I'm a fourth year doctoral student in Applied Experimental Psychology who earned a Master's prior to enrolling in my program (which my Ph.D program accepted on full). Long story short, my funding ran out for this academic year so I was looking into work I could do in my last year. I applied to a visiting full time instructor position at a SLAC despite my odds not looking good. Shockingly, I got the position.

This position has been absolutely brutal for me and I've heard many concerning comments about my course when they thought I was out of earshot and when I gave them a mid semester feedback form. I've consistently been 2 to 2.5 weeks behind grading all papers, difficult time replying to emails in a timely manner, shower every other day, and sleep for long amounts of time including long naps. I also don't wave or say anything to students (I do for faculty though, oddly enough) when I walk past them partially because I'm trying to get in and out alongside nervousness. I've been encouraged to also use a tool called Starfish to report student attendance and such but I do random in class assignments to keep track of everyone.

As much as I've come to realize I dislike teaching (since I expected to enjoy it), it's my only source of income right now and losing it would be devastating for me. This SLAC is in Michigan (20 minutes away from the R2 where I'm doing my Ph.D) and I signed a contract that stated my salary and teaching course load. Can they terminate the rest of my appointment if my course reviews end up being extremely low?

  • 1
    Does your contract (or employment law) say anything about that?
    – user111388
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 12:48
  • 2
    Given my kids’ experience with bad teaching by adjunct instructors I’d say the reviews may have limited impact. But you need to work on overcoming your nervousness. Being polite and welcoming to your students is just good manners. Acting like you don’t care about them at all will not help.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Nov 25, 2023 at 15:56
  • @JonCuster I initially deleted this post but I decided to undelete it. Hopefully, those reviews have limited impact for sure.
    – zzmondo1
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 18:40
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    @zzmondo1 it looks like you’re aware of what you could improve to get better at your job. Why don’t you do that?
    – user126108
    Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 21:47
  • Are you talking about termination of a contract or non-renewal of a contract. There's a huge difference. Commented Nov 26, 2023 at 22:18

1 Answer 1


Yes, a contract can be terminated for cause and poor student evaluations might be a factor, though probably not the only factor. You probably have some protections, however, and the process can take time. Normally some consultation with administration and/or experienced faculty is part of the process. It is very unlikely that you are an "at will" employee who can be summarily fired.

But non-renewal is more likely than termination. The university has a number of objectives. Effective teaching (in a liberal arts college) is high on the list, but so is fairness to faculty.

Contracts and published policies they point to should spell out the various options.

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