Month: November 2015

Professors in Poverty – a response from our President

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On November 24, in connection with Thanksgiving, I emailed GRCC faculty about adjunct professors in poverty.  It generated a lot of positive responses, so I wanted to share what you can do about ACTING on this.

  1. Support the request in the video with petition signatures and donations. Here is the website for this campaign:
  1. And share this video!

  1. Get more information.  For example, the graphic with Myth 1 at telling, but there’s no attribution to the source, so it might not be valid.  Also, the GRCC library licenses Adjunct Nation, formerly Adjunct Advocate, in e-format at .  On-campus users click into the title; off-campus users must log on with last name and 7-digit Raider number.  Although the screen says through 2014, it is a current license and provides 2015 content.
  1. Publicize the information.  Some of that we can do through the Faculty Association web site and Face Book, but that’s limited.  For public media outlets to pick up on things takes a lot more effort.  For example, the national adjunct walk out day in February 2015 (not sure of that date) generated a lot of press, including a big article in the Grand Rapids Press. Read the article from March 2015 highlighting work of one of our Adjunct instructors Mike Miller here:

Informing students should be important.  They should care and do care.  For example, the Professors in Poverty video generated the most complex and passionate discussion between students in three GRCC classes for a research topic this semester.  They had access to over a dozen educational related videos.

  1. Come up with solutions, even if they’re partial and little, and act.  For example, the faculty negotiating team has consistently advocated for adjuncts with mixed results.  For the administration has proposed a full-time temporary teaching position, but there hasn’t been widespread support for it.  For me to mention it here doesn’t mean that I support it, either.

A solution for the “road warrior” adjuncts could be for all the higher ed institutions in West Michigan to get together and create shared, tenured full-time faculty positions.  By “shared” I mean that a faculty member’s work load, pay and benefits would be distributed pro rata among the institutions that the faculty member is working for.  I’ve not heard of this being done any place and I don’t even know if it’s doable.  But why not talk about it?  Even if it’s a bad idea, it will generate awareness and possibly some better ideas.

All in all, I think that the current adjunct system years ago worked reasonably well for students and institutions when there were few adjunct faculty.  Now, I think it works poorly because colleges and universities hire so many adjuncts instead of creating tenure-track positions.  For anything to change, adjuncts will have to be a lot more proactive, ideally with the support of full-time faculty and administrators.  Adjuncts nationwide have become more proactive in the last few years.  Locally – not so much.

Fred van Hartesveldt, Faculty Association President.

Adjunct Faculty Spotlight: Patricia Dockham

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Patricia Dockham is an adjunct instructor the Physical Science Department where she currently teaches Chemistry 120 — SurPatricia Dockham copyvey of General Chemistry Laboratory. She began teaching Chemistry 130 Lecture at GRCC in August, 2011. She enjoys teaching and tutoring at the high school and college level. Both her parents were high school teachers, as were many of her aunts and uncles. Her grandfather, Verne Dockham, was a Michigan conservation officer and field guide for ornithologists who explored the habitat of the Kirtland Warbler. Learning about his service, she was motivated to pursue a career in science, research and teaching.   Patricia studied chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Nebraska where she was awarded a doctorate in Biological Science in the field of biochemistry. Currently, in addition to her work at GRCC, she tutors high school physics and chemistry for two home school groups in Kent County. She also works as a free-lance editor for Words and Numbers, a science educational service.

Dr. Dockham spends a considerable amount of time volunteering in the legal profession as a litigation preparation expert. She started volunteering as a licensed residential builder in the rough and tumble area of construction law support, and later expanded into the area of civil litigation and criminal defense. She reviews case files, court records, trial transcripts, and media reports to take a fresh look at a case, and compare hard evidence to the timeline and fluid witness testimony. Motivated to do volunteer work, in large part by GRCC’s 2014 challenge for the College’s 100 Years of Community Service, last year she took a look at the case of Michael Elliot, the Ionia 2014 Super Bowl escapee, who has long maintained his innocence in his original convictions for over 20 years.

Patricia learned that Mr. Elliot’s DNA samples were taken during the initial investigation even before his trial in 1994. Interestingly, the prosecution did not use the DNA results at trial, meaning they looked for his DNA but did not find it at the murder scene, in vehicles or at secondary crime scenes. It is often said “Absence of evidence is evidence itself”, especially DNA evidence, so a convincing argument can be made that Mr. Elliot was not at the crime scenes. An attorney statement found in a co-defendant’s file confirms how weak the case against him actually is: “As the Court is aware, there may have been some serious problems with at least one of these persons ever even being bound over on those charges….” Her special interest is in researching and providing support in innocence cases such as his, where she researches and obtains the documents that an incarcerated, but wrongly convicted individual does not have access to.

In addition to teaching, tutoring, and volunteering, Patricia enjoys gardening and caring for cats and dogs. She works with a friend who raises mastiff pups for whom she does website maintenance and advertising.

Faculty Spotlight: GRCC English Department

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On October 9, 2015, the GRCC English Department full-time faculty participated in their annual Learning Day. This is a day that is designated for professional development, departmental growth, and strengthening the department as a whole. This year, Learning Day was held at Thought Design Learning Studios in Rockford, Michigan. Thought Design offers a holistic and diverse learning experience to improve thinking and brain health. English Department faculty participated in numerous activities and exercises focused on the latest brain science and how that relates to empathy, building relationships, and making better connections with students. The session concluded with the entire department working together to prepare a meal from scratch to further promote improved communication, new ways of thinking together, and problem solving. Hats off to the English Department for continuously striving to grow personally and professionally to better serve our students.

Check out pictures and student testimonials below!