September 26, 2016

First adjunct professor elected to Webster’s faculty senate

Adjunct Professor Terri Reilly helps a student in one of her classes. She was elected as Faculty Senate’s first adjunct member in 2014.

Adjunct Professor Terri Reilly helps a student in one of her classes. She was elected as Faculty Senate’s first adjunct member in 2014.

After not being elected to Webster’s Faculty Senate in the last election, Terri Reilly, an adjunct professor at Webster University, knew she couldn’t give up. Her winning a chair would change the Faculty Senate forever; Reilly would be the first and only adjunct professor on the senate, something never seen before at Webster.

Gwyneth Williams, Faculty Senate President, told Reilly she had only lost by one vote in the last election. This information was like throwing gasoline on a fire, and it encouraged Reilly to run again at-large at the Faculty Senate election in February.

There are two ways to get on the Faculty Senate: run within one’s own school or run at-large. Running within one’s school means only full-time faculty in that school will vote. Running “at-large” means the entire faculty votes.

People can self-nominate or be nominated by others. As Reilly explained, candidates are usually self-nominated because being a senate member is a tremendous amount of work.

“You have to want to do it,” Reilly said.

seat in the School of Communications, her home school. She held this position until the election in February.

When it came time for the election, Reilly, along with eight other people, ran for three seats on the senate. After the votes were counted, Reilly finally became an official part of the Webster Faculty Senate.

“I just thought it really signified a major step for the university,” Reilly said.

The Problem

Adjunct professors account for 70 percent of Webster’s ‘contact hours,” meaning students have 70 percent of their contact with adjuncts and only 30 percent with full-time professors. While adjuncts account for such a large amount of teaching at Webster, they were still locked out of the university’s main governing system: the Faculty Senate.

Before Reilly was elected, adjuncts were not represented in the decision-making process and curriculum design made by the senate, both of which affect students.

“So when I got elected, I just thought: this is really good for the university, and more importantly it’s really, really good for the students,” Reilly said.

Adjuncts, however, could always be appointed to the Faculty Assembly by their universities. Reilly was appointed to the assembly several years ago. In order to run for Faculty Senate you must be on the Faculty Assembly, a much larger governing body comprised of all full-time faculty and appointed adjuncts. Each school has two seats for adjunct representation.

Martha Smith, full-time computer science professor and member of the senate for four years, said ten percent of the faculty assembly is open to adjuncts. Webster University has not yet achieved ten percent adjunct representation on the Faculty Assembly. There are currently 10 adjuncts serving on the assembly; for ten percent representation, there would need to be 18.

Smith said that, in the handbook, there is nothing that says a certain percentage of the assembly should be comprised of adjuncts. However, this does not keep the senate from working to include them.

“Since we have so many courses taught by adjuncts, there has been talk in the senate that maybe we should have a seat in the senate that is dedicated to an adjunct,” Smith said.

Smith said that Webster is realizing it cannot function without adjuncts. Her department, the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology, relies on adjuncts for daytime and evening classes. Smith said the adjuncts in her school were happy to hear that Reilly is representing them.

“She brings a different viewpoint to the senate. She’s really involved with the senate and I think its been really good having her,” said Smith. 

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