Adjunct News

Taylor Fontes

An Adjunct’s Vindication

Posted on: June 24th, 2013 by Taylor Fontes No Comments

Inside HigherEd reports that Florida Atlantic University has rehired the adjunct instructor that was fired over the controversy of a lesson he utilized in his intercultural communications course.   The instructor, Deandre Poole, pulled a lesson from a widely used textbook, which instructs the students to write “Jesus” on a piece of paper and then proceed to stomp on it.

Intended to spark discussion of the “cultural power of words,” the exercise offended some students and prompted one to make a false claim against the instructor that he was forced to commit the act as instructed by the exercise and that he was subsequently suspended for not complying.

This was found not to be the case, but after fomentation and threats and foment by political and religious leaders calling for the instructor’s dismissal, university administration, with backing by Governor Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio, declared that it will discontinue the use of the exercise.

Based on a report compiled by the Faculty Senate and with the support of the faculty union and interim dean of arts and letters all agreed that the firing of Dr. Poole constituted a violation of academic freedom and he has since been rehired.

Editorial Comment:

Ok, so there was a “miscommunication” – (ironically enough as it occurred following a lesson in communications course) – that the offended student was reported by the instructor to the university for refusing to partake in the “Jesus stomping” exercise.  The real story, as it turns out, is that the student was reported because of the way he treated the professor, not because he was forced to do anything against his will.  In fact, as the Dr. Poole and the Faculty Senate assert, the purpose of the exercise is to provoke discomfort and resistance.

Miscommunication or no miscommunication, hose who called for the immediate dismissal of Dr. Poole, among them religious and political leader, did so based entirely on the content of the exercise and their own personal feelings about it rather than based on some sort of policy violation.

Students who support Dr. Poole, and they overwhelmingly do, wrote in a letter, “”When pursuing higher education, students are encouraged to learn how to think, not what to think.”  But these days there are many radically extreme, yet hugely powerful ideologues that believe that they have the right to encourage people what to think, and they are working tirelessly to infiltrate higher education to proselytize such an agenda.

Once considered the bastion of inquiry, the university is now just another target for exploitation, co-optation and subjugation.  Academic freedom, which is the constitutional first amendment equivalent in higher education, is under threat and many university administrations, including that of FAU, seem less concerned with its protection than that of their own image and public relations.

In his own defense, and in defense of his right to engage in controversial and provocative instructional lessons, Dr. Poole said,  “Members of the public need to be reminded that a university is an institution of higher learning, and is supposed to be a safe place for engaging in controversial issues. If we can’t have these conversations at the university, where else are we going to have them?”

Fortunately, academic justice was served in this case.  The Faculty Senate objectively concluded that the exercise was within a pedagogical purview and was not perverted for personal purposes.  Too bad the same cannot be said about the actions of this instructor’s critics.

To read the full article by Scott Jacshik go to:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/24/florida-atlantic-rehires-adjunct-center-controversy-over-class-exercise

Taylor Fontes

Adjunct Win at Religious College

Posted on: June 14th, 2013 by Taylor Fontes No Comments

Inside HigherEd reported this week that the NLRB ruled has ruled that adjuncts at Pacific Lutheran University in Washington University have the right to unionize.  While full-time faculty at private universities are barred from collective bargaining, the ruling generally does not apply to adjuncts, except at some religious institutions.

In the case of Pacific Lutheran, university administrators cited the 1979 Supreme Court case NLRB v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago in which the court concluded that religious institutions are not subject to the NLRA.  The regional director for the labor board in Seattle ruled that although the university in question “…comports well with Lutheran tradition” it does not make it a religious institution.  Therefore he ultimately ruled that adjuncts be awarded the right to unionize.

Editorial Comment:

It is heartening to see that the NLRB ruled in favor of the adjuncts at Pacific Lutheran.  Institutions of higher education should not hide behind religion in order to engage in unfair labor practices.

The NLRB officer who made the ruling on behalf of the adjuncts cited many reasons for his decision which demonstrate that although the institution is affiliated with an evangelical Lutheran church and is inspired by Lutheran tradition – social justice being among its touted principles, according to an adjunct lecturer who provided testimony to the NLRB.  But its primary emphasis is academic excellence.

Furthermore it “explicitly de-emphasizes any specific Lutheran dogma, criteria or symbolism in its publications,” as quoted in the article.

The university also tried other tactics, like claiming that many of their adjuncts performed “managerial duties” which should preclude them from unionizing.  Again, they were shut down, as the board found no such evidence.

Labor issues, such as unionization and collective bargaining, are particularly tricky in academe.  Professors vacillate between “labor” and “management” often during their careers, which is a distinct and unique feature of the profession.  Add religion to the mix and you have a church-state component to further complicate the matter.  But what the adjuncts are fighting for is better working conditions and a voice in governance as it concerns their duties as professors, not religious leaders.

To read the full article by Colleen Flaherty go to:

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/06/12/adjuncts-lutheran-university-win-right-unionize

Taylor Fontes

Adjuncts May Be Shut Out of Obama’s Speech at Morehouse College

Posted on: May 19th, 2013 by Taylor Fontes 3 Comments

President Obama is scheduled to deliver the commencement speech at Morehouse College in Atlanta today.  He is the first sitting president to deliver a commencement speech at the historically black university, and, according to a Wednesday report in The Chronicle, due to high demand for tickets – (tickets have never been required for commencement events before) – and security issues, the university decided to exclude adjuncts from attending the event while their full-time colleagues get on-stage seating. Maria Maisto, president of the New Faculty Majority, commented that this is yet another example of how adjuncts are treated as second-class citizens.  Maisto went on to say that most colleges have the opposite problem in that adjuncts are required to attend graduation ceremonies without compensation for their time.

Editorial Comment:

The decision by Morehouse to exclude adjuncts from Obama’s commencement speech is so blatantly demeaning.  One could argue that much the subjugation that adjuncts experience is a latent consequence of economic and political maneuverings: lack of office space, benefits, employment security, adequate compensation, etc.  These are the ubiquitous laments that resound on campuses across the country regardless of type or caliber of institution.  But to make a conscious decision to deny adjuncts a seat at the graduation of the students that they have devoted thankless time and effort to educating is beyond insulting.  It is humiliating.

It doesn’t seem that an alternative solution to a problem of demand and security concerns would be that hard to come by.  It is a given that students and their families should have first priority.  After that tickets should be either doled out on a first come first serve basis, or by lottery. There is no reasonable explanation for the decision to grant full-time faculty VIP seating while their part-time colleagues are shut out completely.

All faculty are proud of their students who work hard to achieve a college degree.  So why should whether or not they have tenure determine their admittance at such an important event?  The answer is it shouldn’t.  What does it say about an institution that primarily serves the most discriminated against demographic in American history to engage in such an act of marginalization?

To read the full article by Peter Schmidt go to:

http://chronicle.com/article/Adjuncts-May-Be-Shut-Out-of/139237/