With the approach of spring semester’s end, students scour OnTrack to build their academic schedules, looking at the times available and selecting their preferred professors. 

Senior Alex Campbell said she noticed this past semester that adjunct professors, who are hired on a contractual basis each semester or year, she previously had classes with were not appearing on OnTrack. 

“It’s pretty upsetting because two of my favorite professors are adjuncts that I’ve had classes with in the past,” Campbell said. “Since the change, I can’t purposefully take classes with them because I don’t know what classes they’re even teaching because they don’t show up.” 

The move to unionize adjunct faculty began in 2018, and the union was officially formed in 2019. Bargaining with the university formally began in the spring of 2021, following the university’s challenge to the union’s formation. On Oct. 6, 2022, Elon University committed to a three-year contract with the union, establishing increases in pay, additional job security and access to professional development funds for unionized adjunct, part-time, limited term and visiting Elon faculty members. This document is called the collective bargaining agreement. In May of 2023, after this agreement was made, adjunct professors found their names listed as “Staff ” on OnTrack — something many adjunct professors in the union say were not a part of their bargaining plea.

The first concern the union had when they noticed the change was for the students who are working on building their schedules, Susan Ladd, adjunct professor and vice president of the Elon Faculty Union, said. 

“Our first concern, honestly, was for students,” Ladd said. “We know students shop for professors, that they ask their friends, ‘Who’s a good person to take this class with?’” 

Ladd grabs a piece of paper from her desk, a request submitted on Nov. 13, 2023, from the Elon Faculty Union to “change the policy of listing adjunct faculty names on OnTrack.” The document states that the switch from listing the names of adjunct professors to simply listing “Staff,” posing issues for both students and faculty this year. 

Among the issues included in the request, the union states that access to OnTrack is necessary for adjuncts to order their textbooks through the library and get access to Moodle pages to build assignments. 

According to the request, at least one department told its adjunct professors that the change happened “because changes can and often do occur after the registration period is complete in response to unexpected enrollment patterns and other variables.” 

The request states, “This has always been the case, and it is always made clear when adjuncts are offered sections for the coming semester that the offer is tentative, based on enrollment patterns and other variables. We are crystal clear on the fact that nothing is promised until we receive and sign the contract.” 

The change was made in the name of consistency to post all of the adjunct names with their classes at the same time ahead of the required deadline, according to an email Deandra Little, associate provost of faculty affairs, sent to the faculty union. 

“This has been a practice for at least a couple of years, but one that was followed inconsistently and not enforced, which meant that some departments were submitting earlier than others,” Little wrote to the union. “We have asked chairs in all schools and colleges to submit information consistently so that we can do as much as possible to provide access to adjunct faculty to course rosters and Moodle before the two-week deadline specified by the CBA.” 

Little declined Elon News Network’s request to interview, but wrote in an email to ENN that this policy is in line with university practices. 

“This approach is consistent with best practices for consistent communication, access to institutional data, and cybersecurity,” Little wrote. 

Ladd believes that more than this reason is needed for the change and theorizes that this change could stem from a desire to punish the union. 

“The CBA establishes, and this is very important, minimums,” Ladd said. “This is the minimum that you have to do. They can do much more. It doesn’t limit them from taking actions that benefit students and faculty, so I have to wonder if this was a way to punish the union.”

In the email sent by Little to ENN, she states that while students may not be able to select their preferred teachers, students will benefit from taking classes with a range of professors. 

“The faculty members at Elon are phenomenal and dedicate a lot of thought, time, and care to teaching and learning,” Little wrote. “Elon students benefit from courses taught by a variety of professors, including full-time and part-time faculty members. Faculty advisors also assist students in finding courses that best meet the requirements of their major and minor requirements. While I haven’t studied registration patterns, I hope that students are open to taking classes with a range of faculty members.” 

This issue is particularly taxing on students in the arts, specifically those who are looking to be mentored in their final college years, according to Faculty Union Board Member Mark Iwinski, adjunct professor of art. 

“It affects students being able to plan in terms of their courses and in terms of who they’re going to work with,” Iwinski said. “Imagine scheduling your entire thing, signing up for something, only to find that, ‘Oh, wait a minute, this is not the person that I wanted to work with and now the rest of my schedule is locked in and they’re really teaching at this time.’” 

Iwinski recognizes that OnTrack would list “Staff” if that position has not been filled yet, but believes that in the case of adjuncts who have already been told these are their classes, OnTrack should reflect that. 

“The only rationale I can think for it is regarding incoming adjuncts,” Iwinski said. “When they don’t know who it is that’s going to teach that class. That’s the only reason that I could think of to list ‘staff’ which shouldn’t affect the returning adjuncts.” 

Iwinski said he does not see this issue going away until it is remedied. 

“I see this as an ongoing issue until enough pressure comes on and somebody makes a decision to actually change it for the benefit of the university and the students,” Iwinski said. 

The union is fighting this change on behalf of adjuncts and students; however, Ladd believes that the only thing that can bring about real change is student involvement. 

“I think the only thing, honestly, that will change their minds is the outcry from students saying this is information we want and need,” Ladd said. “We can’t force the university to do anything, and they know that. I would consider this a gesture of extreme goodwill and, again, giving information that students need. If they want to punish us, they can do that, but they shouldn’t punish students.”