Visiting professor: Why I’m resigning

By Dr. Steven Halady

For six years, I have been with the Philosophy Department. I have served on two faculty committees, helped plan five retreats, and served as a leader on a service trip. I have advised student theses and mentored student groups. I have worked in the Tutoring Center, led diversity training programs, and developed workshops for struggling students. This year, I have had two publications in peer-reviewed journals. My student evaluations have consistently averaged about 4.5 out of 5. I have regularly taught courses central to the mission of the College and which reach across disciplinary boundaries.

If I could have my choice of any job, I would choose to teach at a school like Canisius. I love my students and being able to contribute to their academic and personal growth. I thrive in an atmosphere of passionate learning. I celebrate being part of a community with strong commitments to justice, service and care for others.

After this semester, I am leaving Canisius because, as “contingent faculty”, the College is not willing to meet my professional or personal needs.

There are two kinds of contingent faculty: adjuncts (part-time) and visiting (full-time, typically only a one or two year contract). Nationwide, colleges have become increasingly reliant on us because we are cheap labor. in the Philosophy Department at Canisius, adjuncts typically make between about $2,600 and $3,300 per course, or about $650-$825 per month, without benefits. Visiting professors are better off, receiving a salary and benefits, but can be let go with no explanation or recourse after their short contracts end. Both are barred from college governance, and so have no say in policy or curriculum. Contingent faculty taught more than half of the philosophy courses this spring, and will teach nearly half next fall. Across academia, contingent faculty met a vital need of the colleges where they teach, but these colleges — their employers — do not meet their basic needs for gainful employment in return.

This situation raises serious problems for our ability to create worthwhile opportunities for students. Adjuncts often work multiple jobs in order to make a living, leaving them with less time for students, grading, preparation and campus life. Due to our transient status, most contingent faculty are unable to build relationships with students across their college years, though there are some exceptions. We have fewer resources and opportunities to develop as scholars and educators. In short, financial concerns are prioritizing money over quality of education and our community’s values.

Over the past six years, the Philosophy Department has had multiple opportunities to hire me as a permanent faculty member. Each time, they have chosen someone else. That is their right. The problem is, rights do not exhaust the moral landscape. I am not entitled to a job at Canisius, but I am entitled respectful treatment, which has not always been forthcoming.

For example, one afternoon last April, I was on the seventh floor of Churchill Tower, which houses Philosophy, when two members of the department got into a screaming tantrum over whether or not I should be approved for a permanent, tenure-track position. I could hear the whole exchange, even through two closed doors and from the other side of the tower. If this is how people behave while I am within earshot, then I don’t want to know what is said and done when I am not 30 feet away.

With respect to hiring decisions, I am told repeatedly that it is not personal. But “not personal” is a problem because I am a person. For these choices to be “not personal” is to miss exactly what it is that is supposed to make Canisius special: a community grounded in respect for persons. Though some individual members of the community do live this value beautifully, it is becoming harder to see in many institutional choices. Our core values are no longer central. Some examples:

Faculty who teach ethics, social justice, and human rights are underpaid and easily abandoned.

We advertise small classes and personal attention while we increase teaching loads and class sizes but narrow course offerings.

We preach cura personalis while the school sells itself with a juvenile rebranding campaign that includes no mention of mission or values.

Campus Ministry offers the Always Our Children retreat, an amazing and life-affirming experience for people who identify as LGBTQA, but the administration raises obstacles for a speaker with lesbian mothers.

My Catholic schooling taught me that Church is not a building, but a community of people drawn together by shared values. At Canisius, we purchase new buildings when we have not finished construction on those we already own, but we don’t replace faculty who leave.

We teach that care for persons should be first. In practice, people are falling by the wayside. Canisius is only great because of the people here who love and serve. These six years, I have come to know, love and mourn some of the best people I could hope to meet. Unless the College decides to start investing in these people again, what will emerge is a well-intentioned mediocrity.

If you take one thing from this letter, I hope that it is the recognition of a very real need to translate our professed values into lived practice at all levels of the institution. It falls to those who remain to figure out how to put ‘women and men with and for others’ back into daily practice. Matthew 7:5 says, “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Perhaps discernment over this passage of Scripture is the place to start.

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Comments

  1. I can not begin to say how stunned I was to open the Griffin and read this article. To keep it brief, Dr. Halady is one of the best professors I have had during my 3 years at Canisius and certainly the best philosophy professor out of 3 that I have had. For someone who struggles with being forced to take 2 religions and philosophies as part of my core curriculum rather than focusing on major courses, Dr. Halady makes his courses incredibly enticing. As a professor he truly listens to each individual opinion in his class room and does an excellent job of providing real life relatable examples to back almost ancient theories. Never once have I felt that I would not excel in his class if I applied myself and he has never made me, or seemed to have make any one student feel dumb for asking any question. It is because of Dr. Halady that I am still taking yet another philosophy course, even after completing my requirements. On top of his forward thinking, incredible teaching style, which by the way is relateable to our college age group!, Dr. Halady is also a genuinely good person. Just one conversation with him will show you his kind nature. He is passionate about teaching and his subject matter and it is very apparent. I think it is truly such a shame and a very great loss to the Canisius community to allow such a wonderful staff member to leave the college.

  2. BURN. Someone get the aloe vera. President Hurley’s going to need it.

  3. He has some legit gripes but he is just mad he can’t get a full-time gig. If he was hired he wouldn’t care about other adjuncts of anything else.

    • Mr. Gillete, from your perspective it may seem that he wrote this just because he has not secured full-time employment. However, I can assure you that this professor hits a lot of the points many Adjuncts have – he is one of the few who has the courage to say something about it. When you do everything you are asked to do, even things that go above and beyond because you are passionate about the process of learning and there is never any job security – believe me, it is beyond frustrating. I have shared this with so many people in academia and you know what they say over and over again – “AMEN!”

  4. Christopher Broda says:

    So sad to hear of this news and I’m glad I had the chance to read this article Steve. I just wanted to say that you will be missed by the Canisius community but maybe this will end up being the best decision. Everyone has been talking about the changes going on at Canisius and almost no one views the past couple of years in a positive light. I thought this was a school where leaders were made not where you cut class to go explore Forest Lawn and the Galeria Mall. I’m so glad I had the chance to graduate from Canisius before it decided to sell out. I hope your departure is not another sign of what is to come.

  5. Haladay, I don’t know you nor do I care about you or your decision. It seems as though not receiving a full time position has made you bitter, and therefore you submitted a letter to the student newspaper to stir up some conversation among its readers. You have already made your decision to leave. Everyone knows this school is not in the best position at the moment, so your feelings regarding not receiving a FT position aren’t needed. This letter is an immature rant that will do nothing positive for your career. Life is not fair, get over it but make the best of it. As a student I have seen this college deteriorate over the past 4 years, and I plan on graduating and moving on. I suggest you do as I… leave this school, don’t look back, and dominate the next opportunities that you are presented with.

  6. Mr. Practical says:

    Maybe you were just a crummy teacher? Just a thought. . .

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