I might have a dog in this fight.

Full-time faculty in most universities have a number of teaching aids, such as Blackboard, readily available, often with free classes on how to use them. Adjuncts typically cannot even access these resources, let alone get training on them. Having students complain, “This instructor didn’t use the learning aids my other professors did, boo, hiss,” is a splendid way to turn off both instructors and students.

In many communities, such as the Washington, D.C., area, where I live, there is a rich pool of talent available to teach part time. Would it not make sense – in fact, is it not a typical OR/MS recommendation – to manage and sustain these people as if they really matter to the institution? It wouldn’t cost much to make computer resources available to them and to include them in meetings about how to teach more effectively. Some interesting opportunities for collaborative research might even arise. After all, part-time faculty are mostly practitioners, often with good connections to potential applied research sponsors.

Some institutions have received substantial benefit from creating industry-based advisory councils to deans and department chairs. The companies and agencies these advisors represent are a rich source of both sponsorships and part-time instructors, but the benefit is negated if the part-time instructors are treated and utilized badly.

We could start by actively encouraging part-time faculty to be part of INFORM-ED, do some of the training as an INFORM-ED activity, and, via the INFORM-ED forum, lobby academic institutions to include part-timers fully in the methodology and technology of instruction.

I posted this proposal to INFORM-ED via INFORMS Connect about July 1 and, as of this writing in mid-July, there has been one response. Maybe it’s because not many people read those discussion threads. I hope that’s the explanation. I will say that if the full-time academic members of the profession are not interested in ideas like this, then they have no basis to complain when no one in practice is interested in them.

Douglas A. Samuelson
Annandale, Va.

Editor’s note:
Doug Samuelson is a longtime, active member of INFORMS and a frequent contributor to OR/MS Today via his “ORacle” column and other articles.