…No Way to Treat a Donor, commentary by Chessie Green
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.
To recap the situation: I, a willing adjunct, someone who is teaching as a sideline, found myself agreeing at the last minute to substitute for a full-time faculty member. I was assigned to an unsecured, empty building at night with no technology in the classroom except for a DVD player in poor working condition. The white board was filthy; the erasers didn’t work. On the last night of class, someone had turned off the power. I received emails from various university departments urging me not to slip on the ice, to beware of tornadoes, and to seek counseling if I had concerns about a shooting at another university in the state.
And then, I received a personalized letter from the Provost requesting that I make a charitable gift to the university. “Now is the best time,” he wrote, “because any gift you make will be matched, dollar for dollar. By giving now, you can double the benefit to our students!”
He went on, “Your gift – of any amount – truly matters to the university and our students! We rely on supportive individuals to fund improvements every single year that allow us to maintain our position as one of the nation’s preeminent universities.”
I briefly considered a gift of $20, which, if matched, would be worth $40, and they could then have bought a working DVD player for the classroom.
In sending me a fundraising appeal, the university reinforced its view that the adjunct is a donor – financially and in-kind. Yet the university has shown only indifference to the students and me and our minimal needs.
When donors make a gift of a couple hundred thousand dollars to the university, there is an abundance of recognition and respect. They honor them with dinners, feature stories in the alumni magazine, and appointments to advisory bodies. They name entire programs and buildings after them.
In the case of this quite generous donor, myself, during that same semester summarized above, they forgot to pay me the little fee, the tip, the token of gratitude. When I inquired, I received this response: “I finally have an answer for you re. the pay: you will be paid in lump sum, but not until [one month after the end of the semester]. Once again, I must apologize that not everything was done as it should have been: we have one faculty member who is paid through a different account, and in getting her sorted out, there was a misunderstanding on who would initiate your pay.”
And so, Dear Reader, ends the three-part series “Insecure, Insulted and Ignored: No Way to Treat a Donor.” It has been aimed at those who think of themselves as "willing adjuncts" who don't teach "for the money." We have common ground with the involuntary adjuncts and should join NFM in solidarity.