To the CNN News Desk and Piers Morgan:
I write with your investigative team in mind as well as hosts like Piers Morgan who can raise awareness of the next bubble that’s going to burst within the next year: higher education.
I left teaching in January 2012 after completing a very successful eight year run at River Valley Community College (Claremont, NH). I was one of the first MA-level students to achieve instructor status at Dartmouth College in 1996; I had taught college-level courses since this crucial time of professional development.
I served as a field representative during the Adjunct Union drive that was ratified in May 20122 (August 2010-March 2011). I worked “the Western corridor” between Claremont and Keene, NH as well as provided analysis, commentary, and editorials throughout this time period. I have an intimate knowledge of higher education, labor abuse, and abject fraud on the part of the Community College System of New Hampshire re: misuse of Federal funding, willful neglect re: professional and physical health of public employees, and violation of labor laws that apply to all state workers.
The CCSNH doesn’t think any of the laws apply to the adjuncts because they are classified as “at-will.” Yet, any and all statutes regarding ethical behavior, workplace worker rights, and other long-established traditions (legal and ethical) are very much followed. (They have protections, yet we barely can find recourse, ever.) How can a part-time professor be subject to the equity rules if a student files a complaint or receive protection when the professor complains about student abuse or workplace inequities? The “committee” structure exists solely because state and federal statutes *do* in fact apply.
Yet, fair pay, regular contracted pay, accurate pay are still ignored; in the same way, the contingency of this employment is oftentimes used as a way to keep innovative professors or harder (and more successful) teachers out of the classroom. How is this not workplace intimidation?
The #1 goal of the professional higher education plantation over-sers remains to keep the seats filled at all costs, even if that means shoving thirty-five people into a classroom designed for fifteen (workplace environment abuse) or fire adjuncts who refuse to accept seven more students into a course capped at thirteen, already stressed by twenty enrolments approved by System without faculty input, and then described as a marginal success when a good portion of the students do not meet the essential objectives — only to blame the teacher for this problem, not the administrators who violate trust, national standards, and all logic in devising their “strategic plans.” When I and others complained in 2008 about the workplace conditions in the Keene Academic Center, we were told to stop whining and teach your courses. It’s ironic to recall how all contentious discussions about the noxious smells, the closet-sized classrooms, and silencing of student and faculty complaints took place in or near the holding cells of the former Keene Police Department.
The strategic plan was and remains to keep a fresh crop of field workers in rotation as only the good pickers are invited to the big house to become more privileged wage slaves or rotate as the field overseers. Anyone who supports contingent faculty are slowly let go, retired, or put on administrative leave. Adjuncts are never let go, they simply do not get their contracts renewed when they insist on evolving their courses in a way that meet local, state, and national standards — including textbook selection, modification of essential objectives, infusion of hybrid online course structures. Adjuncts are always told in the fifty-ninth second of the fifty-ninth minute of the eleventh hour not just which sections they are teaching but whether or not, in fact, they are teaching at all. Every term. For eight years, despite the backbreaking efforts of allies serving the faculty in leadership roles across any college.
The plantation itself is always in debt, the masters and mistresses know of the abuses and do not care, and the loss of life and deadly working conditions (how many teachers without health insurance died in the last few years simply because they didn’t have regular medical attention? how about the rise in diabetes type 2? Stress-related ulcers and other complications leading to cancer and, of course, mental duress that results in anxiety that leads to admission into the mental hospitals — which all seem to be flourishing here in the age of the migrant intellectual worker. We know the plantation model only produces debt and death, so why allow it to persist? Why not look to the people on the front lines to provide the most innovative solutions?
I wondered for many years: why is this so difficult? Now I know, after some time away: people who do not have the degrees or skills of world-class teachers hold government jobs that expect their servitude. Intellectuals, while able to adapt to abusive systems, are generally put here on Earth to challenge mercilessly the false opinions, lowered expectations, and anxieties of a group of people who have been conditioned to fear innovation, intelligence, creativity, cooperation, reflexivity, and tactical thinking that oftentimes demands immediate modification to any game plan. The irony (and tragedy) remains how administrators and their plantation overseers delude themselves into thinking that adjuncts are either children better seen not heard or lazy workers who can’t seem to keep up with the sixteen hour work day and dare to complain when they have not been given adequate food, water, or shelter.
Here’s a better way: harness that innovation, intelligence, etc. in a way that grows programs, creates the conditions for regular employment, increases revenues — and yes, dear Child of God, you need to pay us — and meets the needs not of the System or the Trustees or even the faculty: instead, let’s meet the needs of students who long to develop new job skills, encounter new ways of thinking through old problems, and increase their own sense of self-worth by way of an increase in their knowledge of themselves and their world.
An informed student, a mobilized citizenry, and a healthy place to learn and live — these are the other major threats to how the administrative overseers view teaching and learning. Oh, and the simple fact that most of them have never stepped a foot in the classroom in their lives yet somehow, unlike other professions, get to determine all policies and resolve all conflicts without even the basic skills of an elementary school hallway monitor let alone a teacher with three decades of experiences.
Please cover this story before I have to bury another colleague Charlie Sheen can get air time, why not me? And why is that a good thing, Robert?e.