Friday, February 7, 2014

Why I No Longer Teach as an Adjunct Faculty Member at the College of DuPage

I have had the opportunity to work for a few outstanding Associate Deans at the College of DuPage over the past 31 years. Sally Hadley and Jan Gessaman come immediately to mind because of their integrity, professionalism, competence, forthrightness, sincerity, and fairness.  They made adjunct faculty members believe that they were integral contributors to the college’s mission of “educating students for responsible citizenship, civility, and mutual respect in a multicultural and global society,” which they are, and not cheap, disposable appendages of this institution.  To her credit, Jan Geesaman was the only supervisor to observe my teaching.

I have enjoyed honest and sincere inquiry with my colleagues and students over the years, especially by way of the Socratic Method. However, I do not enjoy a quasi-dialectic that is disingenuous.  

To Beverly Reed, Associate Dean:

I believe your dissimulated e-mails are an attempt to humiliate a colleague and exploit your position.  I believe you did not originally intend to assign a class to me.  I realized this when some of my colleagues already had their fall assignments, and when I had to write you and ask what class I would be teaching because the deadline for book orders was imminent.  I believe you did not intend to offer me a class or notify me because you did not acknowledge my prior telephone requests to review my student evaluations from the past three years.

I became sure about your intentions when you aggressively remonstrated our colleague Joanne Barsanti’s request to attend our meeting and, finally, when you blatantly denied receiving the letter I had sent you through e-mail last semester regarding my solicitude about my recent students’ failures and retention.  Your response: “I never received it…  I’m sorry… When did you send it?  That’s such a hectic time of year…  You didn’t ask me to respond in your letter,” though the subject line of that e-mail stated: I called your secretary this morning, hoping to speak to you. (Ironically and quite inadvertently, you gave me proof in our first meeting that you had read that letter). 

My letter’s explicit purpose was to begin a serious and pertinent discussion with you about the types of students that adjunct faculty members teach at the College of DuPage, especially in the composition program; the retention-rate issue; our students’ attention deficiencies; and how these problems might be addressed.  These have been my concerns, including how some modern technologies that students use (for instance, abbreviated texting and Google for research) have negatively affected their ability and performance in classes. 
Your subterfuges, verbal contradictions, and uncomfortable demeanor at Friday’s meeting, however, revealed an incredulous mendacity poorly disguised as collegial dialogue.  I knew after I left this meeting that your defensiveness would turn into a counterfeit barrage of saccharine power-play e-mails; nonetheless, I played along with your games even though you altered your questions each time I responded to them.  You should be ashamed for using such equivocal and spurious tactics with a colleague. 

Furthermore, I knew that you would never send me a list of colleagues that I requested (four times) so I could begin discussing “successful-retention” strategies with them.  It was evident that retention rates were not the real issue of our discussions, nor were the 69% average rate for ABC's and the 27% average rate that you quoted for failures and withdrawals at the College of DuPage.  Though I have been “self-reflective” throughout my career; nevertheless, I will not lower course standards or requirements in an attempt to satisfy acceptable retention and failure rates. In one of your e-mails, you stated brashly that “None of us have arrived.” You are partially correct, and you have a long way to go.

This is the “information” that you “[really needed] before [you] proceeded” to assign a class for me this fall: after I left our meeting on Friday, April 9th, I understood what some of the adjunct and full-time faculty members had warned me about regarding your uncomplimentary methods of dealing with adjunct faculty and your guarded personality.  What my colleagues said about you was unfortunately and undeniably true. 

Finally, as a result of this incident, I hope you will not continue to treat other adjunct faculty members rudely, for there are many instructors who depend upon their COD paycheck and have no recourse but to remain unresponsive to your bullying. I am sorry I have had to say these things to you.  When confronted with perfidious effrontery and injustice, I have always chosen to do what I believe is the right course of action by confronting the perpetrator.  Our two meetings, your actions and inactions, and e-mails made me cognizant of the fact that I do not want to work for someone like you.

Glen Brown
April 11, 2010

P.S.  For the record, Joanne Barsanti assumed the role of an ethical and consummate professional during my conversation with her about these concerns. Moreover, you need to teach Composition 1101 and 1102 at the College of DuPage for a few years to fully understand the situations that adjunct faculty members confront in these classes.


  1. I think that the media is too eager to scapegoat teachers, collective bargaining.rights, and union heads, and they're backed by big money like the Koch Brothers who have their dirty hands in every pot. In all my years of teaching, I had a few good principals, and one great one, but the lack of professionalism and general skills on the part of too many administrators is rarely, if ever, discussed as part of the problem with the educational system today (and back then), and people buy into it. Why is it just fine for these people to sit back in their easy chair with excellent salaries that in my humble opinion, they rarely deserve, and refuse to listen to reasonable requests or make changes that are for the bettterment of the students and not themselves, and as the years have gone by, just as in most corporations, the gap has grown so great between the "higher-ups" and the "ordinary" hard-working employees or teachers or adjunct professors that there's no connection and no regard for anyone except their exclusive clubs at the top--same for board members who are often in the job because they just love the power and control of deciding what instructors earn. I saw this time and time again--the battling between the board, adminstrators, and union reps whom begrudged us every small increase in salary.

  2. Your refusal to take abuse and your fruitless attempts to meet the needs of students rather than engage in the pointless subterfuge intended to distract you are commendable. There is a point where some teachers today are required to be accessories to crimes against students by playing administrative games that do not best serve the needs of students while permitting debasement of teachers as intelligent human beings.
    On the Space Coast of Florida (Brevard County) the giant multi-campus Brevard Community College was recently ordained the Eastern Florida State College (EFSC), a four year college which increased enrollment. New teachers are all hired as adjuncts at $25 per class hour served. (Two classes of three hours credit pay $150 per week. Local politicians and candidates generally teach a single class to include in their resume as a candidate; this includes adjuncts who themselves have only a two year degree. Adjuncts are allowed to have substitute teachers they choose and pay via the college. Other new adjuncts need a few dollars and realize that following a scripted text and complacently passing out A and B grades are expected of them.
    Why do I mention this? This is the trend for public colleges nationwide. Charge more tuition for the semblance of education substantiated by a diploma. The student gets the nearly useless diploma and very real debt that even a bankruptcy cannot end. Find more administrators to keep the flow of compliant adjuncts who follow scripts and give out A and B grades, etc. There is a point where a human being becomes an adjunct of crimes against students. No rationalization by administrative enablers is sufficient.
    A sad congratulations to you, and welcome back to humanity and personal integrity.