Tenured faculty must fight injustices
By Jonathan Ausubel, Ph.D.
Why should tenured faculty care about part-time faculty issues? The answer is startlingly simple: Because they’re full-time issues, too. Tenure-track faculty should fight the injustices against part-time faculty which undermine students’ quality of education and could ultimately destroy the institution of tenure itself by rotting its foundations.
Desire to help students
Teachers teach from the desire to improve our students’ lives, to help them move from whatever place we enter their lives and leave them at least a little better off. Our careers are predicated on the notion that education improves lives. How ironic, then, that the system in which we serve so grossly devalues the majority of our academic colleagues for whom an advanced degree is worth an hourly rate but usually nothing else of value.
While we teach, advise, consult, and console students, we engrain in them a respect for authority and excellence in our disciplines and in the Academy as a whole. Self-motivation, goal setting, sufficient knowledge, involvement, care in all you do and present — these are the foundations of merit within the academy.
Students who develop and continuously build upon these foundations are rewarded with A’s, letters, and merit-based scholarships. We tenured faculty teach on, ingraining the meritocracy and partaking in its leaves, its medical and numerous other benefits. But non-tenure track faculty do not receive the rewards of “merit”; even worse, we often tacitly deny non-tenure track faculty access to the processes through which “merit” can be built—seniority, a voice in shared governance, and due process.
Business models abhorred
The soul of the academy rests in academic freedom—the professor’s duty of conscience to the health of the discipline and the profession. Because of this, tenured faculty abhor business models for the academy — the student as a client or customer, the building of large reserves of cash, the confusion of governing board and corporate board, of college president and CEO. But business ethos is pervasive here in California. Of course, part-time faculty who have no job security are extremely vulnerable to the student-customer: complaints to the dean, even anonymous ones, are feared; the slightest—or no— offense is sufficient cause for non-rehire or even sudden dismissal. Where is academic freedom under such working conditions?
When most of the sections are taught by part-time faculty, objectives like improving retention and success rates, updating curriculum, and institutionalizing learning outcomes become even harder because part-time faculty simply don’t have time to participate in these critical activities.
It’s obvious that there will and should always be some part-time employees. There will always be high school teachers, retirees, and others looking to pick up a course here and there. In a system where 75/25 is nearly upside down, though, part-time issues are everyone’s issues.
Ausubel is a full-time professor of English and member of the Chaffey College Faculty Association.