There’s a difference between blue and yellow. There’s an obvious difference between a house and a cardboard box. When did the difference between academic administration and politicians become so hard to define and separate?
Recently, I was at a workshop on the history of women within the Taoism community, hosted by one of the colleges I work at. Although I was enjoying the lecture, I also knew I had to be aware of the time as I had to catch the train to my next class, which is 45 minutes away and on a different campus. As this is a theme for me, as it is for any Freeway Flyer, I sat in the back and very close to the exit. Next to me were fellow faculty, students and administration, specifically from the dean’s office. From their conversation, most of them were professors years and years before, but from the policies and ideas they were tossing around, it seemed that they were more suited to the campaign trail.
Sure, I could’ve said something when they asked me who I was and then chuckled when I said I was teaching. The immediate response was “oh, an adjunct,” and then haughty snickering. As an adjunct, especially as a Freeway Flyer, there are times when I’m not considered part of the academic community. I’m simply a worker that comes and goes with the semesters. While I do important work, my say isn’t very important as I can be here one semester and then disappear the next, right? As a Freeway Flyer, I’ve come to ignore this way of thinking. It’s obvious that adjuncts on every college campus are capable voices when it comes to discussing the academic needs of our colleges. Our travel and our interaction with all levels of the academic community allows us opinions that are not only valid, but logical and up-to-date.
If the chuckles didn’t bother me, then what did? Well, it had to be the way they talked about the students. To these politicians, students weren’t individuals with the desire to learn, but a nameless and faceless mass that complained and made the work at the dean’s office harder. As one administrator sniped—well maybe “they” need to be failed in order to learn. What’s worse was all of the administrators agreed policies and paperwork needed to be long and arduous as possible in order to dissuade students from speaking up.
The debate about the American academic system has been trudging along. Many institutions make sure every student leaves with a superior education. It’s agreed that adequate and academics should not be in the same sentence if excellence can be achieved. However, in order to do this each individual must be encouraged and nurtured. In middle school, a teacher gives students the basics, as well as confidence in their abilities. As these students travel up the academic ladder, the instructor lets go of his hand, encouraging independent study and critical thinking…but the student is never seen as the group he’s in. Each individual is taught, regardless of how packed the classroom is. Scholars are encouraged, as opposed to students who are simply examined.
Before a student can even come to class, he should meet with an adviser from the dean’s office to discuss what will help their education flourish. This is not happening. While first year students are coddled (for the obvious reasons that the institution needs to form a bond the first semester in order to keep students from leaving), the rest of the population is shuffled around like paperwork…and every knows how awful and undesirable paperwork can be. Students aren’t given proper one to one guidance and the administration doesn’t seem to notice that the students are unhappy with this situation. On more than one occasion I’ve heard a student question the college diploma: what’s it worth?
The administrators I bumped into seemed to forget the reasons academic institutions were created. To them, education is secondary. Nowadays, a successful college is one that pushes as many students as possible through in four years. The only time a student becomes an individual is when the institution is cashing a tuition check.The cracks of the American academic institution are showing. They’ve been showing for a long time.
As a Freeway Flyer, I keep balanced. Without my desire to teach and to help my students (the desire of all Freeway Flyers), our students would be short changed. So the administrators all get the cushy chairs, and meetings that really only play with abstractions. I get to discuss literature with my students and to convince them why reading and writing and learning is so much more than earning a diploma…it’s earning eyes and ears and a brain in a world of academic politicians.
What are your thoughts? As always, I’m curious to know your perspective.
About the Freeway Flyer: Jenny Ortiz is a quite serious 24 year old New Yorker, except when unicorns (specifically chubby unicorns) are involved. When she isn’t pleading with Kurt Sutter via Twitter to be her mentor, she is teaching at St. John’s University, Adelphi University, and LaGuardia Community College (see, quite serious). When she isn’t teaching, she’s hanging out with her friends showing off earth and water bending skills (not serious, but super fun). When she is alone and it’s raining, she likes to read Haruki Murakami, or listen to the Broken Bells and daydream. If you want to be a fan, you can read Jenny’s work on fictionatwork.com, Blink-ink.com, Jersey Devil Press, dogeatcrow.com, Break Water Review,Stone Highway Review, Eighty Percent Magazine and InkSpill Magazine…or you can follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/jnylynn.