Teachers Deserve More and so do Our Students
Natalie Winslow, M.A.
5 years at MCC
My name is Natalie Winslow, and I am an adjunct. I obtained my master’s degree in 1992 with the certainty that I would receive a full-time position in my field. As it proved not to be quite as easy as I thought, I joined the Peace Corps and served for two years to get some experience. Upon my return I found myself in a nightmarish situation of working for three or four different academic institutions, private institutions, businesses and tutoring. From semester to semester, I never knew which classes would “go” and which would be cancelled. I, therefore, accepted more than I could handle. The result was that students’ education suffered. I was working up to 70 hours a week to make – at the most- $40,000 a year. I had to pay for my own benefits and return money to my employer if I was sick.
I’ve been doing this for a long time now. I can no longer work for multiple colleges as I am completely enervated. I now dedicate my time to Macomb. It is not a living wage, and my son and I qualify for Medicaid and other subsidies.
Honestly, I ask you. Is this how teachers should be treated?
I still put 110% into every lesson because I am a professional. I give my students what they deserve, so why doesn’t Macomb Community College give their adjunct teachers what they deserve?
A Plea for a Tuition Waiver: Serving the Community Includes Helping Adjuncts and Their Families
4 years at MCC
Being adjunct faculty, I personally would like to go on to complete my bachelor’s degree. Having two associates degrees already, I believe it’s around a dozen classes or thereabouts needed to do so. With the current tuition costs, it’s financially better that I still work my regular day job and teach part time and not take classes due to the costs associated with completing my bachelor’s degree.
Any assistance MCC could offer would be certainly be an incentive . My wife and children have also expressed interest in attending MCC. My wife already has an associate’s in general studies but is interested in the graphic arts programs, and our son who is currently a sophomore in high school is looking to get his general studies classes completed prior to going forward with an electrical engineering degree. Our oldest daughter is currently enrolled at MCC, and with her own young family to take care of, any tuition discounts would also be an encouragement to them as well.
Being that MCC is in the higher education business, the knowledge and experience learned would directly benefit our community by having more well rounded and educated citizens
The Plight of the Adjunct
4 years at MCC
“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” ~ Robert Frost
As a child and student, I was encouraged to follow my dreams and pursue my passions. Despite the hardships (and the vague warnings about the job market), I did just that. I sought a job which would offer a sense of personal fulfillment and the feeling that I was making a difference. As a writing instructor, I know how crucial my job is in educating and assisting the Youth of Today.
Despite having an idea of the struggles facing me, I did it anyways.
Because I believe in my job. I believe in my students (most days). I believe that education is the best treatment for so many of the ailments of today’s society. Because I am stubborn – I persisted.
But lately, my persistence has become my plight. My passion has become my grief.
As I juggle teaching part time at 3+ institutions, one of which is over an hour commute from my house, I wonder: Did I make a mistake? Should I have chosen a career that would promise me a fat paycheck, regardless of my interest in it?
In the last eleven months, my bills (rent, car payments, utilities, credit card, car insurance, and phone) have all been at least a month late almost every month. I regularly open my refrigerator at home and am welcomed by emptiness more than substance. My daughter is fed. My cat is fed. The bills DO get paid...eventually. I am regularly harassed by bill collectors wanting to squeeze blood from a stone. If I had the money, wouldn’t I have paid that bill?
I should be working on my dissertation (because with that is the dim hope of a full-time teaching position), but I’m too worried about money to focus. I can’t afford the gas to get to the university and work. My relationship with my husband is strained because all we do is worry about money.
I’ve been teaching for almost a decade. I am rounding the corner to a PhD. And yet – as I regularly express to everyone who assumes that as a college instructor, I MUST be rich -- I would have been making more money, had health care, and been in a better place financially, if I had stayed working PART TIME at Starbucks.
As I type this, I am not sure if I will have enough classes across three schools to pay my bills next semester. I already deliver groceries with Shipt and sell books with Usborne Books & More to supplement my income. I occasionally help a friend with her business for a few extra dollars. And now I’m considering working for Amazon, too.
I cannot be the teacher I know that I can be – engaged, helpful, present, and effective – when I am stretched so thinly. I cannot contribute to the success of my students, my department, or even of this college, because I am so worried about where my groceries will come from, or what happens if I can’t pay that bill AGAIN.
Macomb Community College is failing me. The community college exists to help promote education in a community in order that its citizens can strive for a better future. We well our students that if they get an education, and work hard, then they can escape the crushing poverty that plagues our neighborhoods. And yet – and yet – the college refuses to remedy the fact that it does not grant the same hope to its Adjunct Faculty. They prey on the fact that we are spread too thin to attend meetings and make our voices heard. They keep us squashed beneath their thumb, knowing that we will likely stick around because the mere thought of abandoning over a decade (or more!) of education in our fields just to make better money kills us.
I implore the Board of Directors to hear our stories, show compassion, and have faith in us to help lift us out of this dark place and keep us on our feet. We will thank you graciously – with renewed job dedication, loyalty to the college, and more attentive teaching.
A Fly on the Wall: Reflections from the Bargaining Table
Nicole Castle-Kelly, B.A., M.A. in English
(emphasis in creative writing)
13 years at MCC
I began teaching composition and literature courses for MCC in fall 2005. It’s been an honor and one of the highlights of my life.
Satirist Kurt Vonnegut wrote in a letter to a North Dakota school board after they burned his books in the high school furnace that he felt he wasn’t REAL to those people.
When I attended my first bargaining session, this is how I felt. I was not real to William Tammone or Denise Williams. Neither Provost Tammone nor Denise Williams looked at me or acknowledged my presence. I was nothing more than a fly on the wall, a pest to be swatted at any moment.
During the session, it was evident that the HR director found it perfectly acceptable to show her disdain. It was my hope that Provost Tammone would think long and hard on what happened during these negotiations, or more appropriately WHAT didn’t happen.
Our team was told that they had given "much consideration" to our proposals and that it's a no on all of them. It’s my hope that the MCC Board of Trustees will instruct their team to acknowledge and fairly consider our proposals.
I am still puzzled why a place that I have taught for with passion and professionalism, wouldn’t want to show that I am valued. Why? There is really no good answer.
Is this the kind of environment that MCC wishes to cultivate? Is this the image that The College wants to project to our community and to our nation? I would think not.
And again, I ask you, why treat your adjuncts so shamefully?
A Tale of Two Adjuncts
29 years at MCC
Adjunct Before Union
Long before there was an adjunct union a full time colleague required emergency surgery and was unable to finish the last 3 weeks of his classes. As an adjunct I was asked to cover one of them at the magnanimous rate of $20 per contact hour which was the sub rate back then. Since I was actually teaching the class, and not merely proctoring an exam or showing a film which was customary for subbing adjuncts then and now, I requested that I be paid my higher adjunct rate, rather than the sub rate. Administration agreed but the paperwork got fouled up somehow and I was shorted about $300 in sub pay – no small sum, especially for an adjunct. I proceeded to make a series of phone calls to HR and payroll to clear up the problem. Evidently in the process I had stepped on more than a few bureaucratic toes at which point the full time colleague I had subbed for called me at home and asked me what the problem was. I tried to explain. At this point I realized before I ruffled any more feathers I would drop the matter and the shortage was never paid. Que sera, sera! It was an environment of fear that inspired 80% of the voting adjuncts to support the creation of a union when the opportunity came in 2003.
Adjunct After Union
After MCC adjuncts had established a union, I was once again shorted some sub pay and after a quick inquiry to my union rep and after providing some additional paperwork to HR the shortage was paid by the next pay cycle. Had there been no union I have no doubt that the second scenario would have ended like the first. For those who ask the perennial question: “What does the union do for me?” they must remind themselves that sometimes “it’s not what the union gives us but how they advocate for us too!”
The College repeatedly claims that it is grateful for its adjuncts and for the work that we do, but at the bargaining table, The College’s proposals hardly reflect an attitude of gratitude.
The time is now to remind The College of the impact adjuncts make at Macomb and to encourage The College to work toward giving adjuncts the respect and equality we deserve.
In order to accomplish these goals, AAFMCC is collecting short, personal stories that provide a firsthand look at the plight adjuncts face semester to semester and year after year. We will be posting your stories on AAFMCC’s website and sharing them with administration and with The Board of Trustees.
Do you have a story that illustrates the adversities of teaching at Macomb as an adjunct?
Examples include but are not limited to the following:
We know that all of you have a story to share, and we encourage you to share it!
How to submit your story
Email to AAFMCC Secretary Jane Asher at firstname.lastname@example.org
Email AAFMCC Secretary Jane Asher at email@example.com