Stand up for your faculty

By Meg Cook

Opinion Contributor

Canisius College is a Jesuit institution. If you’re rolling your eyes at the obvious statement made, I applaud you. Because this is a characteristic that is made obvious by so many departments on campus. Campus Ministry will peacefully and repeatedly weave this declaration throughout their programs. Nearly every academic department can say they have a class with attributes for the core curriculum, embracing the Jesuit way. The Office of Admissions rolls out the highlight reel of taglines including, “We are a Jesuit institution and that means…” within the first 15 minutes of a prospective student’s visit. There are students who have gotten an education here in part because this institution declared itself Jesuit. Being a Jesuit institution means something.

Allow me to clarify: being a Jesuit institution has meaning and value in certain circumstances. To say that we abide by our Jesuit principles in practice and preaching is shy of the truth. We see the elements of Jesuit values scattered  in the passion of students of faculty through the institution in being men and women for others and cura personalis. Where we lack is in some of our practices as a college. More specifically, the issue of adjunct pay and labor situation comes to mind. Many a student might not be aware, but adjunct professors are paid significantly less than full time professors. This isn’t just an issue of not being paid a living wage. Adjunct professors don’t have health care through Canisius. No job security. No realistic tuition exchange for their children. These are benefits that every other full time employee has: academic faculty, administration, facilities and staff. Not to mention adjunct professors only get paid twice a year. Some adjuncts don’t know if they’re teaching a course a week before classes are scheduled to start. Administration will cite Jesuit values in defense of decisions such as preventing Mr. Canisius contestants from cross-dressing or a Psychic Fair from coming to campus, but why are our Jesuit values forgotten in the face of these issues? There are probably a number of adjunct professors not just at Canisius but in Buffalo, that qualify for welfare. We offer service programs and volunteer opportunities to institutions around Buffalo, but we cannot manage to provide a livable compensation for some of our own. Brilliant academics in their field are not compensated in a way that accurately reflects their value and that is unjust. A number of my favorite classes have been taught by adjunct professors. Teaching approximately 30% of classes at the college, they make a hefty impact on the student experience and academics of the institution. There are a number of issues organizing adjunct professors are bringing to the attention of both the administration and to students. Despite the whispers of camaraderie felt amongst the totality of academic faculty, they have something to lose in standing up. Full-time professors without tenure are just as much at risk of losing in their professional position as any of the adjunct professors standing up to say that these practices are wrong. So who is left to say something in regards to these issues without penalty? Students. There is nothing to be lost by students as the fuel of this academic institution in standing up to and saying this is wrong. I was disappointed by the USA response to hearing the adjunct plight in last week’s Griffin. The questions of feasibility and student ability to affect change miss the purpose of student support. The purpose of student support is to declare that devaluing a fundamental part of our campus is unfair and intolerable. So if you don’t agree with how adjunct professors are currently compensated, say something. Stand up for the faculty that teach here despite the inadequate compensation. Be a student of a Jesuit institution, be a man or woman for others, and speak up.

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