June 21, 2016

The end of my teaching career...

My fourteen years as a community college professor have come to an untimely, unnatural demise. My administrators (including my supposed colleague, a full-time department chair) have orchestrated my removal from the teaching schedule. In the most recent round of abuse, my chair failed to offer me any courses for the fall term.  When I approached the dean, I was told that three successive offers were made to me to teach a class, and they did not hear from me and offered the class to another teacher. This is obfuscation. I sent three letters to my chair, and one was sent by a division secretary, inquiring of the status of my teaching a class for the upcoming Fall 2016 term, and he never replied. The plausibility of not receiving three e-mails, and not receiving a response to three queries?  I was told cheerfully by the dean that if another class opens, I will be the first considered to teach it.  This is not likely during budget cuts.

...At first, my labor union (comprised at any given point of almost all full-time teachers and one complicit part-timer) assisted me, but in the end supported the decisions of the deans and my
full-time chairs. My dean deliberately used my medical disability and the failing health (and eventual death) of my elder mother to "schedule me" out of my teaching rehire rights. 

In the U.S. there is an organization called the National Labor Relations Board which governs employee rights under federal laws.  The NLRB states that it is unlawful to compel a worker to be in the same union as his supervisor.  Even so, labor unions in higher education compel non tenured faculty (contingent/part-time/adjunct) to be in the same union as their department chairs who are most often full-time, tenured faculty who serve as de facto administrators and administrator designees. As such, as pointed out in the paper by Berg, the precarious status of the non-tenured professor makes him a prime target for anxiety-producing emotional abuse. In my case, at least two full-time professors who were union presidents (both department chairs) became division deans; in another instance, a full-time union grievance officer left his position as a union officer and professor
to take a position as an interim Director of Personnel with his sights on the Vice Presidency of Personnel. (He did not get the position and was forced to return to being a mere tenured professor and union officer. The Vice Presidency went to a man outside of the college, and the directorship was given to the new VPs girlfriend.)

My district superintendent wrote her doctoral dissertation on the use of workplace bullying (inducing fear) is used as a managerial tool. The dissertation delineates the step-by-step techniques and the steps to induce fear in faculty and eventual cause their removal or resignation. The dissertation states verbatim that a professor can be scared "shitless" through the use of these tools which she describes as like "spousal or sexual abuse." Although the dissertation condemns the use of bullying, it is clear that there is an unsaid approval of the techniques as they are evident in almost all cases of bullying in some form, and my experiences match the strategies in the dissertation one-for-one.

In short, it describes how to separate, marginalize and eliminate faculty who are not servile and complacent in the "erode, isolate, separate" strategy. This explains what the Asian professor in your blog was singled out, and why my district is currently facing, according to a full-time colleague, "22 or 23" complaints of unlawful discrimination. It is titled, "Realigning: A grounded theory of academic workplace conflict," by Melinda Nish in 2011.

It is fortunate for me that I do not rely solely on my part-time teaching income, and I have other sources of livelihood. Other professors must teach or a living and are therefore more prone to anxiety from unscrupulous colleagues and administrators. Still the loss of my livelihood has been heartbreaking, as I will no longer be teaching. This alone deserves mourning.

I am sad to report that not only vulnerable part-timers are victims of campaigns of bullying. A full-timer, a former union president no less, is now under attack by the college and the new union officers. This professor was very ethical, and upheld the rights and sense of justice for all employees. She now comes under attack in the support of cronyism cloaked under the guise of unlawful discrimination. For irony, the accuser made allegations against her of racial prejudice once publicly stated-- in order to ingratiate himself to his employers--that no racial prejudice exists in the college. He now states that prejudice indeed does exist.

This flip-flopping in what is said and what is done is very characteristic of the bullying as described in the dissertation. It is typical that a bully (the college administration) and his cronies will use any means (betrayal and backstabbing) in order to meet its ends.

I have only two advocates who will be talking to my dean about my loss of status: one administrator and one former union president, the ethical professor. 

In March, the dean who robbed me of my livelihood (I have lost more than $40,000 USD in potential income), colluded with the chair who wanted to hire her friends, and deprived me of the joy of my profession is no longer with the district. Evidently she has hired an attorney that I could not myself afford, one who has a proven track record of winning large settlements against the college.



Unknown said...

Hello! I am sorry to say that this person's account of her bullying not only rings true, but is, in fact, a standard means of reigning in non-tenured faculty who have the NERVE to want not only social justice, but the ability to make a living (if only marginal) by teaching in the California Community College System. Rehire rights are a current theme that is being explored by the disenfranchised, and will probably keep most activist part timers busy, all the while their ability to earn a living and have some modicum of respect will go the way of the now-extinct DoDo Bird. Because of the laws/rules/regulations/union contracts and other constraining parameters, Part Timers are the "dirty little secret," of Higher Education, and are the ones on whose backs the other stakeholders are able to make for themselves VERY GOOD LIVINGS...very good, indeed...The shoddy treatment of part time faculty in the majority of locally controlled California Community College Districts stands as a rebuke to the Full Time Faculty Controlled Edu-Unions who claim to represent part time faculty fairly. How Much Longer, Part Timers? RBYoshioka, Ph.D.

Anonymous said...

Yup, that sounds familiar.

Nearly 15 years ago, I went through the same sort of thing. Both the department head and assistant DH were determined to get rid of me and were hoping that I would commit some unspeakable act in order to justify my sacking. This went on for years and even the last dean I answered to was in on the plot.

When this first started, I took it up with the staff association president at the time. He kept hinting that I was at fault and that I was "in denial", whatever that meant. It wasn't until after his successor took over that I started putting the pieces together. I found material in my personnel file which had been illicitly submitted--illicit because I was left off the circulation list, thereby depriving me of my rightful opportunity to present a rebuttal.

My adversaries claimed that I didn't respond to the allegations lodged against me and, thereby, agreed with what was stated. Of course, how could I respond when I didn't know what was written, let alone that anything had been had been said about me at all. In other words, they deliberately went against institutional regulations and, through that, could claim that my apparent silence was indeed consent.

The proverbial hit the fan when I found out. Under the guidance of the new staff association president, I wrote a blistering response and sent a copy of it to the appropriate vice-president.

I left on academic leave for 2 years to fulfill the residency requirement of my Ph. D. and complete my thesis. After my return, the attacks started again. I suspect that my comments caused some serious damage to the department head's career prospects and he was seeking revenge, while the assistant DH was determined to punish me for getting a doctorate that he himself would never have.

Unfortunately, things had changed while I was away. The aforementioned vice-president was succeeded by someone who was simply there because she likely got a nice contract. The staff association president was ousted due to internal politics and her successor was an administration lapdog. The staff association itself had determined that I was a problem that had to be made to go away.

At the end of my second year after my return, I bailed out. After looking at my investment portfolio, I decided that I had no reason to stay there. I resigned, which, I'm sure, irked my detractors. I not only chose when to leave, I dictated what the terms were. They would have preferred that I leave in disgrace after having committed some dishonourable act and I didn't grant the their wish.

I left almost 14 years ago to the day. I don't miss it.