Jenna Jenkins

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Adjunct Appreciation

According to the American Association of University Professors, only 21 percent of professors in the United States were full-time tenured faculty in 2011. In the same report, it was also found that 51 percent of college faculty are only part-time workers and another 19 percent are non-tenure track.

Although it may not always be the goal, non-tenure track doesn’t always have to be a bad thing. In fact, most full-time non-tenure track professors actually love the position they are in. Jake Armour, a Senior Lecturer for the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, says that he wouldn’t have it any other way. For him, being non-tenure was the draw of the job—he is still a voting member of the faculty but has no research obligations. To Armour, he believes that hiring part-time faculty is an essential part of any University—they cover instructional gaps and fit well when there isn’t enough room in the budget for full-time professors to be hired.

Jake Armour Department of Geography and Earth Science

When you take into consideration the argument that most students don’t have a tenured professor teaching their classes until at least their third year of school, some would say that students are the sufferers in this situation. But, the way I see it, there is no greater victim here than the part-time, or adjunct, faculty. The general consensus regarding adjunct professors seems to be that they are overworked and underpaid. Aside from a select few cases, no benefits or security comes with the job at all. They are responsible for their own health insurance, retirement plans, and are given office spaces smaller than a cubicle without even a window to look out of. It is also important to keep in mind that they are required to keep a certain number of office hours per classroom hour. So, in short, the more credit hours that are taught, the longer a professor must stay in their shared office space each day, and there is absolutely no incentive given in return. However, it is important that contingent faculty is meant to be just that—contingent. As Armour stated, these professors are hired to fill gaps, not to be treated at established tenured faculty.

Larissa Ruessman Adjunct Professor

One of the many problems with adjunct positions is that department heads can give them as little as a day’s notice as to whether or not they will be teaching a course. This problem is significantly worsened when you have professors who only took the job under certain circumstances, circumstances that can also be changed in the blink of any eye. So was the case with Larissa Ruessman. Ruessman is an adjunct professor from Germany who, without a full class schedule would have been removed from the U.S. due to her work permit. “I’m really part-time and full-time”, she says. “I have no real responsibilities to the school besides teaching a full course load but I’m not required to do group work or go to faculty meetings either. I came here on a worker’s visa that only allows for one job and if I don’t teach at least four classes a semester, I won’t be working enough to be able to stay here in the US.” Upon agreement of her new job at UNCC, she was also under the impression that she would be asked to return for the 2018-2019 school year. “I was even told that they could find a job for my boyfriend as well for next year. I assumed that I had the job, almost. But, In November I got an email saying that the job was no longer available”. Luckily for Ruessman, she applied to and accepted another job back home in Germany but unfortunately for many others, this is the sad unpredictable job security that they have to live with. She also told me that her personal experience as an adjunct made her more lenient to look at jobs elsewhere, knowing the high possibility of being hired without tenure. Although her personal aim was not to be in a teaching position forever, she confessed that it is disheartening to invest so much time and work just to gain so little in the end.

To fight the all too common dissatisfaction, unionization of contingent faculty, especially part-timers, has become increasingly more prevalent. Nationally, the requests made by union contracts include benefits such as an income that covers cost-of-living as well as receiving a general appreciation of their work for the school. This can be shown by at least giving a respectable office space to adjunct faculty who often spend as much time there as other contingents just by holding open office hours alone.

Adjunct professors are the backbone of Colleges and Universities nationwide. Without them, departments are barren and no one is left to fill the void. The continuation of part-time teaching starts with appreciating and acknowledging their value.  Change must happen now.

Security Check

It’s been said before that it’s problematic how desensitized I am when it comes to how slack campus safety has been this past month. Personally, I would not call my reactions desensitized, but I’m not necessarily shocked by these comments either. Why would I be surprised when nothing is being done to stop what’s going on?

I’ve grown up in a world where things are always dealt with after the fact. Although this ideology can be okay in trivial situations, the same is not true when it comes to student’s safety.

Sure, there are procedures put in place for victims during an attack (blue lights, defense classes, etc.), but how about something preventative? Despite my familiarity with the phrase “it’s better to be safe than sorry”, I don’t often see it put into practice. Instead, I find myself and those around me a lot more comfortable with the saying “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” The latter, heavily centered around retroactive approaches, doesn’t do much for the most important step to keeping a campus safe: being proactive.

At Washington State University, prevention is mentioned close to ten times throughout their campus safety website. As for UNC Charlotte’s website, the word can be found three times—all programs again focused towards victims, not towards assailants. When you compare the two approaches, WSU had a total of 5 sexual assault and harassment reports in 2013. Charlotte has reached almost half of that number in the month of February alone. Despite how effective preventive approaches prove to be, UNCC continues to blame the victim, even including this statement in the University’s Annual Security Report: “The major theme of all the University’s campus crime prevention programs is to educate members of the UNC Charlotte community on how not to be a victim.” For instance, at the bottom of emails notifying students about criminal activity on campus, the recommended safety precautions involve walking in groups and even keeping flashy jewelry hidden. Yeah, okay, let’s blame campus robberies on someone’s accessories, that’s truly insightful. It is not a student’s job to constantly live in fear of an attack, it is the job of the university to make sure that they don’t happen in the first place. And if the campus is dead set on only educating the victim then outside public speakers, paid for by the school, should be made available to everyone, unlike the recent Harm Reduction Symposium that was offered to only Greek life council.

The fact is, bad behavior has normalized. We need to spend more time correcting children while they are young instead of ignoring their behavior and blaming it on “boys being boys” or “they’re just kids having fun.” The pattern of unconcerned parenting and an indifferent society leads to an escalation of an innocent push or kiss in the schoolyard to an assault or rape behind a parking deck. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “strategies focused on a potential perpetrator attempt to change risk and protective factors for sexual violence to reduce the likelihood that an individual will engage in sexually violent behavior.”  The same principle applies for any kind of aggression. It’s not too late to switch the focus of safety programs from victims to offenders, it just needs to be done now. An example of this would be to swap one of the offered defense courses out for a program like “RealConsent,” a program geared towards addressing perceived social norms as well as the misconceptions about what sexual violence is and is not. Another course proven to be successful that deals with youth violence is called STRYVE, a program that works with communities to stop youth violence before it begins. It’s simple changes like this that can be the difference between two harassment cases in a month and two in a year.

I’m not here to say that the only reason people become criminals is because their actions were excused as a child. I am saying that education about campus safety is almost always geared towards potential victims, continuing to leave potential assailants in the dark about the damage their actions can cause to other people. I can say with full confidence that everyone I know has a common goal of stopping violence, but it seems as if those in charge of our safety have stopped working towards that goal. The CDC offers the public several approaches and resources to use that are going to waste. It is high time that the root of aggression and assault is stopped at the source, not once it becomes an even larger epidemic.