UMD adjunct professors don’t have to do any diversity training
Written by: Evon Salmeron 🇸🇻
Rows of chairs in a classroom at the Reckord Armory at the University of Maryland on April. 12, 2023. (Justin Guzman)
The University of Maryland, College Park, has a number of adjunct professors that teach a wide range of classes in different majors, but the process of becoming an adjunct does not reflect that impact.
An adjunct professor is a working professional that teaches a class or two each semester at the university.
“It's done to bring real-world experience to the classroom and really to kind of give students a different perspective [from] somebody who specializes in a particular field,” said Gagan Nirula, an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland.
The process of becoming an adjunct is “just like any other job,” according to Nirula. They apply and get interviewed by the dean and associate dean to determine whether their qualifications and skill set meet the needs of that particular class.
And once they get the job? “There was almost no training,” Nirula said, “which was a little bit terrifying.”
Besides the lack of general training to become an instructor, they don’t receive any training in cultural awareness, communication, and knowledge when it comes to diversity.
Full-time professors and students are required to complete some form of diversity training before they start at UMD, but adjunct professors are exempt.
Sophomore journalism and Spanish major, Alexa Figueroa, had a problem with an adjunct so severe that she had to drop the class.
“I was the only minority in there,” Figueroa states, “and I was just being treated completely differently from everyone else. It was really obvious.”
Maxima Pacheco, a junior criminal justice and chemistry major at UMD, recalled an incident with an adjunct that happened during a summer course when he was explaining why they weren’t going to have class on Juneteenth, a federal holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.
“He singled out that black student and said, ‘Make sure you do something great that day,’ and everyone was just stunned,” Pacheco said. “Everyone just gasped, you knew it was bad.”
Even though adjuncts don’t have to teach as many classes as full-time professors, they are still reaching a group of students that will take the experiences they had in those classes with them. Students will especially hold professors who are in the field they are studying to a certain standard, and when adjuncts don’t know how to handle discussions of race and culture, it affects those students.
Figueroa said, considering that UMD is a predominately white institution, there are some professors who might not have ever interacted with students from different backgrounds.
“I think that in order…to really create an inclusive environment where people just don't feel discriminated against or excluded in a classroom,” she states, “they have to be able to identify their own biases and be able to have this diversity training available to them.”
When asked about the importance of diversity training, Nirula, who is on the diversity committee at the National Association of Broadcasters, said, “I think people bring so many different perspectives and backgrounds and experiences into the workplace to understand and to provide empathy and to be able to meet them where they are. It is really important to have that diversity training and that perspective that you don't necessarily get if you haven't been through the process.”