University Trouble

Edited: November 5, 2019, 7:48 AM · My school is making drastic budget cuts and I learned the other day that my university is letting my violin prof. go at the end of the school year. There are not any other full time violin professors on staff and I'm not interested in studying with an adjunct. This would be curtains for the performance aspect of the music school since he runs the orchestra and is responsible for most if not all the string instrumental performance that goes on. Is it realistic that I'd be able to stage a student petition or protest to prevent this from happening? On the other hand, what are my options this far into the year in terms of transferring to a different school?

Replies (17)

November 5, 2019, 8:04 AM · That sounds very bad for the program, but I'm stuck on this: "I'm not interested in studying with an adjunct." As a former adjunct, I have to say, why? Sometimes the adjuncts are the best qualified because they are actually working professionally in the field.
Edited: November 5, 2019, 9:07 AM · I'm sorry to hear that about your program. Is your violin professor tenured vs. tenure track or on contract? Will he be able to stay on the faculty roster as an adjunct? If so, you could continue to study with him.

If he is moving, you should ask for his advice on whom to study with. Maybe he can connect you with a good teacher locally or at another university.

Adjuncts can be excellent and knowledgeable teachers, so don't write them off entirely. More faculty than you'd think are adjuncts (though it might not be obvious on websites). Juilliard and NEC have college faculty who used to teach as adjuncts at other, less-known programs.

At this point, it's not too late to seek a transfer. Are you seeking a scholarship or paying full tuition? If you're a full tuition student, that will help your case.

Edited: November 5, 2019, 9:09 AM · Mary, it's nothing against adjunct professors or the quality of teaching. I am worried that as a student of an adjunct at this school I will be more of an afterthought to a professional career than someone who is teaching full time and that is their primary focus. They are out to save money, not hire quality people. For example, I am accustomed to having 2 lesson times a week with my current teacher, one to focus on orchestral excerpts and another to work on rep. Also, I really value the opportunity to stop by his office if I have any questions. With an adjunct, this is just not possible unfortunately.
November 5, 2019, 9:48 AM · Sorry to hear this Miles.

I'm adding another plus for the adjuncts - my most influential professors in college (not music, but another creative field) were adjuncts. Who knows, maybe having your professor(s) less available to you will be a benefit. I never felt like an afterthought with my professors - they were fully present with me when we had class/lesson, and that's all that really matters, isn't it?

November 5, 2019, 10:03 AM · Someone who is an adjunct may still love to teach, even though their career is rooted in performing. Indeed, they might turn out to be a better player than your current prof, especially if they are affiliated with a world-class orchestra.

However, the quality of the adjuncts is probably dependent upon the violinist population of your local city. And the downgrade of the program is certainly not good news; pursuing a transfer does seem to make sense. I imagine that nothing that students could do would change this trajectory. Are you at a state school where a transfer within the same university system would be possible?

November 5, 2019, 10:17 AM · If the strings program as a whole is on the chopping block, you'll have no choice but to transfer.
More detail? Changes to the program? Your year in school? Type of school (public, private?).

If worse comes to worse you may have a gap in transferring due to the timing, but you could always study privately with the retiring professor. Upside: more time to practice. The fact that someone is an adjunct or not is neither here nor there, especially as more schools are now relying on them to teach everything. It's great for the college but bad for adjuncts, who have little say in department matters. Some colleges hire so many adjuncts that no one gets much actual teaching--one class here or there.

Protesting will likely be a waste of time. These decisions were probably in process long ago and are driven by larger forces: long-term visions of the program, declining state or alumni funding, declining number of music majors, political battles within the music department for a fixed pie. Not every college should have a strings major--there simply aren't enough jobs to absorb them, even in a good economy.

Edited: November 5, 2019, 12:02 PM · Whether your violin teacher is adjunct or full-time tenure track is of little consequence. What is more important is the size and reputation of your music department. Anyone wanting to be a pro. or continue in grad. school should go to a large, prominent school. If your school has only one violin teacher and not enough students for an orchestra it might be too small. If you really like this teacher you can continue with him off-campus. I did that when I had lessons from a retired USC violin teacher. You might have to transfer. In my state, Cal., only 6 of the CSU campuses offer the B.M. degree, and the two big ones are Northridge and Long Beach.
Edited: November 5, 2019, 11:58 AM · Universities generally have layers of protection and security -- faculty members' jobs are protected by tenure, student are ensured they can graduate (within a reasonable amount of time) in their current program even if it closes, etc.

All of that goes out the window if the institution declares a financial exigency. And doing that damages the reputation of the university very badly and makes it much more difficult for them to hire good faculty members in the future.

I agree with what others have said about adjuncts. Sure, any time you get a different violin teacher, there's a chance they won't be right for you. I appreciate that's making you apprehensive -- we all face these kinds of uncertainties in our lives. But an adjunct can also be someone who is maybe less established and maybe trying to burnish a reputation so they can transition to a tenure-stream position elsewhere, so they might work very hard on your behalf to help you improve your playing and establish your career because that's a feather in their cap too.

Your first concern is to make sure the *courses* will still be taught in your program so that you can actually earn your degree. If you're a music major and all the courses you need suddenly evaporate, the institution might still try to convince you to stay (and thereby collect your tuition) by offering a smorgasbord of course substitutions. But will those give you the education you wanted? So if the whole program is getting jettisoned out from under you, then you definitely need to consider transferring somewhere else. Sorry this happened to you, but you need to deal with it positively and adaptively.

November 5, 2019, 2:30 PM · It's not that adjuncts are bad in and of themselves, but the university that is increasingly relying on adjuncts for X department is only concerned with short-term thinking. The relationship you have with your teacher is very important, and I would be looking for the right teacher more than anything.

Participating in a school's race-to-the-bottom will reap some kind of whirlwind for all of society soon enough. The system that rests on the backs of adjuncts is sick.

November 5, 2019, 3:52 PM · I hate stories like this. God forbid a school fires a few administrators who do comparatively much less work and make much higher salaries than teachers.
November 5, 2019, 3:56 PM · Transitioning from tenured to adjunct is pretty common, sadly. Profs who 25 years ago would be tenured professors are now adjuncts, and there are different levels of adjuncts- some have pretty good benefits, guaranteed courses/hours, etc. Others are teaching one or two classes across several colleges and universities, making $1500 a course.

I'd be more concerned about the future value of your degree: What's the value of a degree from a university that no longer offers it? Not much. Part of the value in a degree is its prestige, its reputation, and alumni connections- all of which will be lost to you if you continue there.

That to me is more of a reason to leave than losing a teacher.

Edited: November 5, 2019, 10:05 PM · I know what Nate means about administrators -- certainly this is a problem. There is another side to that though. For example, nowadays 10-15% of university students will identify as having a learning disability. Usually that means they need accommodations such as different exam rooms, twice as long to take their exams, etc. All of that has to be managed by someone. First of all they need to be processed into the university's disability system, possibly at the rate of 500 per year. And let's say (just as an example) that your university is teaching 2500-3000 students per semester in General Chemistry. That's hundreds of students who will need alternate testing conditions. Administrators are needed to help advise students who have seemingly endless types of dire problems and need academic relief -- very often this cannot be handled by departmental staff -- and students who are two years into their college program and wanting to switch majors for the third time. Universities also need more lawyers than they used to (trust me on this one) and more counselors, psychologists, and so on., and a police force comparable to a small city (complete with tactical vehicles and the whole deal). Not to mention a typical comprehensive state university probably offers about twice as many degree programs as it did 30 years ago. And then there are the effects of regulation and accreditation. Title IX is a great thing but it eats up huge amounts of administrative time. So does internal auditing to ensure that Federal grant money is being spent properly, etc. A university is a very complicated enterprise. I would argue that if anything, many university presidents and VPs are actually underpaid when you consider the size and complexity of organization that they run. With 10 years experience running a major state university, most presidents could easily transition to the private sector at at least double the salary.
November 5, 2019, 11:06 PM · Ah, the old "I choose long division" Mr. Holland's Opus routine.

And I'm sure the rising cost of ammo is putting a squeeze on, which might be okay since fighters have already swooped down to bomb the last proper resistance, and Jobear's violin cannot be trodden on, the slightest bit more.....

November 6, 2019, 9:04 AM · I'm just not erudite enough to understand that. Presumably it meant something.
November 6, 2019, 10:36 AM · From what I read the major concern is budget cuts impacting the schools resources. My suggestion is to transfer. I assume this experience provided you with additional questions and areas to investigate of a potential school. Should you decide to transfer, request to meet some of the professors is reasonable, and you can get more insight regarding growth/shrinkage of the programs than what you would get from any admissions counselor
November 6, 2019, 10:40 AM · juliard has many adjunct professors for example the concertmaster of the ny phil
November 18, 2019, 2:03 PM · You may have heard that the teacher was "pink-slipped;" however, that does not mean that he/she is actually going to be terminated. Whenever a school finds itself in a money numbers crunch, they always look at reducing faculty as one of the possible solutions. That doesn't necessarily mean the teacher is going to leave! Because of unions, and contracts, and tenure, there may be time-limits in the contract something like "if a tenured member is not going to have his contract renewed, he must be notified by December 1, to allow for remediation prior to Feb 1, to allow for re-evaluation prior to March 1, to allow for final determination prior to Apr. 1. If =>ANY<= of those dates are missed the teacher cannot be dismissed according to the contract. Therefore, if there is even a CHANCE that the teacher needs to be let go, he/she MUST be notified of non-renewal BEFORE the very earliest date. Often, after the pink slips are given out, a way to fund the position is found (or cuts elsewhere--outside the faculty cuts previously recommended--are chosen), and the teacher is never actually dismissed.


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