Demonized Unions

With reference to the December 19 cover story, “We’re Constantly in Fear,” I am fully aware of the disparity in the treatment of adjunct and tenured faculty. You see, I was a tenured professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. My daughter-in-law, on the other hand, has been an adjunct faculty member in the California school system for many years.

Tenured faculty are de facto unionized. Pure snobbism, and a massive media campaign to demonize unions, has prevented adjunct faculty from taking this route.

For this reason, adjunct faculty have only themselves to blame, since they are not unionized. As a result, they are indentured servants, and academic administrations will keep using them this way. This is a direct consequence of our capitalist system.

  • Emeritus Professor Sorab K. Ghandhi
  • Escondido

Liberal Arts Overkill

Re: “We’re Constantly in Fear,” December 19 cover story.

Beyond the pay differences between full-time and adjunct college teachers, who both have the prestige of being “professors” to the public and students, is a much larger issue: We are grinding out many more liberal arts specialists than the 21st Century world demands (defined as willing to pay a living wage for).

I was amused when one adjunct faculty was considering becoming a contractor or making surf boards, as if such ventures were less financially risky than their current occupation. Academia has lost its previous special place above grubby business, and now the institutions, along with their component employees, must compete not only among themselves, but with the abundance of equally competent people who would love to be doing their jobs.

There is another aspect of the desperation described here, which is that expressing values conflicting with the academic consensus becomes a career killer. The resulting lockstep political correctness, inimical to the “critical thinking” which should be enhanced by liberal arts, thus becomes inculcated into students as well as teachers.

We need to do some painful rethinking of society’s relationship with academia, one that is still part of a previous era that isn’t coming back.

  • Al Rodbell
  • Encinitas

The Part-Timing of America

I appreciate Elizabeth Salaam’s piece, “We’re Constantly in Fear” (December 19). I am the English Department Chair at San Diego Mesa College and, as a former adjunct faculty member, remember the worry that job insecurity brings.

As we emerge from one of California’s biggest economic crises — and from one of the state’s community colleges’ biggest hiring freezes, this piece speaks to the awful reality of not only the part-timing of community colleges, but the part-timing of America.

Community colleges in California have fallen into the trap of relying on adjunct faculty to teach about 75% of its classes. And as we hear that the U.S. is adding jobs, the majority of these jobs are part-time jobs without benefits or job security, so that larger numbers of middle class workers join the growing ranks of the working poor. The gap between the rich and poor increases.

These points do not take away from the struggles of our part-time colleagues, but widen the context of Salaam’s piece. Most of our colleagues — unfortunately defined by their part-time work status — are excellent, professional, extremely hardworking professors whose sound pedagogy and compassion help transform our students’ lives. The great majority of our students are taught by these professors.

I realize that it is easy for me in my position to write that folks should not live in fear and silence. Everything is political, every workplace has its politics. But we have due process through our collective bargaining agreement, and we do have health care for adjunct faculty, a priority of assignment to provide some mechanism for adjunct faculty job security, and too, a large contingent of full-time advocates who began their careers as adjunct faculty.

Part of my job is to remember and imagine what it was and is like to be a student, and what it was and is like to be an “adjunct.” I won’t forget sitting in the middle of my kitchen floor late one night, feeling out of luck, desperate for job security. That semester I was only teaching three colleges, and by 11:30 p.m., having begun the day teaching a 7 a.m. class at Southwestern College and ending my teaching at 10 p.m. at City College, I was thinking of getting out of teaching.

Like many districts nationwide, we are beginning to hire again. This will not end the over-reliance on contingent labor. At Mesa, we do strive to treat our part-time colleagues with the dignity and respect any hardworking colleague doing the important work of teaching deserves.

Shame on those who don’t.

No effective work for change has ever been done in silence. I commend my colleagues for speaking out, working for positive change, and not losing hope. Hope is a moral obligation. And to Elizabeth Salaam, thank you for bringing us this valuable perspective.

  • Jennifer Cost
  • Chair, English Department, and Chair, Committee of Chairs at San Diego Mesa College
  • AFT Guild, Local 1931 executive board member

Fat Days Still Here

Is there a reason why the Under the Radar article about Cliff Albert and Roger Hedgecock neglected to mention that, in addition to his gig with the U-T San Diego cable channel, Mr. Hedgecock also has a regular program on KFMB AM 760?

Not sure why “the fat days are over” for Hedgecock. He seems to be doing just fine!

  • Robert W. Harrison
  • Pacific Beach

A Couple Token Homilies

How come in Sheep and Goats you always provide a physical location for the Christian churches, but never any info on other belief systems? A couple token homilies on other schools of thought is an incredibly anemic portrayal of the spiritual practices of San Diego.

Thanks for nothing.

  • S.
  • via email

Lay Off the Dope During Working Hours

I have noticed an increase in articles that are not “Continued on page 42,” along with an increase of restaurant reviews that do not include the addresses of the establishments. The occasional lack of News of the Weird, followed by a reprinting of previous News of the Weird articles, as well as the general decay in professionalism displayed by your publication, has me wondering, Does the increase of medical marijuana shops advertising in the Reader have any influence on the overall decay exhibited?

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