» Opinions News, Opinion, Analysis and More For the Adjunct Faculty Nation Thu, 29 Sep 2016 17:23:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Prof. Behind ‘Social Media Buddha’ Brand Unmasked as Total ‘Biyatch’ Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:33:35 +0000 A little satire from our friends at The Cronk of Higher Education

Sociology Professor Linda Feaster, a.k.a. “The Social Media Buddha” to fans across the world for her inspiring, warmhearted hourly posts was revealed by peers and students Tuesday as a heartless shrew.

“None of us in the sociology department want to sit by her at meetings or even enter the faculty coffee lounge when Linda is there because she is so negative,” said another colleague who feared going on record because Feaster serves on the tenure approval board. “Her term of endearment for students is ‘getter-in-the-wayers....’"

“None of us in the sociology department want to sit by her at meetings….Her term of endearment for students is ‘getter-in-the-wayers.’”

“Our department had no idea Linda had such a widespread reputation for affirming the masses,” said faculty colleague professor Reggie Angstrom. “Anytime our department has tried to initiate a progressive change, she consistently vetoes the ideas and berates the ‘idiots’ who conceived of them. Of course she has never volunteered to join one of the strategic planning groups because she finds them beneath her level of superiority.”

“None of us in the sociology department want to sit by her at meetings or even enter the faculty coffee lounge when Linda is there because she is so negative,” said another colleague who feared going on record because Feaster serves on the tenure approval board. “Her term of endearment for students is ‘getter-in-the-wayers’ and the only time we see her even interact with students outside her required classes is when she sends our work-study students to fetch her latte.”

“I had no idea Linda was such a revered figure in social media,” said department chair Gladys Philpot. “None of us who carry significant amounts of work around here have time to go online to chitchat. Reading some of her posts about the joys of teaching or the importance of spreading positivity to everyone around you came as, to be kind, a surprise. I asked her if she’d like to present a professional development session about engaging through technology.”

“Yeah, I heard about that,” said the anonymous colleague. “She was complaining about how Dr. Philpot was trying to add to her – and I quote — ‘f-ing workload.’”

“I’m optimistic she’ll say yes,” said Philpot. “Her Tweet right after I asked her was, ‘Don’t just say yes. Say yes with a smile.’”

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Professor Embraces Flipped Classroom. “Twice As Much Time to Lecture!” Tue, 27 Sep 2016 15:17:12 +0000 from the Cronk of Higher Education

Professor Rupert Villanueva returned from the recent Conference for Learning Engagement elated over a teaching model that many instructors presented about. “This is going to change everything!” said Villanueva about what is commonly called the “flipped classroom.” In order to maximize the time students spend discussing and analyzing information traditionally shared in lectures, professors assign material to students via reading or, in Villanueva’s case, videos before they come to class.

“I already have all my lectures memorized verbatim, from the twenty years I’ve given them. This semester, I’m going to videotape myself presenting each one. By next fall, I’ll be able to assign each week’s lectures as homework.”

“I already have all my lectures memorized verbatim, from the twenty years I’ve given them. This semester, I’m going to videotape myself presenting each one. By next fall, I’ll be able to assign each week’s lectures as homework.”

“I’m going to implement this model next year,” said Villanueva, who indicated that he has lots of preparation to do. “I already have all my lectures memorized verbatim, from the twenty years I’ve given them. This semester, I’m going to videotape myself presenting each one. By next fall, I’ll be able to assign each week’s lectures as homework.”

Villanueva was sent to the Conference for Learning Engagement after students complained in evaluations that his dry lectures included no time for discussion and that he never interacted with the students in his class to assess their comprehension of the material.

“I confess that I was more than a little resentful of being forced to go to that conference, but I told my dean that she was right after all,” said Villanueva. “By this time next fall, students will have heard each one of my lectures twice – once on video and once in person. No one can accuse me of not appealing to students’ different learning styles.”

Impressed by Villanueva’s adoption of the progressive teaching model, Dean Marian Cromwell has encouraged him to present the basics to his peers at an meeting of the faculty senate.

“That should be easy enough,” said Villanueva. “I can use a multimodal approach by showing the faculty a video of my assigned lecture and then videotaping myself when I present the follow-up lecture to exemplify how I reinforce the material and value the learning of the students. Come to think of it, if I videotape the presentation I give at faculty senate, I can show that at the next Conference for Learning Engagement.”

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Contract Instructing in Ontario—A Personal Perspective Thu, 12 May 2016 18:50:35 +0000 by Andrew Robinson

I am a relative newcomer to contract instructing, having moved to Ontario from Saskatchewan in 2010, for family reasons related to health care for my younger son, who 
is a special-needs child. We moved from Saskatchewan because we were unable to get the health care we needed for him. My wife and I had a unique position at the University of Saskatchewan. We had a job share; she was on the tenure-track in Physics, and I was the teaching sidekick. This suited me, as I came late to university level teaching, working first as a research scientist in universities and then as a scientific computer programmer in the private sector. I did not have the conventional career trajectory of an academic employed in a tenured position at a university. We moved to Ontario without having jobs to move into, but I was fortunate to be able to find work immediately at Carleton University as a laboratory supervisor. I was then offered contract instructor positions, and moved to teaching five one-semester Introductory Physics courses during the course of the year. To put this in perspective, this is the teaching load expected of a full-time Instructor/Lecturer position, as defined in the Carleton faculty collective agreement. It would be extremely difficult to teach more than two of these courses in parallel—the workload would then be 50-60 hours per week. With 
my special-needs childcare commitments, this would be 
impossible. Nor would it be possible for me to take on a tenure-track position. The hours of work typically required to develop, fund, and launch a research program were more than I could actually devote to it. My ambition is more modest: to obtain a full-time instructor position and be able to develop better pedagogy for the teaching of physics at the university level.

So what do I find, as a contract instructor in an Ontario University? The stipends vary enormously, from the low end (Carleton) to the high end (York). Contract instructors at Carleton’s neighbour, the University of Ottawa, have a considerably better funding package and superior benefits. Yet the work is essentially the same, and each university receives a regulated amount of funding from the province, with the rest made up from tuition fees (also regulated) and donations. Given this relatively level financial playing field, the huge disparities in contract faculty pay between the different universities surprised me a lot. I originally hail from the UK, where there are unified national scales negotiated for the various faculty pay grades. Faculty pay in Ontario is highly local, with each institution negotiating directly with its employees. This localization of negotiations heavily favours employers, as it is more difficult for the various disparate labour groups to lobby effectively at much more than the local level. I also note that there are two distinct philosophies of how to position the contract instructors within existing union structures. Around half of contract instructors in Ontario are unionized with the full-time faculty at their university. The other half are often unionized with CUPE and often in bargaining units which also include teaching assistants, research assistants, and other groups of students who are also employed by the university. My personal reflection on this is that having a combined faculty/contract instructor negotiating unit is vastly preferable, as it cuts out a lot of management divide-and-rule tactics, which we at Carleton experience regularly. Many of our proposals for reform are instantly blocked by management using the argument that “that would contravene our agreement with the faculty”.

Virtually all Canadian universities claim to be “research intensive” and are fixed on the ideal model of the professor as both brilliant researcher and brilliant teacher. The snag with this hypothesis is that there is no evidence which suggests a link between performance as a researcher and performance as a teacher. Thus to correctly balance the twin objectives of the university, employing both teaching and research specialists would make more sense. The University of Toronto, for instance—easily described as the leading research institution in the province and in Canada (although UBC and the University of Alberta would no doubt dispute this national title)—does have “teaching stream” faculty. Employing full-time teachers apparently does nothing to deplete U of T’s research prowess. Ironically, most of the opposition to creating dedicated teaching positions comes from tenured faculty. Recalcitrant professors make comments about the “balkanisation of the profession” that will occur if both research and tenure streams are allowed to exist separately. This ignores the reality of what has actually happened over the last twenty years: we don’t have a balkanisation of the profession, we have segregation, or one might almost say, apartheid. On one side we have tenure-track faculty who both research and teach. On the other, the contract instructors, who teach much more, but are not paid to do any research. In some academic disciplines, research on your own time and at your own expense is possible. In the sciences, experimental science is an expensive thing to pursue, and no funding body will commit funds to precarious workers. There is also an enormous disparity in the level of pay of the two groups. The tenured staff are now mostly on the Ontario Sunshine List of those earning more than $100,000 per year. The teaching staff will be lucky to earn $25,000-$35,000 at most universities (York being the most notable exception). Moreover, tenure-track faculty normally enjoy generous benefits, pensions, and strong job security. Contract teaching staff not only do not have stable employment, they also have vastly inferior benefits— if any.

Another striking thing about the universities in Ontario is their almost complete adherence to identical doctrines of management, funding, and interpretation of their core missions. They are not exactly shining examples of debate on, academic discussion about, or experimentation with new models in teaching or finance. The dreary uniformity of the same policy positions is quite astounding. The accepted wisdom among university administrators is that there is a perpetual financial crisis caused by provincial underfunding of education. It is true that the Government of Ontario funds students less than all other provinces on a per-student basis. However the universities have simply shifted their revenue source from government to students in the form of higher tuition fees.1 Many universities have regularly reported financial surpluses (at non-profit organizations, surpluses are akin to profits, with the exception that they must be reinvested in the organization). A financial crisis does not really exist for the universities; the real financial crisis is the cost of education borne by students, and the debt levels they must incur to pay for their studies. Nevertheless, the narrative of institutions in financial crisis appears at every single contract negotiation. It is also notable that while faculty and administrative salaries have been rising at well above the rate of inflation, the contract instructor salaries have been struggling to even keep pace. The “dreary uniformity” of financial discussions at Ontario universities is especially frustrating when we see the administration, faculty, and students at Cape Breton University come together and propose that tuition fees should be abolished. This kind of out-of-the-box thinking is a rarity in our universities.

I also observe that there is an extremely rigid caste system in place in university culture. There are completely separate castes of administrators, permanent faculty, and contract instructors, and the latter group is most definitely the lowest in the pecking order. I personally find it extremely uncomfortable working with many tenured faculty, who although are civil and polite on a fairly superficial level, will, if pressed, always support their own tribe and not look out for the interests of a colleague who happens to be a contract instructor. The fact that we have a significant overlap of duties in teaching, but a massive disparity in terms of status, permanence, and salary does not help. It is sad that departments have no incentive to create permanent instructor positions to carry out teaching. In fact, every incentive at the department level is to maximize the number of research faculty. Departments gain resources by maximizing research output, not by delivering a better educational experience for their students. This makes for an uncomfortable and tense working environment for the contract instructor. In all fairness, many of the tenured faculty probably don’t realize that this is the case, but nevertheless the system as now constituted places a great deal of stress on contract instructors who are de facto full-time employees.

One of my big concerns is that, assuming there is some reform in the future and new permanent positions are opened up, the full-time faculty will insist on having the final say on who is selected, rather than offering these positions to long-serving contract instructors. It is all too easy to imagine this happening, given the apparent fondness of universities to hire from outside their own halls. This type of thinking is very common amongst faculty, and will always be justified by an argument that “it’s for the good of the department,” absolving the decision makers from any responsibility to the excluded persons. Robust negotiations and agreements with—and within—faculty associations will be needed to ensure that this is not the case.

The original purpose of contract instructor positions, intended for graduate students who needed teaching experience, subject experts employed elsewhere, and emergency replacements of faculty due to unforeseen circumstances, has been subverted. Contracts are now being given for essential core courses. It’s fairly obvious that these will not be taught by people such as lawyers, architects, and public servants, who will be at work in their “real” jobs. So this teaching will inevitably be done by faculty or professional university instructors. The fact that the university can simultaneously abuse the contract instructor system to deliver its core mission and claim with a straight face that “nobody should try and piece together a living from these contracts” defies belief. Nevertheless, this is what we have to deal with. We are essential to the running of the institution and provide core services, yet we are paid a 
fraction of what tenured faculty and permanent instructors receive and the employer sees us an easily replaceable interchangeable part to slot into a class schedule where necessary. It is telling that universities are coy about the number of contract teaching staff they employ, and how many courses are taught by contract, rather than permanent, staff. There is really no excuse for not having these figures available, except that no sustained government or public pressure has been placed on institutions to release these data. These figures should be made available, so that students can make informed choices about where to pursue their studies based on the general level of institutional support for undergraduate teaching. This would be very beneficial for both students and contract instructors (and probably rather embarrassing for most university administrations).

So how does this situation impact teaching in Ontario universities? Students do not benefit from large classes, taught by harried and stressed temporary faculty. They may lose contact with instructors who know them well, but are then forced to leave the institution. This denies many students access to good academic references. In some cases, sufficient meeting times, or even meeting spaces, are often not available to meet student needs. I am fortunate to have a shared office, whereas many have no dedicated office space at all. Face-to-face meetings with students are an exceptionally important part of the education process, and the responsibility to provide adequate resources to facilitate direct contact rests squarely with the university administration.

How long this system will remain in place is questionable. The universities have absolutely no incentive to reform themselves. The provincial government, reluctant to hand over more money as operating grants, has also adopted an extremely hands off approach to the general operation of the universities. I have received an official statement from my own Member of the Provincial Parliament, saying that “the universities act as autonomous institutions, and the provincial parliament does not interfere with their labour or hiring policies.” This is all well and good, and nobody would want external political control of individual appointments in the university system. But surely, guidelines or even legislation to force equitable employment practices should carry some weight? After all, the government is one of the major stakeholders and is the largest contributor to the university coffers; it has the influence to be an activist “shareholder.” The other major stakeholders are the students and their parents. This is where I think the pressure for reform will come. They have been paying ever increasing tuition fees, and have not realised until now that an estimated 33 to 
50 per cent of the courses are not being taught by scholars in permanent jobs, but by temporary, precarious workers, employed on much less favourable terms. Class sizes have increased, course options have decreased, and so it is very difficult to argue that the quality of undergraduate teaching during the twenty-first century has maintained standards, let alone improved. At some point, students will start to dig in their collective heels and demand more resources be put into actual undergraduate teaching, rather than research which completely dominates the agenda in the Ontario university system. We can see the beginnings of this in the recent strikes by teaching assistants at York and the University of Toronto. In both cases, the university made frankly ridiculous offers, and were forced to climb down because of action not only of the strikers, but also a significant number of undergraduates who quite clearly realize that their education is being 
compromised. I suspect that this will embolden union 
negotiation teams elsewhere in the province.

To sum up, I am encouraged by the recent signs of activism bringing concrete results into the working conditions and remuneration of precariously employed university employees. However, I am dismayed by the rigid orthodoxy of university management, and the lack of emphasis put on one of the core missions of the Ontario universities—to provide a high quality, affordable undergraduate education. A shakeup is needed, and it may have to be a grass-roots movement, given the inertia of both university administrations and provincial governments. The time for committed activism is upon us.

This originally appeared in Academic Matters and is used here with permission.


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USC Student Argues SEIU Adjunct Union Not a Panacea Wed, 10 Feb 2016 20:14:47 +0000

by Valerie Yu

Last Tuesday, the National Labor Relations Board announced landmark results for USC’s faculty union vote, allowing USC, the largest private university in the state, to organize faculty. Though unions aren’t good or bad per se, it’s paramount to keep in mind that they also aren’t a panacea to the growing concerns of adjunct faculty, rooted in issues that are decades in the making and larger than this campus alone.

In terms of the vote’s breakdown, two of three schools voted to join Service Employees International Union 721. Non-tenure-track faculty members of the Roski School of Art and Design and USC International Academy, by votes of 31 to 6 and 32 to 3, respectively, approved union representation. USC’s oldest school, the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, however, rejected union representation in a close vote, with 113 in favor and 127 against. According to the Los Angeles Times, faculty who voted in favor of unionization were “frustrated with large workloads, low pay, shrinking benefits and poor career prospects.”

By no means an isolated incident, this latest development is a phenomenon that stretches far beyond this campus. Over the past years, a wave of contingent unionization has swept the nation. The University of Chicago, Boston University, Georgetown and Loyola University Chicago all have organized faculty. Just last February, faculty at Tufts also voted to approve union representation.

At face value, unions are powerfully beneficial entities. Without them, there would be no organizations to reign in unfettered capitalism. Yet, it is also unions, along with a volatile political and economic environment, that drove industrial giants such as General Motors and U.S. Steel to disintegration. Hopefully, academic unions will tell a different tale. In a perfect world, all professors should be in a position that provides support in balancing responsibilities and research efforts.

The reality, however, is that higher education is always evolving, for better or worse. The growing reliance of universities nationwide on adjunct faculty has made for an increasingly competitive and unstable job market in academia. For the 2012-2013 academic year, the American Association of University Professors reported that 76 percent of all higher education instruction positions were filled on a contingent basis. In addition, this number has increased 300 percent from 1975 to 2011.

Risa Lieberwitz, professor of labor and employment law at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, told Fortune that universities have become “more corporate in the way the structure themselves.”

With this disproportionate hike in the number of less expensive, more flexible adjunct professors, fewer tenure-track positions open. For those who don’t see tenure in the near future, the security of a union becomes more appealing. Meanwhile, as factory jobs disappear, unions are focusing more on recruiting professors who are now more open to their message.

It comes as no surprise then that the National Center for the Study of Collective Bargaining in Higher Education and the Professions reported a 17 percent increase in faculty and graduate students who are part of collective bargaining unions when looking at data collected from 2008 to 2010.

Those statistics may see continual increase with a recent National Labor Relations Board ruling made December 2014, which expanded the option of unionization to a greater number of faculty members at private universities. This is an opportunity that had previously been limited by the 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision in NLRB v. Yeshiva University. The decision stated that full-time faculty are “managerial” and therefore, not eligible for collective bargaining. The new ruling sets detailed criteria for determining which full-time faculty are eligible based on their involvement in areas such as finances, curriculum and enrollment management. It cited growing “corporatization” in university decision-making and that “colleges and universities are increasingly run by administrators, which has the effect of concentrating and centering authority away from the faculty.”

Yet, even as a strategy to combat this “corporatization,” unionization will not solve all employee concerns. After all, like most systems, things are more complicated than they seem. With SEIU 721 now in the picture, the relationship between administration and faculty could become strained, or even adversarial. There are options out there that don’t require unionization — from asking for a review of salary to expressing views in the Academic Senate, as Provost Michael Quick stressed in an email to staff members on Jan. 6.

Many possible routes exist. At the end of the day, however, no matter what the future holds or what disagreements arise, there’s one thing both administrators and faculty need to keep in mind. Working conditions matter, wages matter and resource allocation matters. But it is educating students that matters most.

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I Teach University Physics, But I’m on Government Assistance Thu, 04 Feb 2016 15:24:21 +0000 by Andrew Robinson

Recently, I had a perfectly reasonable request from a student who wanted to review an exam from last term. I was unable to comply with this request because to do so would be to give my employer more of my time for free. As a dedicated teacher, I am extremely sad about this, because I would like to give my students the very best learning experience that I possibly can.

So what makes a mild-mannered Physics instructor turn into a seething rebel? The blunt answer is that I, along with many of my colleagues in Higher Education in Canada, the U.S., the U.K. and Australia are being shamelessly exploited by our employers. We do not have permanent jobs, we have to eke out an existence by patching together many temporary contracts to try and earn enough to survive on. We go by many different names —  in Canada we are Contract Instructors or Sessional Lecturers. In the U.S., Adjunct Professors. We are highly qualified — I have a PhD — and often have experience outside academia. I have worked as a scientist or scientific programmer in the nuclear engineering industry and in the biosciences sector. This counts for little.


“I work for a pittance, and I cannot go on doing work for free. I am sorry that this directly affects students, but if the University wants a ‘Full Service’ teacher, then they need to pay us as a highly qualified professional person would expect to be paid.”

My total earning for the year are $34,000 (that’s Canadian dollars, which are less valuable that U.S. dollars). The average household income in Canada is $76,000. My family is officially classed as “poor” by Statistics Canada, and we get Provincial income assistance. For this paltry sum, I work all year round, with a break of a week over Christmas. By the time one course finishes, another has already started. I get no pension from my employer, although I have worked there for over four years. My job, although de facto full time, is not classified as such by the University. Officially, they maintain the extremely flimsy pretense that it is merely a temporary situation caused by unexpected events like extra enrollment or sabbatical leave by a permanent faculty member.

In reality, it is a permanent state of affairs, because the University cannot run all of the courses it offers without increasing the teaching load of the full time staff. It is also unwilling to increase the staff complement to add extra teaching staff. This is purely on cost grounds, as a full time instructor would cost two to three times as much in salary in benefits. Most Universities are quite shameless about doing this, but don’t like to advertise it. After all, their marketing depends on selling the idea that getting a degree, or preferably several advanced degrees, will lead to high paying jobs with good prospects. In fact, the University sector are the worst employers of all when it comes to employing highly qualified people at pitiful salary levels. But they really don’t want prospective students, or even worse prospective donors finding out about this.

The CBC, to its credit, has been trying to make the public aware of this.

And also with this marvellous radio broadcast “Class Struggle.”

So, when a student from a class of two hundred first year students emailed me and wanted to review a final exam, I was finally forced to reply like this:


“Unfortunately, I am unable to offer that service, as I do not have the time to review everybody’s exam with them (given that there are 200 students in the class).

I apologize for this, but I am only paid ($6,700) by the University for 225 hour of work to completely prepare, teach the Physics course material and mark everything. I actually already spend 280 hours on the course. Exam review with up to 200 students would put that to 300+ hours. If I had a full time, properly paid job, I would offer to review exams.

Please feel free to complain to the President, Head of Department or the Dean of Science about this. They are the ones obstructing my application for a permanent job, which has been going on since May. I have been informed that it is against “University, Faculty of Science and Departmental strategic plans” to hire contract instructors to full time positions.

Best wishes,

I had finally decided that “enough’s enough.” I work for a pittance, and I cannot go on doing work for free. I am sorry that this directly affects students, but if the University wants a “Full Service” teacher, then they need to pay us as a highly qualified professional person would expect to be paid. Note, if the student who sent the email reads this, it was not you that precipitated this. I had several requests from your classmates for the same service and I had to turn them down too. It’s just that today, I decided that it was time to make a public statement, so I copied my reply to the Head of Department and the Dean of Science. I have invited students to complain to them too, so that the message might strike home. Students pay a lot in tuition fees, which have risen much more steeply than the pay for contract instructors. They should expect a first class learning opportunity.

Now this stance is not without risks. My teaching contracts can be abolished by the Head of Department with the stroke of a pen. I could be out of job at the end of term for protesting about pay and conditions. And there is nothing anyone can do about it. I have NO employment protection, I will get no payout for years of service. Nothing. The University can rule their contract instructors by fear of job loss. There is no real protection, even though I am a union member. But someone has to stand up and say “This is not right.” So it might as well be me.

So you might be thinking “This is just some hack teacher, who doesn’t care at all about his students, just wants more money.” Well, actually no. I am an award winning teacher, with awards from 2012 and 2014 from the Faculty of Science. My student teaching evaluations are excellent, well above the normal for the department and the Faculty of Science. These scores are normally “confidential,” but I’m proud of my commitment to my students and I’m going to share the assessment from that class with you:


I score 4.65 out of a possible perfect 5.0. Not bad, eh? I do acknowledge that student evaluation is at best imperfect, and at worst could degenerate into a popularity contest, but this is the only teaching assessment done for contract instructors at my University. If you want some more comments about me, you can always look on Rate My Professors. Once again, this student rating site has many disadvantages and one student with an axe to grind can make a tremendous difference to the score, but I have a consistently good rating.

And you can also look at when I worked at the University of Saskatchewan (when I was younger and still rated chilli peppers on the hotness rating!).

So I believe that over a decade or so of teaching, I have demonstrated my ability to teach, and how I try to look after my students. It really is a very painful decision to have to deny some of them a chance to work on their Physics education, but unless I make a stand somewhere, then I will be trapped in this pit of poverty forever, completely taken for granted by my employer.

I have tried to have my job turned into a permanent one. The University has turned me down, and told me that giving me a permanent job is against “the strategic direction of the University, Faculty of Science and the Department.” The permanent faculty in the department will not support me because I am a teacher now, not an active scientific researcher. It is sad that they tolerate me teaching very large classes, so they don’t have to, as long as it only costs $34,000 per year. That’s what I’m worth to them, no more. So, enough is enough.

Let’s see if anything happens!

This originally appeared in Medium. It is used here with permission. 

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An Adjunct Professor Confesses… Mon, 25 Jan 2016 20:43:00 +0000 by John Brown

[Imaginary dialogue based on Catholic confessions I willingly endured during my Catholic adolescence in the 1960s; doubtless the format/questions/vocabulary have much changed since that epoch.]

Georgetown adjunct professor [GAP, yours truly]: Bless me Father, for I have sinned.


I bless you, my son. What sins do you confess?

GAP: I have been teaching courses, with much gratitude to Georgetown University, on American foreign policy, off and on for over a decade.


So what is your sin? After all, teaching is not a sin, if practiced in the right way.


Father, excuse my materialist concerns, I just don’t think my students are getting their money’s worth.


My son: Money is only part of the moral universe.

graphicGAP: Thank you for your kindness, Father. But Father, although I was honored to receive a Ph.D from Princeton University, and then went on to be a Senior Foreign Service officer in the United States Foreign Service with many awards, and have many publications (some actually quite “scholarly”) I am not a tenured professor. I recently was asked to be on a Georgetown University dissertation committee, dear Father, which allowed me to judge on the scholarly value of academe’s “true,” professional entrance into serious scholarship.

Priest: So why should all these qualifications of yours bother you, my son?

GAP: Because my students are enduring extravagant costs for a college “higher” education, expecting, I assume, the best and the brightest academic pedagogues, who — as they fully deserve — get a full salary. And by the “best professors,” I mean those who have tenure and are respected by their professional academic colleagues. I am not in their league/”lane,” Father, as has been made somewhat clear (by whom I don’t really know) for over a decade at a Jesuit institution of higher earning (please forgive my spelling sin, Father, I meant “learning).”

And yet students are paying high prices, to be taught by non-tenured academic hired-hands (hacks?), such as I, “instructing” them. Should not the “real” professors teach students more than the academic hired-hands do, instead of high-priced universities relying on “second-rate” instructors/adjuncts supposedly enlightening the young (and not so young)? I feel guilty, Father, and seek your absolution.


My son — How much are you getting remunerated for teaching your course (s), now over a decade?

GAP: A couple of thousand dollars per course, Father, without insurance or any assurance of permanent employment.


Do you feel exploited?

GAP: Father, with all due respect: My consolation is Christ on the crucifix.

Priest: Say three Hail Marys and go back to the books before you pretend to be a “professor” you, so-called “Dr.” Brown. Roma locuta est; causa finita est.


Full disclosure: I was reprimanded (excommunicated?) by a Georgetown dean for distributing photocopied materials in one of my classes, which included non-copyrighted speeches by American presidents (Wilson, Roosevelt, Truman). … Yep, somehow it has something to do with copyright laws.

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DePaul Adjunct Calls Out College President on Efforts to “Intimidate” Faculty Mon, 25 Jan 2016 20:03:43 +0000 by Brendan McQuade

On Jan. 14,  DePaul University faculty received a letter addressing a campaign by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to unionize DePaul’s contingent faculty.  OPINWhile the tone of the email was softened by references to DePaul’s “culture” and “values,” the message is no doubt intended to dissuade, if not intimidate, faculty. Students and administrators may not realize it, but morale at DePaul is incredibly low. The administration has chosen to follow a business-based, least-cost model instead of maintaining a commitment to exemplary teaching and learning. As a result, faculty feel threatened and whole departments are locked in relentless competition with each other to fill seats.

When SEIU organizers arrived on campus this time last year, they quickly found interested and angry professors. I dedicated some of my time to this worthy case. When SEIU organizers broached the idea of signing union authorization cards in late March, however, we pumped the brakes. Longtime adjuncts told me they were afraid of reprisals. They knew that years treading water as contingent workers at DePaul left them with no place to go but down. The union then shifted its focus to other Chicago-area campuses. For my part, I only have the courage to write this letter because I’ll be leaving DePaul at the end of this academic year for a tenure-track position elsewhere.

The email Holtschneider sent directs faculty to the university’s Adjunct Info Hub webpage that smears SEIU as an undemocratic organization interested only in members’ dues.  It alleges that unionization would not necessarily deliver any benefits and could even increase tuition.  There’s some truth to these anti-union fact sheets. SEIU and all unions have problems — but so does DePaul.  Instead of attacking SEIU, I call on you, Fr. Holtschneider, to “set thine house in order” and immediately address the legitimate grievances that have brought union organizers to DePaul: excessive reliance on contingent labor, administrative bloat and undemocratic governance.

For more than a decade, colleges and universities have turned to non-tenured instructors to manage costs. In 1960, 78 percent of college professors were tenured or tenure-track. Today, 76 percent of professors work as adjuncts, either on a course-to-course basis or as non-tenured term professors on year-to-year contracts. At DePaul, 60 percent of faculty are contingent. These positions bring little security. I arrived at DePaul as a term professor in the fall of 2014. I teach nine classes — three more than tenure-track professors — and receive about $10,000 less than an entry-level tenure-track professor. Term professors that teach six classes a year receive about $30,000, half the salary of an entry-level tenure-track professor.

People in this position must work long hours, usually about 60 hours per week, or compromise their level of teaching. Most professors I know view teaching and research as their vocation, their calling. Going through the motions is not an option, so we exploit ourselves for the benefit of the students.  Although many contingent professors at DePaul are full time, we receive little research support. To contribute the pressing questions to which we’ve dedicated our lives, we must make time at the expense of our families, friends and health. Not only do contingent professors do the majority of teaching at DePaul for insufficient compensation, they also bear the brunt of budget shortfalls.

In my own department, last year’s across-the-board budget cuts to the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences meant 30-percent reductions in courses taught by contingent professors. One contingent professor with an ailing wife saw his course allocations reduced by one-third and another contingent professor, a recent winner of the contingent faculty teaching award, left DePaul rather than continue to teach for insufficient pay. Apparently, this type of conduct is consistent with “Vincentian social justice.”

At the same time contingent labor has increased, institutions have added new, non-faculty professionals whose salary and benefits packages tend to be higher than those of part-time instructors (but less than full professors).  Across the nation, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.  While many of these new positions appear to necessary student services such as counselling and advising, there is also an incredible amount of administrative bloat. From 2006 to 2014, full-time professional staff grew from 834 to 1,155, a nearly 40 percent increase. During this period, DePaul increased its full time faculty by only eight percent.

As universities have grown in size and complexity, they’ve increasingly adopted an undemocratic corporate model.  Even tenure track professors do not feel secure or included at DePaul.

In 2010, DePaul denied tenure to six faculty of color, a national scandal that highlighted the university’s shameful rates of tenure renewal for minority faculty.  At the time, The New York Times reported that only eight percent of white faculty (17 of 201) failed to get tenure while over a third of black (8 of 22) and Latino faculty (6 of 17) were denied tenure.

Beyond these problems with tenure review, your administration has repeatedly made decisions against the wishes of faculty and students. Your administration approved building a new basketball stadium, disregarding the concerns that it was unwise to pour tens if not hundreds of millions into an unsuccessful basketball program that operates a considerable financial loss.

This academic year, you have stood behind Dean Gerald Koocher despite calls from students and professors to dismiss him for work on an American Psychological Association task force that rubber-stamped existing government policies now widely acknowledged as torture. With these debacles in mind, I hope you can understand why some DePaul faculty do not trust your administration and welcome the arrival of SEIU.

Most importantly, your stance toward unions contradicts DePaul’s supposed social justice focus.  Transparent paternalism and inducing fear in contingent workers who wish to stand up for their rights is hypocritical to education based on either social justice or critical thought. It betrays the “culture” and “values” that bring students to DePaul. Students come to class wanting to discuss justice. You are positioning DePaul as a bad example. Students can see this too, and their respect for their university suffers.

In your letter to faculty, you claimed your “preference is to maintain a direct working relationship with adjunct faculty — without interference from a third party that has no connection or commitment to DePaul and its students and that may not understand our culture and our values.” In this spirit, I invite you to make a public reply to this open letter. Specifically, I call on you to address legitimate grievances that have brought union organizers to DePaul by instituting the following policy changes:

1. Clarify the meaning of “Vincentian Social Justice” and its relation to labor practices

2. Provide tenure-track positions to all full-time faculty and all interested adjuncts

3. Institute a cap that limits adjuncts to no more than 20 percent of instructors

4. Hire as adjuncts only professionals seeking to share their expertise as part-time teachers and PhD students looking for teaching experience

5. Provide robust living wages for all full-time faculty and staff. DePaul’s existing living wage policy is insufficient.  A living wage is not simply above the poverty line

6. Cap the salary of any DePaul employee at $150,000

7. Make a detailed budget publicly accessible on the university’s website in a format that can be understood by all members of the DePaul community

8. Implement participatory budgeting to create democratic process where students, faculty and staff collectively set the priorities of the university

Thank you for your time and consideration.

This originally appeared the the DePaulia and is used here with permission. 

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A Letter to My Students as I Leave Adjunct Teaching Thu, 03 Dec 2015 15:22:34 +0000 by 

I’ll miss you. If you don’t believe me, ask any of my former students. Or ask my husband who has had to put up with my moping and my bouts of tears these past few weeks as the semester winds down to an end.

It’s not you; it’s me. I can’t teach for poverty wages and zero benefits any longer. The university administrators have taken advantage of my need to mentor long enough. Knowing that teaching is a calling, administrators have carved out a fiefdom in which they exploit this need of ours to teach, while paying themselves fabulous salaries and bonuses (see “UNH justifies bonuses for administrators” HERE).

goodbyeWhen I began, I didn’t even make minimum wage for all the hours I worked. About four years ago I finally climbed past that lofty ambition, and now make about $14 to $17 an hour each week, depending on how much grading I have, how many extra emails I need to respond to, and how many times I need to meet with students.After ten years of teaching for the university, I am paid $1000 per credit—a sum I’ve reached after having to ask for my raise every other year.  The last time I asked for a raise, I was told via email that this was “the upper limit of the UNHM adjunct pay scale.” A few weeks later I learned of a colleague who was offered almost double that amount—$1950 a credit—to teach his first class.

I thought my time here would eventually be rewarded with an offer of full-time employment. I was wrong, and should have known better. Why would the university administrators offer me benefits and a livable wage if I’m obviously willing to work for almost nothing? Why buy the tree if you can get the apples for free?

I’m uncertain of my future since I thought I was working toward it this past decade. But I am certain of my advice to you: Do not pursue advanced degrees with the thought that you will teach at a college or university one day. If the university’s administrators have made anything clear, it is this: Faculty members are not valued; they can be bought for a couple thousand dollars and zero benefits. It’s an unlivable wage. To administrators, it’s an unspeakable wage, for you won’t hear it from them.

Therefore, your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is this: Ask your professor if she or he is an adjunct. If so, ask if they make a livable wage. When they’ve stopped laughing or crying or both, ask what you can do to help in the struggle to pay adjunct faculty a fair and livable wage with benefits. Then do it, whether it takes the form of a picket line, a letter to the editor, a petition to administration, an email to your legislator, sharing a handout I’ve prepared (available HERE), or what have you. It won’t be easy, but it will be much appreciated.

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PC Culture on College Campuses—Who’s to Blame? Wed, 02 Dec 2015 19:09:42 +0000
Is political correctness on campus a real problem? Tellingly, it is less often defended than it is minimized. In the 1990s, it was sometimes dismissed as a conservative “myth.” In recent months — with students demanding resignations, apologies and various other concessions from their administrators over perceived slights — liberals have bent over backward to insist that PC culture isn’t “the real issue.” When the journalist Jonathan Chait wrote an essay criticizing progressives who want to silence those who disagree with them, he was called “a sad white man” and told that political correctness doesn’t exist.

One very influential liberal, however, is on Chait’s side. In a recent interview, President Barack Obama said that “hearing the other side” was important for progressive activists at colleges. The alternative, he warned, was a “recipe for dogmatism.” He made similar remarks at a town hall meeting in September: “I don’t agree that you, when you become students at colleges, have to be coddled and protected from different points of view.”

Good for him. The president could have declined to say anything about liberal intolerance. Or he could have portrayed its recent expressions as isolated incidents that have been blown out of proportion. Instead, he treated it as something worthy of criticism. That’s especially praiseworthy since Obama’s reproach was directed at people he considers to be basically on his side.

But the administration Obama leads hasn’t been as stalwart in the defense of free speech and related values, such as procedural fairness for individuals. In fact, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has often encouraged universities to work against those ideals.

Hans Bader, who used to work in that office, summarized the problem in testimony to Congress in June: “The Education Department has effectively redefined constitutionally protected speech as ‘sexual harassment’ even when it would not offend the reasonable person; is not severe; does not occur on school grounds; and is not gender-discriminatory.” Colleges that decline to act against this expansively defined harassment face the loss of federal funding.

Earlier this year, Northwestern University professor Laura Kipnis wrote an article criticizing what she called a “sexual panic” in academia, to which federal rules on campus sexual harassment had contributed. In the ensuing controversy, the university launched an investigation into whether her writing had run afoul of federal rules. It backed down after an outcry. But where might Northwestern have gotten the idea that it should regulate what its professors write on the Internet? Maybe, Bader suggests, from the Office for Civil Rights, which has said that off-campus activity can qualify as harassment. That office has also told colleges to lower the standard of proof used for allegations of sexual harassment.

It’s bad enough when universities decide to water down the rights of the accused and limit speech. It’s worse when the federal government is telling them to do so. Congress hasn’t forced the Obama administration to prod colleges this way: The administration is stretching the law, at the expense of traditionally liberal concepts of due process and unrestricted speech.

Obama deserves real credit for speaking up for those old ideas. If he’s serious about them, he should direct his Education Department to stop undermining them.

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Higher Ed. is Under Attack from Within by Disaffected Students Wed, 18 Nov 2015 20:00:02 +0000 by James H. “Smokey” Shott

College campuses — once the bastion of diverse opinion, a garden where ideas thrived, where contrary viewpoints were freely expressed — are fast becoming cesspools of narrow-mindedness that stifle free speech, where political correctness rules over common sense, where free thinking is discouraged, and they are occupied more and more by students offended because someone expressed a different opinion, didn’t pay proper deference, or wore the “wrong” costume on Halloween.

Student protests are returning to 1960s/70s levels, and arise because some students think that there aren’t enough minority professors on campus while others decry a lack of “social justice,” and some have called for hunger strikes over what they perceive as a lack of support for students of color.

If students don’t like a professor’s point of view, or they detect “microaggressions” in the classroom, they feel led to demand the professor resign or be fired. You are a Hispanic kid and someone wears a sombrero and a poncho on Halloween, it’s time for a protest.

And did you know that the First Amendment makes some college kids feel unsafe? Would you ever have imagined that such an idea could take hold on an American college campus?

The vice president of the Missouri Students Association, Brenda Smith-Lezama, told MSNBC last week, “I personally am tired of hearing that First Amendment rights protect students when they are creating a hostile and unsafe learning environment for myself and for other students here.” Poor little thing must be terrified listening to rap or watching television or movie drama. And she suffers under the delusion that her comfort is more important than someone else’s.

While these kids have yet to accomplish much, they believe the world must work to calm their fears, perceptions that may be adequate to drive protests and hunger strikes, but their perceptions do not necessarily reflect reality. The concerns expressed by these students are precisely the types of things the liberal attitudes that prevail on campuses today work to eliminate.

Many of the complaints have a racial element, but they really center on hypersensitive feelings about things that have always been normal aspects of life. Suddenly, these normal campus happenings that students — white students, black students, Asian and Hispanic students, female students — have dealt with successfully for decades and with little or no difficulty, are now scary and threatening.


Photo by Max Whittaker

College once was a place where kids learned to think. Today, many of them seem to know only how to feel; emotion rules rationality. Listening to different ideas used to be enlightening, mind-expanding. Now, it makes the kiddies cry for their mommies.

Missing from these children-in-adult-bodies is even the suspicion that not everything revolves around them, that they are not the be-all and end-all of the known universe.

And they also want someone to pay their college loans off for them, because … well, just because.

The process of gaining entry to an institution of higher learning is long established and has worked well for decades. Colleges and universities are places where the qualified my go to advance their education, and most of the onus is on the student to fund their education through parental help, scholarship assistance, student loans, the GI Bill, or good old hard work. And then it is the student’s responsibility to perform as expected academically to complete their degree requirements, and then go out and get a job and become a productive member of society.

That is called “life,” and life is not a smooth ride, most times. But tens of millions of Americans have successfully navigated the sometimes-troubled waters successfully without being coddled and nursed along the way. Conquering challenges and facing adversity head-on build character.

The whining behavior demonstrated on several campuses recently shows a fundamental failure of thousands of young people to have learned the basic rules of life, and have their minds grow up at the same rate as their bodies.

However, bowing to the whims of students is letting the inmates run the asylum. College is a place for learning, or once was. Professors led the learning process, administrators ran the school, and the students worked hard and did what they had to do to master the material at a satisfactory level. If students weren’t happy in a particular environment, or couldn’t hack it, they were free to leave. Or they could simply adapt. If that dynamic isn’t restored very soon, we may as well shut down colleges, because they will no longer provide a benefit.

As bad as this is for higher education, it is much worse for America. A generation or two with millions of young people among them who can’t cope with the simplistic problems of going to college surely won’t be able to be good citizens, to hold down jobs in a productive economy, or staff a strong, able military capable of defending the country, or even make sensible decisions about for whom they will vote. They can hardly be expected to weigh complex arguments rationally, when anything that doesn’t agree with their narrow ideas makes them hide under their beds.

This is what liberalism hath wrought, and it will most likely get worse.

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