Class Cancellations: Lost Learning, Lost Earning

‘Tis the season of class cancellations:  that time when college students and adjunct profs discover that all of their preparations for the semester have been for naught, as “low enrollments” or the administrative need to fill full-time faculty schedules trumps both the right of students to enroll in the classes they need and the right of adjunct professors to earn wages for the work they have done and made time in their schedules to do.

As “contingent” or “at whim” workers, adjunct faculty are asked to commit to teaching classes and are expected to shrug their shoulders when the classes are cancelled, often at the last minute and in spite of all of the preparation they may have done (and not been paid for).  At Tri-C, adjunct faculty are often not notified of class cancellations until the very last minute. Are they compensated for the time they have put into preparing?  Not unless *all* of their classes are cancelled — and if that condition is met, they are paid all of $50.00 (Yes, that’s correct, fifty) for their time and trouble. And that’s generous; other colleges and universities in Ohio pay nothing.

Is this the way to treat professionals who already donate the extra time their students need them to spend on their teaching and mentoring because the college refuses to “invest in people” (in the words of the Tri-C Foundation’s motto) who serve as adjunct faculty? For many adjuncts, this cancellation policy is not only disrespectful, but it can have destructive ripple effects.  If an adjunct suddenly loses a course she was planning to teach, she is losing income she was depending on and that she invested significant time into earning. She may have refused other, more lucrative opportunities because she thought the commitment to the class was mutually felt by the college.  She may find herself suddenly unable to pay rent, a mortgage, or for childcare or healthcare. Is this “cura personalis” — what Jesuit institutions like John Carroll University promote as the ethic of “care for the whole person”?

Last-minute course cancellations, with their disrespect of adjuncts’ time and lost income, are only a small fraction of the indignity and injustice that adjunct faculty at Tri-C and other Ohio colleges and universities endure on a regular basis.  Consider too that the practice is self-defeating in a practical sense; it sours potential new faculty on teaching and on the college, promoting the college’s reputation as an undesirable employer and denying students access to good new instructors. Failure to pay adjunct faculty a fair course cancellation fee for the time they have put into preparing for a class that is canceled or taken away is unethical and undermines the college’s community-oriented mission.Share your stories of course cancellation in the comments below. How has losing a class affected you, or anyone else around you? Anonymous posts OK.

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