Biology department advertises two positions

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The faculty is stretched too thin and another full-time biology professor is set to retire.

By Ty-Eshia Johnson

With retirements, picking up their extra duties, mentoring adjuncts and trying to keep up with student demands and college committee work, the biology faculty could be excused for feeling like the sky is falling. But last week, a roof cave-in made it official.

Dean of arts and sciences, Dr. Conrad D. Krueger says the biology department is working to get approval to hire a nutritionist and biologist. One position is now being advertised and the other is in the process of being approved for advertisement.

Krueger said the biology department must review applicants, form a committee, interview candidates and send a recommendation to the chair. Then it goes to the administration.

Biology program coordinator Dan Hansen is concerned that the biology faculty is stretched too thin because of a shortage of full-time faculty. The program has only nine full-time tenure, five full-time adjuncts and fifteen part-time adjuncts for this semester.

After viewing the online schedule for spring 2011, Hansen said the department had fourteen full-time faculty, one full-time adjunct and 25 part-time adjuncts. At that time 96 courses were offered. Classes average around 27 students per class. The department has seven degree plans and now offers 79 courses this spring semester.

According to Hansen, the shortage is because of retirements of full-time faculty who are not being replaced. Full-time faculty has different duties besides teaching. They do student advising, committee work for the department, college and district. The shortage has also caused faculty to take on additional duties. Extra duties include development of new courses, health professions advising and mentoring new adjuncts because of the difficulty to understand the requirements of the position.

The department advises students transferring to four-year universities or planning on applying to professional schools such as pharmacy, medical, physical and occupational therapy. Advising is heavy due to degree audits the department provides, Hansen said.

Hansen said problems come so fast that they spend most of their time dealing with them. There is no time for proactive work on new ways to help students succeed because that is what they are here for, Hansen said.

Students do not need to have completed specific courses before taking biology. Hansen said students must be at a certain level in math, reading and writing.

He began working at this college in 1987 as an adjunct and was hired full-time in 1990. Hansen believes there were 20 full-time tenure in 1990 until several retired without replacement. From 2000 to 2012, he believes the department had 15 full-time faculty but they are now down to nine. The program has not hired new full-time faculty since 2005.

Hansen said enrollment has been frantic. Microbiology, pre-nursing, as well as anatomy and physiology courses fill up quickly. A banner glitch, which caused students to be dropped, made it difficult to tell how long it took for the classes to fill up, Hansen said.

After biology professor Dr. Ellen Brennan, who also is a nutritionist, retired December 2013, the department has not hired someone to replace her.

The department is working to get the approval from the district to hire, advertise the position, interview applicants and then make recommendations.

Another full-time faculty will retire at the end of spring 2014 bringing the program to just eight full-time teachers. Hansen worries they’re losing experienced faculty.

Adjuncts are not guaranteed employment because they are hired on a contractual basis. To replace full-time faculty, Hansen must justify why the department needs them.Without adjuncts there are no classes, Hansen said.

Several adjuncts were lost due to cost of transportation or they were unable to live on part-time adjunct pay, said Hansen.

Hansen says the department needs more full-time faculty because of the difficulty doing duties with nine full-time faculty and five full-time adjuncts. The program coordinator added that they are managing and advising 1,500 and 2,000 majors each semester.

The adjuncts are good teachers, Hansen said. They’re assigned mentors that keep a close watch on them to be sure that new hires are covering materials to the depth the department requires. All adjuncts are part-time with very few exceptions teach their class and have an extra hour per week of office hours. The only issue with relying on adjuncts is that the other additional duties must be complete by the smaller full-time faculty.

The hiring process is and has been an issue for the past four years, he said.

Hansen said many approvals are needed before anyone can be hired and any hire except work-study students must have a background check and drug test.

Krueger said both positions are expected to be filled beginning fall 2014. Hansen says there will be a replacement for Brennan and Ron Wernli, retiring at the end of this semester.


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