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:

3 Responses

  1. Hi folks-thanks for posting this. It’s a shame isn’t it, that we weren’t able to mobilize even more noise around this classically hideous example of institutional inequity, but at least we got some of it going. I tried to find some sort of info on whether or not there would be higher ed union or other supremos at this event– some published itineraries perhaps, of leadership types who might have been in the good seats– with a view to doing a twitter thing and twitting them for their fecklessness in the face of an obvious pr opportunity…but ran out of gas, not least of all because I had to/still have to, write a new final exam for a new course… To give tomorrow. But, again, it’s great to see this post, thanks.

  2. Taylor Fontes Taylor Fontes says:

    There was a same-day follow-up blurb stating that Morehouse was able to accommodate the adjuncts after all. However, they were still not allowed to sit with their full-time colleagues. Separate but equal?

    • And they has 12 tickets for each graduating senior even in the cheap seats, so to speak– there 1000’s – they had to scramble around, after the initial embarassment, for 60 adjunct tickets.

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