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: http://www.bravenewfilms.org/professorsinpoverty?utm_campaign=prof_in_pov_ot2&utm_medium=email&utm_source=bravenew
  1. And share this video!

  1. Get more information.  For example, the graphic with Myth 1 at http://usuncut.com/politics/6-common-welfare-myths-we-all-need-to-stop-believing/is 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 http://lib.grcc.edu/record=b180358 .  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: http://www.mlive.com/news/grand-rapids/index.ssf/2015/03/pressed_for_time_a_day_in_the.html

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.

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