Tuesday, October 9, 2007

An hour and a half later

Just about... that was the time it took me to drive back from campus to my office. This is the light commute. See, I left campus at 2:30 pm, not exactly rush hour. Ah... but here, I guess it is. Well, that's not true. See, it takes an hour and a half to drive 42 miles at 2:30. At 4:30, it'd take two and a half hours. Why don't they call it SLOW hour instead. I mean, who rushes with that kind of traffic?

Today was the first experiment in reducing my office hours, and avoiding the 7:00 am dash to the metro, so I could shave an hour off my train/bus commute. I hate to drive in this traffic. But I can't say I enjoy leaving the house before 7:00 am, for two office hours and an hour and fifteen lecture, then taking the 4:38 train back, arriving at home around 6:30. It just doesn't seem right, it doesn't seem worth it. So, I thought I'd take Sara Chaisano up on her suggestion that I cut my office hours down to one a week, with the proviso "or by appointment".

I hate to short-change the students. But I'm swamped with grading, and commuting, and with an attempt to make a life for myself beyond the pathetic part-time, no benefits, pay that I make at the university. Am I short-changing the students by cursorily rushing through their papers to come up with a reasonable grade, so I can keep the time I spend on each student each week under 5-10 minutes? Or is the university short-changing us both? Today, as I walked across campus, past the massive multi-million dollar project to build a fandandy courtyard outside the library (described thus by Sara: "Well, I think it looked just great the way it was, but I guess they want to make it fancier"), I recalled the time I was interviewed years ago on Slovak television.

I was performing in a beautiful old, renovated theater there, where the local talent gets paid such a miserable salary that they thought I was extravagant for having chicken soup for lunch at about 94 cents a pop. When you make about $150/month, a dollar a day for lunch can seem a fortune. So... I stood before the camera, in my not-so-polished Slovak, and explained that while I found the freshly-multimillion-dollar-renovated theater to be gorgeous, one should always remember that our priorities should be first with the people who give the house life. There's always time, and energy, and money for renovations if the building is alive. But if the people are listless, no amount of paint, and velvet, and gilding can liven it up!

And I thought how ironic that I'd be in their shoes here in America. If I choose to stay on at Lemon, I can assure you it has nothing to do with any regard I hold for the institution and its administration. I think of poor Marion True, and her trial in Italy. Perhaps she was less bad than others in her treatment of looted artifacts, but being less bad is hardly a purchase to heaven! Just because all the universities across America treat their adjuncts with disdain is no defense for the practice.

Every administrator, or faculty member, who knowingly permits their institution to hire part-time faculty when full-time are required, who willingly allows overcrowding of classes, to avoid paying benefits, is culpable. Every politician who mealy-mouths their support for education, and the cause of today's children (I think of Nancy Pelosi--put your nation's money where you mouth is!) is responsible for turning this nation around, and putting our priorities where they belong.

There is no gray area!


Craig P. said...

We have been enjoying reading your stuff and picked you up today over at FACE Talk (http://aftblog.blogs.com/face).

And on a personal note, my three boys love risotto!

ArticulateDad said...

Thanks, Craig. Looking forward to many more interactions.