Sunday, July 28, 2019

The Trump Administration’s Declaration of Inhuman Rights by Karen J. Greenberg

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the Grimm’s fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel. Terrified by cruel conditions at home, the brother and sister flee, winding their way, hungry and scared, through unknown woods. There, they encounter an old woman who lures them in with promises of safety. Instead, she locks one of them in a cage and turns the other into a servant, as she prepares to devour them both.
Written in nineteenth-century Germany, it should resonate eerily in today’s America. In place of Hansel and Gretel, we would, of course, have to focus on girls and boys by the hundreds fleeing cruelty and hunger in Central America, believing that they will find a better life in the United States, only to be thrown into cages by forces far more powerful and agents much crueler than that wicked old woman. In the story, there are no politics; there is only good and bad, right and wrong.
Rather than, as in that fairy tale, register the suffering involved in the captivity and punishment of those children at the U.S.-Mexican border, the administration has chosen a full-bore defense of its policies and so has taken a giant step in a larger mission: redefining (or more precisely trying to abolish) the very idea of human rights as a part of the country’s identity.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo left no doubt: the reality of those children locked in cages, deprived of the most basic needs, and brazenly abused by the administration he works for has been an essential part of the Trump team’s determination to abandon human rights more generally. That willingness to leave children unprotected is part of a far larger message, not merely an unfortunate byproduct of ill-thought out and clumsy actions by an overwhelmed border police force.

Children in Detention Camps
The story of the children at the border is indeed gruesome. The United States has long had migrants pushing at its southern border, often in larger numbers than at present. In fact, since the 1980s, the numbers crossing that border exceeded one million in 19 different years. While the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) continues to estimate that current immigration rates are on track to exceed one million by September, many other experts don’t think it will even happen this year.
What’s genuinely new with the current border crossings is the number of children among the migrants. According to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Kevin McAleenan’s sobering recent testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, the presence of such children has risen 72% in recent years. Some even come “unaccompanied.” Others belong to migrant families.
And while last month the government officially stopped its cruel policy of separating families, leaving many of those children (even toddlers and babies) alone in custody, Vox reports that “at any given time, for the past several weeks, more than 2,000 children have been held in the custody of U.S. Border Patrol without their parents.”
The conditions in the camps, strewn along the U.S. borderlands from Arizona to Texas, are shameful and fall most harshly on those very children. A recent Department of Homeland Security Inspector General report, issued in redacted form just days before the July 4th holiday celebrating the birth of this country as a beacon of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” described the staggering squalor and danger at such confinement facilities.
There, children were often deprived of changes of clothes, beds, hot meals, toothbrushes, soap, showers, even adequate medical attention. Other eyewitness accounts have provided graphic details on the nature and scale of the deprivation, showing us children in soiled diapers, living with the stench of urine, sleeping on concrete floors, many weeping. On the somewhat more civilized floor of the Senate, members were told of children sleeping outside, exposed to the elements, and of the spoiled food at the camps.
Add to this the emotional toll that family separations have wrought on thousands of young people, as a new report issued by the House of Representatives Oversight Committee reveals and as others have documented. An El Paso immigration lawyer visiting one facility, for instance, described seeing a young boy who had scratched his own face until it bled.
There are first-hand accounts by visitors to the camps of children trying to choke themselves with the lanyards from their own identification cards and others who dreamed about escaping by jumping out of windows high above the ground.
No wonder at least seven children have died while in such circumstances and many more are suffering from lice, scabies, chickenpox and other afflictions. Yet when doctors from the American Association of Pediatricians traveled to the camps to offer their help, their services were refused. Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, herself a pediatrician, has labeled the situation of the migrants “appalling” and noted that “several U.N. human rights bodies have found that the detention of migrant children may constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment that is prohibited by international law.” Others have been less circumspect, explicitly comparing the treatment of the children to torture.
It’s hard not to assume that, however overwhelmed CBP may be, at least some of this treatment is intentional. Why else turn away doctors offering help or refuse supplies of donated aid sent by worried citizens? Why arrest a humanitarian aid volunteer who gave food and water to two ill and desperate undocumented Central American migrants and tried to get them medical help?
The administration [but not Pence] acknowledges that the overall situation is dire, but its officials on the spot have basically thrown up their hands, complaining that they have been “overwhelmed” by the situation they created, are “not trained to separate children,” and are powerless to address the problem of scarce resources.
While those on the ground have claimed helplessness in the face of the challenge, the rest of the administration refuses even to admit to the appalling conditions. (“They are run beautifully,” said President Trump of the border facilities, blaming the Democrats for any problems there.)
Instead, top officials have repeatedly called the disgracefully unacceptable acceptable. Former Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, who bore responsibility for creating much of the mess, assured Congress that the children were “well taken care of,” claiming that “we have the highest standards.” Former Attorney General Jeff Sessions echoed her words. “The children,” he insisted, “are well cared for. In fact, they get better care than a lot of American kids do.”
In court, Department of Justice lawyer Sarah Fabian refused to admit that the absence of soap, a toothbrush, a bed, and sleep constituted unsafe and unsanitary conditions, the legal standards applying to the detention of migrant children.
The U.S. Border Patrol chief for the El Paso region callously remarked, “Twenty years ago, we were lucky if we had juice and crackers for those in custody. Now, our stations are looking more like Walmarts, with diapers and baby formula and all kinds of things, like food and snacks."
Vice President Mike Pence highlighted the refusal to acknowledge reality recently by calling the two camps he visited, neither solely for children, but one housing families, examples of “compassionate care... care that every American would be proud of.”

Really? In whose world are filth, disease, and persistent emotional cruelty acceptable? In what America is the brutal incarceration of children not a violation of founding principles? In what America is rejecting the advances in protections that have been a hallmark of U.S. and international policy since the Second World War standard operating procedure? Since when do American officials just throw up their hands and declare defeat (as a kind of victory of cruelty) rather than muster their best talents, energies, and resources to confront such a problem?
The answer, of course, is in Donald Trump’s America. And don’t for a moment think that this is just a matter of the piling up of unintended consequences. It’s not.

A Declaration of Inhuman Rights
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo offered some insights into the mindset of such an administration when it comes to the country’s longstanding embrace of the very idea of human rights. Soon after July 4th, he announced the creation of a new Commission on Unalienable Rights at the State Department. Its purpose, he claimed, was to rethink the spread of human rights protections as a part of American foreign policy.
The very idea of rights, Pompeo insisted, had spun out of control. “Human-rights advocacy has lost its bearings and become more of an industry than a moral compass,” he said, wagging his finger at 70 years of history. “‘Rights talk’ has become a constant element of our domestic political discourse, without any serious effort to distinguish what rights mean and where they come from.”
Rather than expand rights further, he explained, the country would do well to return to (his idea of) the context of the founding fathers and explore just what they really meant in their classic writings.
Essential to his goal, experts suggested, was rolling back abortion rights. A remarkable number of the commission members were, in fact, known for their anti-abortion positions and this should have surprised no one, since the State Department had already withdrawn all health assistance from international organizations that offer abortion counseling and care.
In doing so, it expanded what, in prior Republican administrations, were more modest restrictions on abortion-related care. Striking as such a global anti-abortion-rights position might be, however, Pompeo’s urge seems far grander. His goal is evidently to unilaterally reject the evolution of human rights that has prominently defined the country since the post-World War Two era, and that has been an essential piece of American democratic rhetoric since its founding.
To begin the process, Pompeo promptly misappropriated the very language of the Declaration of Independence to promote an agenda explicitly calling for the removal of rights. “My hope,” he announced, “is that the Commission on Unalienable Rights will ground our understanding of human rights in a manner that will both inform and better protect essential freedoms -- and underscore how central these ideas are not only to Americans, but to all of humanity.”
As the rest of his comments showed, he was invoking the freedom to deprive others, exclude others, and cause hardship for others. Placed alongside the border realities, it was a testament to the administration’s determination to erase rights from the nation’s identity. Putting a fine point on his goals, Pompeo added that, in his view, human rights and democracy were distinctly in opposition to each other. As he pungently put it, “Loose talk of ‘rights’ unmoors us from the principles of liberal democracy.”
Pompeo’s attempt to recast the founders’ intent in the context of today's cruelty may be the most full-throated articulation to date of what this administration has been up to. The ongoing mistreatment of children at the border, a story that has lasted for well over a year, suggests that the spirit of Pompeo’s Declaration of Inhuman Rights has long been on the agenda.
He had one thing right, however: those border camps do seem to belong to another place and time, one that preceded the U.N.’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, another document he invoked, intending to reshape American adherence to it. 

The New Status Quo
This is hardly the first time the Trump administration has revealed its cynicism over democracy. Redefining the very purpose of “liberal democracy,” as I wrote more than a year ago, had been part of its mission since the beginning. In its first 18 months, the administration removed the language of democracy from the mission statements of many of its departments, including the phrase “nation of immigrants” from that of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Still, after two and a half years of reorienting the executive branch of government away from equal protection under the law, the equal right to vote, and a respect for the very idea of welcoming immigrants, Pompeo’s “commission” may be the most brazen conceptual act yet when it comes to erasing the language of human rights from the country’s identity.
It’s in this still-developing context that the migrant children crisis should be understood. It should be seen as a graphic version of the insistence of this administration on changing the very meaning of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in the modern age.
For Pompeo (as for his president), the evolution of the country towards more rights for more people is nothing but a mark of shame. How far back would he take us? To before the Civil War?
No wonder, on learning each day’s news from the border, it’s easy to feel we’ve entered a dismal fairy tale from an age of ogres and witches, where the forces of evil and ill will have taken charge and the prospect of saving helpless children seems as irretrievably long gone as those crumbs eaten by the birds following Hansel and Gretel on their grim journey into the witch’s lair.
Attacking the most vulnerable among us -- infants, toddlers, young children, teens -- leaves little room for doubt. This administration is determined to undo the country’s commitment to human rights and so change its identity in a way that should concern us all.

Karen J. Greenberg is the director of the Center on National Security at Fordham Law and editor-in-chief of the CNS Soufan Group Morning Brief. She is the author and editor of many books, among them Rogue Justice: The Making of the Security State and The Least Worst Place: Guantánamo’s First 100 Days. Julia Tedesco, Jonathan Ellison, and Andrew Steffan helped with research for this article.
Copyright 2019 Karen J. Greenberg. First published in TomDispatchIncluded in Vox Populi with permission.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Veterans Protecting Endangered Wildlife from Poachers

“Every twenty minutes, 3,500 people are born into the world, yet at that very same moment an entire species of plant or animal will die forever. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the current rates of extinction show that as many as 20% of the planet’s species could be gone in the next 30 years. Take for instance the Black Rhino, whose population has decrease by 97.6% since 1960.

“With Rhino horns now selling at $30,000 per pound—more than the street value of cocaine—it is no wonder why crime syndicates use high powered technology and weaponry to track as many animals as possible. Endangered animals are slaughtered so that a single body part—horns, pelts, and bones—can be sold on the black market then carved into religious figurines or used by toddler-sized men to cure their sexual helplessness.

“‘At current poaching rates, elephants, rhinos, and other iconic African wildlife may be gone within our lifetime’: the African Wildlife Foundation.

“One way activists are supporting the cause to end poaching is by enlisting retired U.S. veterans, like Kinessa Johnson, to use her years of combat overseas to protect African wildlife from being illegally hunted and bagged.

“Johnson, a U.S. Army veteran who served four years in Afghanistan, joined VETPAW [Veterans Empowered To Protect African Wildlife] as an anti-poaching advisor where her team provides training in marksmanship, field medicine and counterintelligence, while also patrolling with them to provide support. Apparently, they were in desperate need of help as they lost 187 rangers last year alone attempting to guard the rhinos and elephants. We’re going over there to do some anti-poaching, kill some bad guys, and do some good,‘ Johnson says.

“Johnson and her team arrived in Tanzania… where elephant slaughter has reached an unprecedented rate, which many are branding as ‘Africa’s new war.’ ‘It’s no use having laws against ivory smuggling if the legislation is not enforced properly,’ says Mary Rice of the Environmental Investigations Agency.

“Though VETPAW does not operate with the intent to kill anyone, protecting their country’s natural resources is most important overall,’ Johnson writes. Their primary objective is to enforce the existing poaching law, and I would highly recommend that any prospective rhino poachers don’t prod this All-American-Badass.”

“The nonprofit organization VETPAW works to conserve and protect large endangered species across South Africa. They take the poaching crisis head-on by utilizing the skills of post 9/11 veterans.”

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Dentist arrested after killing more than 1,000 protected jaguars in a sickening hunting spree since 1987, according to police

“Hunter Temistocles Barbosa Freire was the longest-serving member of a gang of seven poachers who have been busted by cops in Brazil. Disturbing pictures show Freire carrying a dead jaguar on his back as a trophy while hunting dogs surround him.
“Reports state the dentist is believed to have illegally slaughtered at least 1,000 jaguars since 1987. He was arrested along with six other poachers by Brazilian police in the north-western state of Acre. The gang has been accused of killing thousands of endangered animals including jaguars, capybara, collared peccary and red brocket deer.
“The other men have been named as doctor Doria de Lucena Junior, Sinezio Adriano de Oliveira, farmer Gilvan Souza Nunes and prison officer Gisleno Jose Oliveira de Araujo Sa. Electrician Manoel Alves de Oliveira, Sebastiao Junior de Oliveira Costa and Reginaldo Ribeiro da Silva were also arrested.

“Reports state that in the three months the police monitored the gang they killed eight jaguars, 13 capybaras, 10 collared peccaries and two deer. The gang are said to have used the sound of the cuica, a high-pitched Brazilian friction drum, to attract the jaguars.
“Reports state the gang could face prison sentences and fines if found guilty, depending on their exact participation in the crimes. The jaguar is the largest cat in Latin America.
“They are listed as ‘Near Threatened’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. All international trade in jaguars or their body parts is prohibited. Hunting jaguars is prohibited in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, French Guiana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Suriname, the US and Venezuela.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Canadian Couple Celebrate with a Kiss Over a Tamed, Captive Lion They Murdered

“…Despite their grim pose, the couple - who run a taxidermy business - describe themselves as ‘passionate conservationists,’ the Mirror reports…
When asked about the horrifying snaps, Mr Carter, of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, said: ‘We aren’t interested in commenting on that at all. It’s too political.’
“Experts say that the tragic lion was bred in captivity purely to be hunted by bloodthirsty tourists. Linda Park, boss of Voice 4 Lions in South Africa, insists the white lion pictured was ‘definitely captive.’
“And Eduardo Goncalves of the Campaign to Ban Trophy Hunting adds: ‘It looks as though this lion was a tame animal killed in an enclosure, bred for the sole purpose of being the subject of a smug selfie. This couple should be utterly ashamed of themselves, not showing off and snogging for the cameras.’
“Legelela offers giraffe hunts for £2,400, zebra from £2,000, with prices for leopard, rhino, lion and elephant hunts available ‘on request.’
“The firm was banned from exhibiting at the Great British Shooting Show in Birmingham next year after public outcry. Legelela Safaris declined to comment…” 
For the entire article, click here.

Monday, July 15, 2019

“It was an easy and close shot,” Mr Harlan told the Pakistani press. “I am pleased to take this trophy”

“An American trophy hunter is receiving heat for a recent expedition to Pakistan’s northern Himalayan region of Gilgit-Baltistan. Bryan Kinsel Harlan, from Texas, reportedly paid $110,000 to hunt and kill a rare mountain goat. In the photo below, he proudly kneels beside the kill.

“Harlan is the third American to travel to Pakistan and kill a markhor goat. The wild animal is considered to be endangered. In 2011, there were only about 2,500 markhor goats in the region. Over the past several years, the population has dwindled immensely, largely due to deforestation, military activities, local poaching, and unregulated trophy hunting.
“The image prompted outrage on social media. For the most part, people are angered by the lack of laws banning or regulating hunting. Despite the fierce backlash, Harlan remains proud of his adventure…
“He called Pakistan a safe destination for tourists and recommended it to American travelers. ‘This is a perfect example of hunters and villagers coming together for a common goal of game conservation,’ said the hunter.
“To prevent the markhor goat from going extinct, Pakistan has allocated five sanctuaries in India for the rare mountain goats to roam freely and breed. Authorities in the country also allow hunters — like Mr. Harlan — who have paid large amounts of money, to hunt markhor goats in the region. They claim the effort will protect the endangered species from potential extinction.
The Independent reports that about 80 percent of the profits from trophy hunters are reportedly given to “isolated residents” who live in the goats’ habitat. The other 20 percent is allocated to the government wildlife agencies.

Friday, July 12, 2019

An Injustice That Few People Care About: The Adjunct Underclass

“Adjunct professors are the minimum-wage temp workers of academia. Underpaid, overworked, with no benefits and no job security, their numbers have ballooned in recent decades. They are part of what Herb Childress calls ‘hope labor,’ in his new book, The Adjunct Underclass. Childress quotes researchers who define hope labor as ‘un- or under-compensated work carried out in the present, often for experience or exposure, in the hope that future employment opportunities may follow.’ For most adjuncts, that hope comes to nothing.

“Childress compares the catastrophe of gig economy college teaching to gig-based employment in other industries like medicine or taxis. He argues that adjunct teachers are the Uber drivers of academia. ‘College teaching has become primarily a pickup job … like running chores for TaskRabbit,’ he writes, reporting that 25 percent of adjuncts depend on some form of public assistance. His book brings to mind the nearly starving, peripatetic scholars, wandering from one university to another, teaching and begging, in medieval Europe.

“The Adjunct Underclass summarizes The Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s account of the death of Margaret Mary Vojtkowho died at the age of eighty-three from cancer she could not afford to treat. She died at her home, for which she could not afford electricity. She had taught French at Duquesne University for twenty-five years, never making more than twenty-thousand dollars a year for her six or more courses and never receiving health benefits or retirement contributions.
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“Childress discusses homeless adjunct professors who sleep in their cars. He cites the San Francisco Chronicle and the example of English professor Ellen Tara James Penny. While teaching four courses per semester at San Jose University in Fall 2017, Penny ‘often drives to a parking lot to grade papers. When it’s dark, she’ll use a headlamp from Home Depot, so she can continue her work. At night she’ll re-park in a residential neighborhood and sleep in her 2004 Volvo. She keeps the car neat to avoid suspicion.’...

“Many adjuncts toil at multiple campuses in a semester, commuting hundreds of miles each day, working essentially nonstop except for sleep, as they teach, grade papers and answer multitudinous student emails. ‘The figure of 45 contract hours is a fiction that conceals 350 hours of work, maybe 400 and maybe more,’ Childress writes. ‘A $3,600 pretax stipend with no benefits like healthcare or retirement contributions, spread over 400 hours of work, comes to $9 per hour.’

“As a result, adjuncts are organizing. This spring, adjunct professors at several Minnesota colleges began agitating for unions, as reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Minnesota’s first adjunct union, at Hamline University, has pursued negotiations for a second contract since July 2018. Meanwhile in January, New York City-based Mercy College adjunct teachers started a drive to join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Recently, Fordham University adjuncts ratified their first contract, which mandates substantial pay increases. ‘Nationally about seventy new faculty bargaining units — all but one for nontenure faculty — have sprung up on private campuses since 2012,’ according to the Star Tribune.

“By 2016, gig faculty labor at more than 60 schools was organized by SEIU. In March 2018, ‘University of South Florida adjuncts voted to form a union…. On April 13 adjunct faculty at the University of Chicago ratified their first union contract … adjuncts at Loyola University in Chicago,’ also reached an agreement, according to the Johns Hopkins notice. And Labor Notes recently reported that this past April, international student workers were key to the success of the University of Illinois at Chicago graduate employees strike. Unionization is sweeping the gig faculty labor force, despite fierce management opposition that does not want to cede money or power to what Childress calls ‘the scavengers, the bottom feeders, paid by the course as the need arises.’

“Overworked and impermanent, no matter how excellent their teaching skills, adjuncts lack opportunities to form the sort of lasting mentoring relationships with students that are associated with tenured faculty. So, students suffer. And these students are predominately low-income at community colleges, which employ more adjuncts than four-year schools — at some, 90 percent of their faculty. Adjuncts, Childress writes, ‘are camouflaged to look exactly like their [tenure track] counterparts,’ so students and parents don’t know the difference. This affects lots of students, because there are so many adjuncts. ‘More than one million people are now working as contingent faculty [in the U.S.] … providing a cheap labor source, even while students’ tuition has skyrocketed,’ according to a congressional Democratic staffer quoted by Childress.

“This faculty precariat constitutes almost three-quarters of community college teachers who instruct, in turn, 40 percent of all undergraduates. ‘If community colleges prepare students to mirror their faculty’s lives as isolated individuals, scratching out a tenuous survival,’ Childress writes, ‘the state [universities] also prepare students to mirror their own faculty’s lives, with secure enough jobs that provide for the mortgage, the gold clubs and the new SUV every few years.’ Affluent liberal arts colleges have far fewer adjuncts, while Ivies and other elite universities are certainly not training their students for a precarious survival.

“Stanford education professor David Labaree, quoted by Childress, says ‘stratification is at the heart of American education. It’s the price we pay for the system’s broad accessibility.’ Just as 100 million economically precarious Americans cling to the bottom rungs of the U.S. economy, so too in U.S. education, precarious gig faculty labor teaches those low-income students who can scrape together community college tuition. Clearly community college students have the greatest need for close mentoring relationships with their professors, but, as Childress observes, they are the least likely to get it, since more of their professors are adjuncts. Ironically, it is students at elite colleges, among the least needy, who get the most professorial attention.

“Meanwhile, and not coincidentally, this devaluation of teaching parallels the profession’s feminization. Many adjuncts are women. Childress cites ‘rising discrimination against occupations after the entry of women.’ This has happened in medicine, education, law and veterinary practice. Research ‘shows college grads entering male-dominated fields at starting salaries far greater than those of college grads entering female-dominated field.’ Women’s work is not considered important. This explains why when women enter an occupation, the pay and the standing decline.

“The public-school model provides the best approach. Early on public education became feminized, thus devalued and underpaid. But it unionized completely. Adjuncts in higher ed should do the same, because barring the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, no help other than unions awaits them.

“The Adjunct Underclass lists five ways that universities have whittled away teacher pay: fewer people, longer hours; workers redefined as independent contractors; de-bundled professional activities and the creation of paraprofessionals; outsourced non-core functions; replacement of humans and space with technology. And of course, the glut of Ph.D.-credentialed teachers puts downward pressure on pay.

“Yet colleges and universities still crank out Ph.D.s, tens of thousands ever year. And every year many, many of those people don’t get jobs. They join a pool of surplus educational labor that constantly swells: There are more unemployed adjuncts every year, their increasing numbers putting downward pressure on pay.

“Years of study, papers, exams, the dissertation, followed by ferocious competition for academic employment scraps: It’s high time this sector of the work-force unionized widely, got some benefits for its precarious piece-work and recognized that tenure is, for most, an impossible and destructive dream.”

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Commentary Redux:

It is well known that adjunct faculty work without job security, without the benefit of healthcare, and without an ethical living wage. Most universities’ priorities are their development of building projects and technology, renovation of infrastructure, management of revenues and investments and reducing operating costs, administrative/bureaucratic positions and salaries, and athletic programs and their resources…  

There is no equity for adjunct instructors. Courses staffed with contingent adjunct faculty cost the same student tuition and provide the same credits staffed by tenured full-time faculty. Adjunct faculty grade compositions and tests, write recommendations and advise students, devise and develop classes, create lesson plans and course materials and improve curricula, among other unpaid responsibilities. 

There are no due process protections for adjunct faculty. There is no equal pay for equal work. There is no professional advancement. There is no equity in the lack of health insurance and retirement benefits available for adjunct faculty. There is little to no inclusion in the way higher education’s formal decision-making procedures and structures are made. Indeed, adjunct faculty are simply part-time contractors, “lecturers,” or non-essential “marginalized” hires who are disenfranchised from high-level governance and required to carry out most of the responsibilities of the full-time faculty (and sometimes at multiple institutions), but for less than one-fifth of the salary of the full-time faculty and without meaningful job security from one semester to another…

Equally demoralizing is that most full-time faculty do not sympathize with the adjunct faculty’s plight. Adjunct faculty are generally without help in their hardship… What is more, most tenured faculty are unconcerned about the slow moral dissolution of higher education and the threats to their own security, even though these debasing administrative trends and practices persist. 

Not surprisingly, at Benedictine University where there is declining student enrollment but increasing student tuition ($33,900 a year (2017)—though only a fraction of this amount pays for college adjunct instruction), full-time tenured faculty are given priority for available classes each semester; thus, an adjunct faculty member’s originally-designed course will be dropped from the core curriculum, no matter how competent and dedicated the adjunct instructor is and respected by students.

Nevertheless, if the reduction of courses taught by adjunct faculty is one of Benedictine University’s severe budgetary constraints, “when contingent appointments are used, they should include job security and due process protections. Contingent faculty appointments, like all faculty appointments, should include: the full range of faculty responsibilities (teaching, scholarship, service); comparable compensation for comparable work; assurance of continuing employment after a reasonable opportunity for successive reviews; inclusion in institutional governance structures; and appointment and review processes that involve faculty peers and follow accepted academic due process…" (Background Facts on Contingent Faculty).

Indeed, “[f]or the [Catholic] Church, there is no distinction between defending human life and promoting the dignity of the human person. Pope Benedict XVI writes in Caritas in Veritate [Charity in Truth] that ‘The Church forcefully maintains this link between life ethics and social ethics, fully aware that a society lacks solid foundations when, on the one hand, it asserts values such as the dignity of the person, justice and peace, but then, on the other hand, radically acts to the contrary by allowing or tolerating a variety of ways in which human life is devalued and violated, especially where it is weak or marginalized’” (no. 15) (Human Life and Dignity).  

Surely, flagrant indifference to the mental and physical well-being of adjunct faculty is incompatible with the adage “cura personalis” (care for the entire person). What remains to be seen at universities like Benedictine and across the nation is the rejoinder to an essential ethical question: “To what extent can universities be considered [moral and just] while engaging in practices or ideologies that run contrary to [their Mission, Vision, and Commitment Statements]? ...Catholic universities have to decide whether or not running a [consumerist/capitalist academic structure] that utilizes [and exploits their core adjunct faculty]… fundamentally contradicts Catholic teaching [and its ideals]. Adjunct pay, [their lack of benefits and precarious job security… are] not just a [Benedictine] issue — it is an industry wide issue...” (“The Fordham Ram Unfair Adjunct Wages Go Against Jesuit Values”).

-Glen Brown
Adjunct Faculty Instructor