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Building a Workforce for the Information Economy
BOX 7.2 Complements to Regular Tenure-Track Faculty
The use of adjunct faculty can supplement regular faculty. Though space (especially laboratory space) remains an issue, adjunct faculty can be engaged without long-term commitments, about which university administrators are nervous. Adjunct faculty drawn from industry have the additional advantage that they bring to the classroom substantial real-world business experience that provides valuable context for what students learn. And, by engaging IT professionals from industry, universities can begin to build stronger connections to potential employers of their students.1
Contract teaching faculty can be employed on a full-time but nontenurable basis. These individuals have no formal research duties and devote their entire university time to teaching. The fact that they operate on long-term contracts provides some stability for them, and also allows some accountability to students and administration as well.
Other, non-IT departments can hire faculty with IT backgrounds combined with other backgrounds. In a sense, computer science may become similar to mathematics in the 21st century, with departments in science and engineering (and elsewhere) using and teaching computer science applications. This is beginning to happen in some institutions. For example, the MIT aeronautics department is expanding into a “systems” department with an IT track. Cornell University is considering the creation of a school built around the computer science department with up to 10 joint appointments. Institutions that take such approaches can use faculty based in non-IT departments to do some of the teaching. Students graduating from these programs will be able to bring to their employment strong IT skills as well as substantive knowledge about important areas of application.
The use of adjunct faculty can have downsides as well. For example, many believe that because the primary commitments of adjunct faculty do not lie with the educational institution, their students may well receive short shrift compared to the attention they might receive from regular faculty. To the extent that adjunct faculty rotate rapidly through the institution, students in later years do not receive the benefits of greater classroom seasoning in their teachers—adjunct faculty have less incentive to be responsive to student needs. Another serious issue is that adjunct faculty themselves may well be hard to find. If they come from the IT sector, the demand for them in the higher-education setting is likely to be greatest just at the time when they are busiest in their “day” jobs. Moreover, the pay offered such teachers is usually rather low, and many adjunct professors teach primarily for the intellectual stimulation and change of pace that the pedagogical setting offers. Finally, heavy reliance on adjunct faculty can have a significant effect on the administration of a program because there are fewer staff to do advising, searches for new faculty, plans for the future, and so on.
majors by historically black colleges and universities may provide useful lessons for other colleges and universities. Between 1989 and 1996, the fraction of graduates from majority U.S. colleges and universities majoring in computer science has been about half of the comparable rate from