December 2, 2016

Five instructor positions to be discontinued, redefined

Webster College of Arts and Sciences Lecturer Andrea Miller leads one of her classes in Webster Hall. Miller works in sociology, human rights, women’s and gender studies and several other areas of the university. KAVAHN MANSOURI | The Journal

Update (May 2, 2016): Lecturer Andrea Miller said on May 2, 2016 she received formal notice she would not be offered a new contract as a lecturer. The Journal will update this story as it develops. 

Two years ago, Andrea Miller became a lecturer at the university after teaching as an adjunct for eight years. Being a lecturer meant her workload would increase and she would receive salary, advise students and have benefits. Now, she stands to lose that by stepping back into an adjunct role.

Instructors in Webster University’s College of Arts and Sciences were notified that their positions would be redefined and put on a one-year hiatus while the university evaluates the appropriate use of the instructor title, according to a university statement.

While Webster University administrators evaluate the instructor position, current instructors will be considered for other teaching opportunities, according to a university statement. Those other teaching opportunities could force their students to switch advisers and decrease the compensation those individuals currently receive with their instructor title.”

“Individuals who hold the instructor classification are being considered for opportunities to continue teaching as adjunct faculty or visiting professors depending on the needs of the programs in which they teach,” the university statement said.  “There are presently five individuals at the St. Louis campus who have the classification of instructor which exists only in the College of Arts and Sciences and only since 2013.”

Miller said an adjunct position is a step back not only for her but for adjuncts as well. She said she plans on staying at Webster next semester for her students, and so the programs which she is essential to will not struggle in the fall, but will eventually have to consider leaving Webster if her situation does not change.

“At $3,000 a class, at that point you’re staying for your students. Going from a full-time salary for benefits to that… no health, no medical… at that point you’re doing it for them,”Miller said. “I’ll teach the two courses [in the fall] but after that I don’t know.”

Miller is not alone. According to a university press release, four additional instructors on the Webster Groves campus are having their positions redefined. The Journal contacted three of the other four of the Webster Groves based instructors in the College of Arts and Sciences; all three confirmed their positions were being redefined.

Miller plans on teaching two courses at the adjunct rate. She will teach an “Intro to Sociology” course and “LGBT Families,” a course that is part of the new LGBT studies minor students asked for at the Delegates’ Agenda.

Some of Miller’s students created a group called Advocates for Adjuncts where students are writing to Provost Julian Schuster’s office and to her department chair.

“I’ve always stayed with Webster, I’ve always wanted to be here,” Miller said. “It just didn’t seem right to be polite about this.”

Miller said her 20 advisees will have to be redistributed to new advisors in the fall. She said the other instructors in the college also advise students.

“Now these students will be redistributed to other advisors, who are people they know, but we try to create relationships with these students,” Miller said.

Miller said many of her advisees and former students started a campaign to promote adjunct rights and to protest the discontinuation of her role at the college.

Instructor and English as a second language coordinator Carolyn Trachtova said her position in the College of Arts and Science also will be redefined.

Miller is listed as a lecturer on the Anthropology and Sociology department’s website, but on Webster’s directory she now is listed as an instructor. She said she was told by her department chair that her position would not be offered again next semester. However, a university statement said lecturer positions would not be affected by the changes made to instructor positions.

Miller’s position as lecturer is one of Webster’s designations the faculty senate recently voted to clarify and although her title is a lecturer, she was told she would only be offered adjunct work in the fall.

Adjunct faculty member and faculty senator Terri Reilly said the redefinition of the instructor and lecturer positions is a step in the wrong direction.

“It’s a major setback for many reasons. This was a model that had been working. It was not broken, it was working extremely well,” Reilly said. “It’s like someone saying ‘you can do your same job next year but we’re going to pay you 50 percent less and take your benefits away,” Reilly said.

Reilly said redefining the instructor position ends up hurting students in the long run.

“So then it comes down to meeting the bottom line, this is always what I think of first: how is this going to affect the students?” Reilly said.

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