Thursday, September 16, 2010

CC Summit: ubi sunt precariat?

And other community college faculty for that matter, although the precariat teaches an even higher % of courses there than in 4-year colleges and universities. Announcement hoopla aside, mostly we were pumped because an adjunct, albeit one with health insurance and connections, would be presiding over the summit.  A dry season of silence followed our euphoria, but now that summitry approaches, there is a White House statement/press release posted on the White House Community College page (a temp page, it would seem)


When summit press releases (many copies of the same) hit my reader, I checked the page, thought "how disappointing" - but without surprise. The signs were there all along, no matter what we all hoped or how much possibility we saw in a summit preside over by an adjunct. We all sent messages that went, for the most part, unanswered, and apparently ignored.

The White House said Wednesday that the summit will provide a forum for community college administrators, business leaders, philanthropists, government officials and students to discuss how these schools can help the U.S. have the most educated work force in the world.

Says it all... invisible again + career ed focus, business as usual ... sighing deeply, but I'm not slinking off into silence and hope you won't either. There is a site just for gathering ideas and opinions, as well as commenting and voting on them. Crowdsource it ... bring on the folksomonies. Go there: if you don't want to leave your opinion, leave a comment. While you are there, vote for every post advocating for adjuncts and other ideas you want considered. Last I checked (yesterday), pro-adjunct positions were #1 and #2 in the pack. 

More places to get the word out, be seen, heard, read, listened to... perhaps even heeded: Telling our stories by video on YouTube or by webform, narrating 
how community college changed your life. The form is clearly intended for students but surely ought to cover teaching there as a life changing experience, in both inspirational and Shiva senses.

Inside Higher Ed initially carried no more than a  copy of the press release but today has more on White House Community College Summit, including links. 


"Details about the event are scarce, and administration officials did not respond to requests for comment. It is not clear who will be invited to the event, whether it will actually take place at the White House, or if either the president or vice president is scheduled to make an appearance. Prior to the event, however, students and educators are being encouraged by organizers to share videos and comments about their community college experiences to generate discussion among participants."


The article cites Jill the presiding Biden  in a White House blog post,


"The summit will bring together students, community colleges, business, philanthropy, federal and state policy leaders and others to discuss how community colleges can ensure that we have the most educated workforce in the world....I see firsthand the power of community colleges to change lives every single day I am in the classroom, and after 17 years as a community college teacher, I am still energized and inspired by my students every day."


And comments, notably: 

Where are the teachers? Posted by Betsy Smith, Adjunct Professor of ESL, September 16, 2010 at 9:45am EDT
It's all very nice that the Obama administration is going to run a community college summit with participation by "students, community colleges, business, philanthropy, federal and state policy leaders and others," but where are the teachers? Maybe faculty fall into the "others" category. Maybe we are just so peripheral to the whole enterprise of higher ed that we don't need to be at the table. And I'd better not ask if ad/cons are being invited to participate. Anyone know Jill Biden's e-mail address? I'd really like to ask her these questions rather than just post them here or on the .gov website.

No credibility without attention to contingent faculty, posted by Maria Maisto , President, New Faculty Majority on September 16, 2010 at 1:15pm EDT
When Dr. Biden wrote about the Summit in the Chronicle of Higher Ed in April, she included instructors among the prospective participants. "We will bring college presidents, instructors, and advocates together with business leaders and other stakeholders to share best practices and successful models for helping students gain the knowledge, training, certificates, and degrees needed to succeed," she wrote. I suppose one can hope that now, in listing "community colleges" among the participants along with "students, . . . business, philanthropy, federal and state policy leaders and others," the Summit organizers are including teachers. It is a mark of the deteriorating state of higher education generally, however, that so many faculty members do not assume that the centrality of their role in education will be recognized, much less respected, in this process.

As I wrote in response to Dr. Biden's CHE piece in April, it is imperative that the summit planners place the unprofessional working conditions of contingent community college faculty , who constitute the overwhelming majority of instructors at institutions nationwide, at the top of the summit agenda. It is imperative that adjunct and contingent faculty members have a prominent place at the table at discussions like these. If they are excluded, then it is imperative that those who do participate request an on-the-record explanation for their exclusion and challenge the attendees and the organizers to address the issue no matter who is in attendance.

Planners and participants alike must make a real commitment to an ethical solution to this well-documented problem: decades old, it is a major factor in many of the challenges that currently confront higher education. Community colleges (and indeed all institutions of higher education) must provide authentic institutional support to all of their faculty members in the form of full inclusion in institutional governance and curriculum development; equity in compensation, benefits, and access to job security, due process, professional development and evaluation; and all of the rights to which their responsibilities as educators entitle them. To ignore this issue is to perpetuate exploitation and to show real disregard for educators and students alike.

Maria Maisto, President, New Faculty Majority: The National Coalition for Adjunct and Contingent Equity, http://www.newfacultymajority.info

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