Katrin Becker in her post Six things that will demoralise staff, which is a response to Six things that will demoralise staff @ smh.com.au, commented on the difficulty of getting adjunct professor appointments at one Canadian university:
Curiously, I actually tried to become an adjunct at my Alma mater—twice. The first time was just after I’d graduated, and won a research award. That time my paperwork mysteriously disappeared—twice. The other time it took months of cajoling to even elicit a response from the Dean, and then they said they weren’t really interested. An adjunct appointment in Canada is a completely resource neutral appointment. It costs the University NOTHING, yet allows them to claim my achievements as part of their “output”. I can’t imagine why anyone would turn that down, but they did.
This phenomenon is not limited to Canada, nor to people whose only connection to the university is as an alumnus or alumna. On our campus, adjunct professor with 0% salary appointments are up to the deans, and they don’t always make rational decisions.
For example, a few years ago our department had an extremely active researcher and teacher who had created courses for the department, taught them and trained others to teach them, taught one of our core grad courses, written grant proposals (he was on soft money), and basically done all the things that a good assistant professor would do. Our department voted unanimously to give him adjunct assistant professor status with a 0% appointment, which would have no fiscal effect, except that when he taught a course he would be paid like a visiting professor, rather than like a lecturer—the difference is not huge, but it meant that he would not have to take a pay cut from his research position in order to teach.
The dean refused to make the appointment, with the lame excuse that the person had not been a postdoc long enough (despite the fact that most of the tenure-track faculty in the School of Engineering are hired directly from PhD programs without postdoctoral training, and the person had 20 years of industrial experience in a related field).
Who can understand the minds of university administrators?