Monday, March 11, 2013

Insecure, Insulted and Ignored: No Way to Treat a Donor

…Part II in Commentary series by Chessie Green, 2.18.13, who writes,


Let’s throw a bone to the university for just a moment and view the adjunct as a willing and generous donor who gives the students and the university a gift. “It’s a privilege” to teach for the university and “the best adjuncts want to give back.” Place a value on it: let’s say a couple of hundred thousand dollars worth of expertise, and for the students, a priceless amount of caring and attention.  In return, the university gives them a tip and treats them without respect and as completely dispensable. 

Continuing on my riff of the adjunct as donor, I’d like to tell you what happened when I “donated” my time and years of expertise as a last minute substitute for a full-time, tenure-track faculty member.  I had two weeks to prepare, and at the appointed time, on a dark January evening, I arrived at the designated building. 

The building, on a satellite campus, appeared to be closed. Most of the lights had been turned off.  There was a weak light over what turned out to be the entrance. The building was completely unsecured.

The next day, I contacted the faculty liaison for my department (whose offices are on the main campus). I described the fact that the building was dark and unsecured and asked what I should do in case of emergency.  I received no response.


Then, one day we all received a message from the Office of Risk Management urging us not to slip on the ice.  I thought, “Aha!  Risk management!  They’ll care, surely!”  I asked them about the dark, unsecured building and what we should do in an emergency.  I received a response saying my email was being forwarded to the supervisor of the satellite campus.  

I eventually received a call from this nice gentleman.  He didn’t know there was a class in the building after 7 at night.   He said there were surveillance cameras but they were not monitored (unless something happens, then they serve as a record).  In an emergency, he said, go down to the lobby where there is a phone that you can use to dial 911.  Or, use your cell phone.

By the way, the restrooms on the first floor were open, too. 

Then, we received a message about our department’s new satellite offices now being in the same building.  It was accompanied by elaborate instructions on unlocking the new adjunct’s room. 

A short while after that, we received a message to beware of tornadoes.

Okay, so I won't slip on the ice, and I will beware of tornadoes!  But, honest to God, when I went to the satellite campus in full daylight to meet with a student in our department’s new offices, I found that (1) the department's offices were securely locked, requiring a code to get in, and (2) within that suite of offices, the "adjunct office" was locked, and (3) once in, I saw that it was full of empty boxes and a really old computer.

There are a few more dimensions to security I would like to mention before drawing some conclusions. 

My assigned classroom was not set up technologically.  When I called the number posted on the wall for technical help, I learned that I had to fill in a form, come get the equipment myself (in a different building) and return the equipment myself before they went home for the evening. So I would be carrying this equipment on a dark urban street, etc. but it would be my responsibility.

On the last night of class, we found our classroom locked. A sign on the door said if we needed to use the classroom, the key was in the library.  If we needed to use the classroom?  I got the key from the library, and the librarian said, by the way, there is no electricity in the classroom.  There were lights, but they shut off the power to the outlets.  Since I was planning on showing a DVD related to our subject, she said she would ask the security personnel to get some extension cords so we could connect to an outlet in the library.  IT TOOK 25 MINUTES FOR SECURITY PERSONNEL TO RESPOND. 

Oh, by the way, the white boards were filthy, and the eraser didn’t clean them. 

Postscript: the DVD I had brought worked perfectly when I tested it at home, and worked perfectly when I re-tested it afterwards at home.  When I played it for the class, it skipped and misbehaved in various ways.  So, even the DVD player at the university was not appropriately maintained. 

And then, we received an email inviting us to seek counseling if we needed it.  There had been a shooting at another university in the state, and two people were killed.  “Members of our university community are reminded that our Office of Counseling and Psychological Services is available to anyone wishing or needing to share any feelings, thoughts or concerns they might have about this incident. As always, if you witness suspicious activity, call 911 to alert Campus Police.”

I thought of responding by saying that something quite similar, in fact worse, could have happened in our dark, unsecured classroom building, and the university would only have been able to offer us “counseling.”

The university has got us covered.  They really know how to protect empty boxes and equipment old and new.  They know how to lock out the students from a department’s offices.  They are timely in their warnings not to slip on the ice.  They alert us to tornadoes.  If there is an intruder on the upper floor, all I have to do is take the elevator down to the first floor and use the lobby phone to dial 911.  Maybe someone from security will show up in 25 minutes.  If something happens to us, they may be able to catch the perp by reviewing old reels from the surveillance camera. 

The university knows how to protect the interests of everybody except the students and faculty.

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