Faculty share passion for their work
Two years ago, the Long Beach City College CCA chapter spearheaded a funeral march marking “the death of education” to make a case for adequate funding of community colleges. The protest was so successful the faculty union was left wondering what it could do for an encore.
Brown bag lunches
Chapter leaders had learned from attending CCA workshops that the best way to involve members is through personal contact, and perhaps the best way to do that would be to break down some of the silos that separate faculty.
That “ah ha” moment led leaders to inaugurate a series of “Know Your Colleagues” salons in which members would share their passions for their work during regular noontime brown bag lunches.
“When we started to look for topics, we realized all we had to do was draw from the strengths of our faculty. They have been our greatest resource,” said history professor Mary Marki, who is chapter vice president and organizing chair.
The faculty has since discovered just how passionate their colleagues can be on any given subject. Noontime lectures have included talks ranging from “African Music and its Influence on American History and Culture” to “The Dark Side of Chocolate,” and have drawn anywhere from a dozen instructors to an overflow crowd to the faculty lounge on campus.There have been discussions on “Freakonomics” the “Role of Islam in Eastern and Western Culture”, even a particularly well-attended faculty-led beer tasting event by Long Beach philosophy professor Matt Lawrence, author of “Philosophy on Tap.”
The salon series has become so popular that the Academic Senate has joined on as a co-sponsor. Often cited is the camaraderie that is generated at a community college with 750 full-time and 288 part-time faculty.
“This has helped because it gives us a place to get together and experience what our faculty does,” said John Downey, a life science instructor who serves as an Academic Senate representative.
The lecture series takes quite a bit of coordination, according to Marki who has been responsible for finding topics, scheduling faculty and making sure participants receive continuing education credit. Fortunately, the college already provides a regular hour each week when no classes are scheduled, thus allowing a built-in time for the lectures.
Still, Marki said, “The topics definitely have to be intriguing enough to force you to get out of your office and trek across campus.”
One recent Tuesday brought about 20 faculty together to hear a lecture titled “I Lived the Civil Rights Movement” by history and political science professor Melvin Ross, who attended college in Alabama just a year after Vivian Malone and James Hood became the first two black students to integrate the school. Ross went on to become involved with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and joined the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965. Though his talk marked the first time Ross has spoken to the group, he said he would be making it a point to attend more often.
“It’s an excellent break for us,” he said. “Many faculty work so feverishly in their classroom. This really does give us a chance to get to know our colleagues, just like it says."
But chapter organizers hope the event will unify the faculty in still other ways. Marki or another colleague often introduces the events with a “Know Your Contract Quiz” in which union knowledge is tested and prizes are won.
More recently, chapter leaders have taken a few minutes of the gatherings to announce “meet the candidate” nights or precinct walking for their three union-supported faculty-friendly candidates for the board of trustees.
“We definitely use it as a platform to galvanize our faculty and shine a light on what’s going on around campus,” Marki said.