Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When Social Science Changes, Adjuncts Lose

By Sarah Hayes
Discrimination. That is what Social Science department adjuncts are calling a move by department officials after finding themselves keyless for the first time in recent history. The Social Science department’s decision to take office keys out of the hands of adjunct professors after a change of locks in the building have some professors - full-time and part-time - seeing red.

    The change in policy was first initiated in December of 2012 and was put in motion this January while students were on winter break. When Social Science instructors came to pick up their new office keys the week before classes started, those who were not full-time found themselves facing a new obstacle: no keys and no easy access to their office or supplies. 
    Many felt like they had been relegated to second-class instructors, especially since full-time professors still had their keys.
    In a memo compiled and released by Doctor Margaret Tyler, both full-time and adjunct professors voiced their displeasure with the decision to take keys away from adjuncts. Anonymous quotes from a variety of Social Science professors suggested an overall atmosphere of displeasure with adjuncts not being able to access their office as easily as other instructors. Some adjuncts are even considering leaving the college, saying that lack of respect trumps bringing in a paycheck in this scenario.
    Among the complaints in Doctor Tyler’s memo include adjuncts’ now limited access to equipment within the Social Science office, such as office supplies, printer, Scantron machine (used to grade Scantron tests), and official college forms. Adjunct instructors find themselves facing delays in starting class as getting into their office when a secretary is off duty means waiting for Campus Police to unlock the door for them - or hoping a full-time professor is around with a key. 
    Another issue for adjuncts without keys is safety. Because of access issues, adjuncts now must carry all their belongings around with them instead of leaving them in their locked office, for fear of theft. This means lugging to every class their purse/bag, laptop/tablet, exams, coats, class supplies, car keys, et cetera because they cannot keep them in a safe place. Having adjunct’s belongings out in the open means having it more vulnerable to theft. The policy that was meant to make campus safer seems to doing the opposite for the ones hardest hit by it.
    For Doctor Tyler, enough was enough. She made her position on the loss of adjunct keys very clear in a January 12 email to campus president Marcia Pfeiffer, in which she declared that “every faculty member, whether full-time, temporary full-time or adjunct, should have keys to the Social Science Department, their offices, and their classrooms”. Tyler went on to formerly request a reversal in the adjunct policy so that those in Social Science could “continue to provide the quality instruction and academic counsel . . . (they) are known for”.    
    Doctor Nancy A. Linzy has a different take on the Social Science scenario. Doctor Linzy is Academic Dean of the school’s Liberal Arts Division and she sees the decision to take away the adjuncts’ keys as a correct one and that it “brings us in line with the predominate practice on this campus and in the district”. Linzy’s comments highlight the fact that, until this year, Social Science was the only department in which adjunct professors had keys to the offices and classrooms. The adjuncts of Social Science’s neighbors, Communications, to date have never had possession of such keys for their offices.
    When asked if she believed that adjunct professors are valued on the same level as full-time professors, Doctor Linzy said they are “absolutely essential to accomplishing the STLCC mission”. She then went on to clarify that adjunct instructors do not have the same status as those instructors who are full-time, thus the difference in who does and does not get keys.
    This idea does not sit will with some of the professors who spoke anonymously with Doctor Tyler. In her memo, one professor says the decision is “humiliating” and has made them feel “alienated” in their workplace. Another calls the measure “exceptionally insulting and seems discriminating” against part-time instructors. 
    “If adjuncts are entrusted to teach,” an anonymous instructor said, “they should be entrusted to have keys. End of story.”
    Currently, there are plans to re-key the other departments on campus but none of them save for Social Science has been touched. Doctor Tyler is adamant on pressing forth about this issue and making sure her adjuncts get back their keys and their mobility - “no matter what”.

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