Classism in Academia

A little over two years ago, a student called me a ‘cunt’ in front of 38 other students. My academic employer did little to protect me and allowed a local, “progressive” paper to attack me in a newspaper/Internet article. I believe this had everything to do with my being a popular but adjunct, community college teacher (earning about $18,000 per year). I didn’t know it at the time, but the clock was ticking on my professional career.

The article from the newspaper has haunted my professional life. Last year, a potential client backed out of hiring me for a professional development training, citing a comment at the end of the article that he’d read after Googling me, a threatening comment (written by a tenured colleague) about my credibility as a professional. He said he could not take the risk with me. And, because of how academia works, with its rigid hierarchies and polite wars, I quit after six years and am likely not to teach again. In academia, classism works like this–once tainted, always fouled.

I made a choice; I quit adjuncting because I was experiencing class-based bullying. My life on campus post-newspaper article was awful, every semester a copy of the article found its way to the desk of my shared office and on two occasions, my campus mailbox, and once last spring, placed under the windshield wiper of my Subaru. Every semester after, students wondered why in the hell I hadn’t responded and told “my side of the story,” not understanding the gag the college put over my mouth. I also couldn’t get outside work anymore, which was how I paid for the extra costs of teaching and advising a student club. The comments in the article made me look “unprofessional,” which is a middle class euphemism for “you have no class.” A whopping dose of personal trauma enabled me to see academia for what it is–a bad fit for a working class woman like me.

I need to be honest though, I miss teaching. That’s the complication working class people like me often face, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”  The semester started up again August 20and I fell into two weeks of deep depression that I’m barely recovered from, except to say that thinking my life is over professionally has waned into an understanding of the pain. The pain I went through in academia, (first as a working class student and later, adjunct working class faculty) and the pain I denied to myself to the point of exhaustion. This summer was a reprieve but school starting took me all the way back to the beginning six years before I started teaching, when I was a 33 year old college junior, first-generation failures lined up like notches on a belt but earnest as fuck and ready to prove myself.

The blows came early in my student career, a feminist, working class prof praising me for returning to school because it was a good place for working class women escaping an abusive marriage. Of course, I fit her class stereotype, a fat re-entry student, a grown woman afflicted with the use of slang and cuss words, and so wanting to please and be respectful, using “Dr.” even when they said to call them by their first names. Later, my MA thesis chair would fill me in on how my marriage was doomed to fail with each passing year of educational attainment because working class men like my husband, “can’t handle it when their wives get an education.” It happened to her.

After I got the job, I got shit from men teachers too, but it was shit that was familiar, me being a working class woman. It was also less indirect shit, more outright challenges to my knowledge (to the fellas I was “opinionated”) and in regards to my teaching, (I was “easy” because students liked me, I was trying to be their “friend”). In professional settings however, sexism and classism often become intertwined and I became a target for a tenured, male teacher in my area, once popular but now in competition with me a woman, and adjunct faculty. My work life became a special kind of hell when he became my department chair in 2010. To my misfortune, he met with the student who called me a “cunt,” revealing to me in a campus email the next day that the student “seemed reasonable to him,” case closed. It was humiliating.

A year ago, I thought that I had proof of the bullying at last; a friend alerted me that there was a new and threatening personal comment following the newspaper article on the Internet. I was thinking of quitting at that time but worried about my future in academia (and future employment) and brought the comment to the attention of human resources (H.R.). Yes, H.R. said, it was definitely written by a colleague “from within” (validation at last!); but no, there isn’t anything we can do about it and that I “shouldn’t take it personally.” If you are working class, you might understand the deep sense of betrayal I felt, work is never just a job to me, and it is personal.

Teaching was good for a long time and I was a good teacher, I had the stuff and got recognition for it.  Nonetheless, power is central in academic culture, and in a community college where the stakes are small, power is the result of position and status with others, especially amongst faculty. I became a target for being outspoken about social inequality but mostly because I was an adjunct faculty who didn’t know her place and had the gall to allow students to call her “professor.” In spite of doing my best to make a good case with H.R., class-based discrimination isn’t recognized and in my situation, questioned and then demonized; I was sensitive and paranoid, not bullied.

The upside is the lessons I learned and that I’m feeling better with time and perspective. I believed academia to be a little too perfect; an intellectual utopia of egalitarianism and that was my bad. Academia with its hierarchies and rampant personality politics are a bizarro, grown-up version of high school where all the smart, wealthy kids are in charge. I loved teaching, but I’d been bullied and wrung out like a dirty wash cloth; call me chickenshit ‘cause I’ll tell you, the job nearly killed me and quitting was tough but it saved my life.

23 Responses

  1. Jodi Rives

    Good God, Julie, this is shitty. I believe every word you are saying and have a host of my own examples to back you up. Catch the head of the hiring committee for a full-time position going to the THREE people on the hand-picked committee who work for her and telling them in no uncertain terms they will lose their job if they pick you? Dean of Students response: We trust our people to leave their biases out of the process. Catch that same person going to the other two people on the hiring committee (who happen to be up for tenure and upon whose tenure committees she happens to be serving) and telling them very specifically she will not endorse their bid for tenure unless they pick her choice in the hiring process? Also the response of “We trust our people to be objective.” Or the time I caught a colleague embezzling thousands of dollars and even had the paperwork to prove it. The VP’s response: “Well, you’re both women and you know how women are.” Or the time a full-timer offered to “mentor” me because they were chosen over me in the hiring process–only to then confide that I “could have been a black man from Harvard and they never would have hired” me since they had decided long before the hiring process that she was getting the job. Or the time pre-cell phone when two belligerent students stood outside my portable (in the boondocks) classroom for an hour talking about how they would kill me when I came out–and when I turned to the powers that be for support and increased safety measures (like a classroom with a working phone connected to campus police), their response was that there were no empty classrooms and they didn’t have the resources to “accommodate” me. Or the time a female student confided in me that her football player boyfriend had carried a firearm to school in his gym bag to teach her a lesson for some supposed slight–and the girl and I were accused of trying to derail this student’s football career. Or the time I got told by a full-timer that I “would never get anywhere” if I didn’t “shut up about these part-timer issues.” And on and on. I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know and I am definitely not trying to one-up you–just validating, baby. You’re not paranoid. You’re not overly sensitive. You’re not lacking in skills (I know, I’ve seen you work). You’re pissed. And you’re right. And now another damn good teacher has moved on because of all the bullshit. It’s enough to make you want to scream.

    1. Julie Withers
      Julie Withers

      Thank you, Jodi. I appreciate being believed, I know many others will not and I know why. Many people want to distance themselves from the ugly realities and believe the world is just, when it isn’t. I’ve seen this when I give presentations about racism on college campuses and I’ve seen it in the process of telling my story.
      Each story you tell above is true and there are so many more from our campus and the other 109 community colleges here in California. To teach adjunct is to have an inconsistent status, all the status that comes with the title of college/university instructor but none of the privileges (pay and benefits). And without real privilege (granted by the tenure process) adjuncts are “sitting ducks” in the system. Speak up and you won’t get anywhere, I heard it too. They buy silence and obedience with the promise of a secure job and academic freedom; in fact, all the silence and obedience does is uphold the hierarchies and keep the people with power in comfort. And that includes the well-paid faculty ($90,000 is the average salary of a tenured CC instructor), the tenured like to cry about high paid administrators but they must look in the mirror to see they are part of the 53% and aren’t on food stamps or struggling to pay rent/mortgage and gas costs like so many adjuncts these days.

  2. As the editor of the Chico News & Review newspaper that Ms. Withers says “attacked” her, I invite readers to read the story at http://www.newsreview.com/chico/college-woes/content?oid=1404306 for themselves. It’s a fair and thorough account of what happened in her classroom and afterwards. And her notion that her “academic employer” somehow “allowed” the story to be written is silly. We decide what’s newsworthy, not her employer. I note also that more than 20 readers commented on the story, many expressing sympathy for Ms. Withers and disapproval of the student who cursed at her, but none faulted the article for lack of fairness or thoroughness.

    1. Julie Withers
      Julie Withers

      Hi Robert,
      I just replied to your email but before I continue I point out that lots of folks thought it wasn’t fair (see those sympathetic comments) and anyway, how could it be fair or thorough when I couldn’t respond to your reporter lest I lose my job? Now, that’s not the fault of the CN&R but let’s be truthful, the CN&R told a one-sided story because it couldn’t tell two sides, I was gagged by Butte College Public Relations.

      In the email I sent you, I asked if we could meet face to face to discuss the comments section following the piece online. I particularly wish to discuss the disparaging and personal comment on July 31, 2010, the one that the director of H.R. at Butte College agreed came “from within,” and was personally threatening. And though I appreciate the positive comments you know as a journalist that they will never get the same attention as the negative ones that use expletives and gender discriminating language.

      Since we are directing dear readers to have the full story, here are the terms of use that are “prohibited actions” according to the Chico News and Review…

      “By using the Website, you agree not to do any of the following:

      2) Post, distribute, upload, or otherwise make available or transmit material that we deem to be: (a) defamatory, abusive, harassing, insulting, threatening, or that could be considered to be stalking; (b) bigoted, hateful, racially offensive, or personal attacks of any kind; (c) vulgar (e.g., profanities and expletives), obscene, or sexually explicit or pornographic (language or images); (d) that encourages or advocates illegal activity or the discussion of illegal activities with the intent to commit them; or (e) that gives rise to civil liability or otherwise violates any applicable local, state, provincial, national, or international law or regulation;
      11) Discriminating on the grounds of race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, age, marital status, sexual orientation, or refers to such matters in any manner prohibited by law;”

      I can only guess that CN&R feels comments that include defamatory and harassing words such as “cunt” and “bitch” is not vulgar. I also can suppose the CN&R does not stand behind the claim of disallowing “personal attacks of any kind” in comments; comments that include one from a Butte College colleague that might implicate the CN&R in “giving rise to civil liability” on the grounds of gender discrimination. I don’t expect a journalist to care, I mean really, you’re a free newspaper you must be as cruel and dirty as you can so people will pick it up. I really want the comments to go away because they violate your own policies for posting.
      Many thanks, Julie

    2. And too often what gets decided is “newsworthy” is determined by a phalanx of white middle/upper class males with an entire legacy of unearned privileges that men would sacrifice their own daughters on the altar of the almighty phallocracy to preserve. That you find nothing wrong whatsoever with a status quo that ensures women remain at the bottom of every pile and are written off as “silly” speaks volumes about the quality of the malestream news media.

    3. Mr. Speer, I have read your paper’s article. That article most certainly was NOT fair to Ms. Withers. You knew that she was, at the time your paper featured the article, muzzled by a gag order slapped on her by her now-former employer and as such, she was unable to publicly defend herself against the high-profile public pity party you threw for Paul Davis — the grinning, self-entitled cocksure white male culprit featured in the photo of your paper’s article who DELIBERATELY disrupted Ms. Withers’ class because, in his own words, he “likes to argue”, and hurled anti-woman hate speech at her after she refused to submit to his white male self-accorded “right” to dominate her, disrespect her, undermine her authority in the class in front of other students, and basically wreck the class for everybody who really was there trying to learn and get a post-secondary education.

      Your article bloviated about Paul Davis’s “right to due process.” How convenient that the right to “due process” only seems to serve white men at the expense of class dis-privileged women and minorities and often tramples on OUR rights.

      What about Julie Withers’ rights? What about her right to equal opportunity employment in a job she was well-qualified for, without a hostile workplace environment targeting her for extra punishment for the status crime of Living While Female?

      What about the fact that her due process rights — including the right to work at her job free from sexual harassment — were subordinated by the same ol’ boys’ club that claims to espouse “equality” while only paying lip service to fulfilling that promise?

      What about the fact that as a class dis-privileged woman who was professionally black-balled and has had ongoing difficulty getting ANY job, Julie Withers was made an example of as an “uppity” woman who didn’t just quietly accept her white male assigned place in the rich white male supremacist social order, and was punished with poverty due to male manufactured unemployability in post-Welfare Reform America to serve as a reminder to all the other struggling women out there that the benefits and blessings of America will never be extended to them because this country is still a rich white male party where women (who comprise the majority of the poor) and minorities are not allowed in except to scrub the toilets?

      That you see nothing wrong whatsoever with using the power of the pen to ensure that those dis-privileged by sex and class remain at the bottom of every pile speaks volumes about your “ethics” as a “journalist.”

      Sign me: a real journalist with ethics and real writing skills (you know, skills that don’t come from reading one’s boner notes),

      Jacqueline Sarah Homan: author, freelance journalist, class justice activist and radical feminist — without apology.

      1. Julie Withers
        Julie Withers

        Thank you Ms. Homan. I forwarded your astute commentary regarding my situation to Mr. Speer and the general manager of the News and Review paper, they did not reply but I’m certain hearing from someone else provided some insight.
        Additionally, I appreciate you for speaking up and offering a feminist analysis of the hell this local paper has put me through in the name of “journalism.”

  3. Jane

    Julie,

    I can hear your pain at not teaching this year. When I googled you after reading this, I saw RateMy Professor ratings that would be the envy of nearly everyone I know. Others may have made a different decision, but the decision to leave was yours alone and no one can second guess that.

    I want to say that the fact that you were supported in having the student removed from your class was no small thing. That would not have happened in some other places, and I hope that you can trust me when I say that most people in higher ed will understand that had you not been professional in handling this whole thing, the student would have been back in your class the next day.

    I want to say also that I’ve read the comment you’re talking about, and to me (and I’m thinking to lots of others, too) someone who can’t even spell “credibility” in a public forum like that is showing how much he (why would I assume that??) actually has. I mean, really? He can’t even spell “credibility”?

    My bigger question for you is why you’re letting this paper and the free-for-all that is now the comment sections of any newspaper article be the only story about you on line? It’s pretty easy to create your own digital identity. In the next hour, you could have your own professional website up (Weebly.com is only one of many free platforms to play with) where you dictate what else people learn about you. Convince everyone you know to link to it and click on it and the site moves up in rankings when people Google you,

    That does not solve the bigger issues of world injustice, but you have more power here than you’re using Julie. DIgital subversion is an under-utilized tool. If you don’t want this story to define you, then create your own counter story. I’m sure that there is a lot to be told, on your own terms.
    I’m not talking about retelling this incident. I’m talking about your power to tell all there is to know about you apart from this story.

    I hope that you decide to return to teaching. Higher ed needs you. This is a damn tough stretch, and you deserve to take a time out. You don’t have to burn bridges.

    I don’t know if you know about the Working Class Academics Association or the Working Class Poverty Class Academics list serve, but there is so much rich discussion there about being an outsider in higher ed – from those who’ve chosen to stay and others who’ve chosen to get out.

    Best to you, Julie. I hope that you keep us posted on where you land next. Thanks for the frank sharing of this. It gave me a lot to think about.

    And one of the things I thought about reading it was how grateful I am for the many many tenured faculty who went to the wall this week for the part-time faculty on my campus…

  4. lola rhode

    wow
    I just read that article on that paper and can not even believe it got published!
    and this kid called you names… wow amercian society is screwed up.
    wow
    that’s all I can say.
    sorry Julie this is beyond acceptable.
    thanks for speaking up!
    seriously
    Lola

  5. Julie, You were not only run out of a career that you are good at and obviously loved because of class, but also because of sex. Working class MEN who get to become professors are not kept down and subjected to the discrimination and hostile barriers and obstacles that a patriarchal society places before women. In fact, I don’t ever recall MEN being denied jobs because of not being able to conform to the male-defined standard of “fuckable” in our male-centric pornified rape culture that defines women’s worth solely on our ability to look like thin, 20 yr old porn stars. It is no accident that women comprise the majority of the poor. As a radical feminist (not the fun kind) who had to fight tooth and nail and fang and claw just to be able to earn my Bachelors degree (grad school was financially as out of reach for me as a daytrip to Sedna), I will not be silent when this is the sort of verbal and psychological abuse — on top of the economic terrorism of sex discrimination — is given a free pass in this country. There is nothing remotely liberating about being poor and at the bottom of every pile because of not being able to conform to a male-centric pornified ideal of what “deserving” and “worthy” women *should* look like. This is one poverty class radical feminist author who has your back, Sister! I am working on my 5th book right now — a radical feminist screed that will make Andrea Dworkin look tame by comparison. I self-publish because as a poverty class woman, I have had more than my fill of others with class and sex privilege policing my language. If you get the chance, you might want to check out my book Classism for Dimwits on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. And I think you would definitely benefit from reading some excellent radical feminist books by Mary Daly. You belong holding a tenured professorship — NOT being expected to just take misogyny on the chin because you’re a class-oppressed woman (actually, all women are oppressed as a class by men as a class but that’s a whole different talk show).

    1. Julie Withers
      Julie Withers

      Thank you, sister! You know how it is not being “worthy” and the toll it takes. But I can’t afford to be silent, I try and fail because it makes me miserable to the core not to speak up. All of your comments have helped me see a new perspective and it’s really nice to feel I have an ally, helps me question the crappy, helpless feeling that doesn’t suit me anyway. So, chin up and return to the writing and the reading (thanks too for the Mary Daly recommend).

  6. Dee

    I was on your other post about bullying, and decided to go read this article: how terrible! Since I put those other posts (yesterday), my older daughter came home from middle school and was upset over dinner about her chorus teacher, perhaps, quitting. My older daughter is in all advanced classes, her 7th grade math is honors algebra. She is a sensitive, extremely good student. The one class she took for enjoyment was chorus, which is the class a lot of goof-offs also want to take (as she told me…I don’t remember the word she used). This chorus teacher can retire, but because of the abuse the kids in the class give her, she is probably going to quit mid-year. My daughter was upset with tears in her eyes saying she is “nice.” About a month or so ago, she a a couple of other kids (good kids) went to the vice-principal in charge of discipline because of the middle finger a student was giving the teacher behind her back. I met the teacher once, very nice lady. How can I say, she is being targeted because I think she can be targeted. I think administration tried to do something (because the good students were called in to get, basically, testimony). It all goes back to society and kids being out of control. Unfortunately, the teachers don’t have backup in the classroom. Honestly, I think teachers should start carrying those little pens in pockets that record video and audio. I know in the one situation in her chorus class, at least there was testimony from students, but there should be some sort of video recording in class like they have on buses. There is no excuse for teachers being abused. It is sickening. Unfortunately, in your case, your supervisor just didn’t like you. I have five sisters and all professionals: doctors, lawyers, and a woman with an opinion is not always seen as a man with an opinion, unfortunately. Honestly, because of the bullying issues in their schools (which you know I have been very proactive about taking care of) I had looked very intensely into the virtual schools in Florida, but for now am staying with the bricks-and-mortor version. Perhaps, you would consider something like that, being an online teacher? I know it is exponentially growing as we blog. I don’t know the pay, but it might be something you’d consider?

  7. Julie Withers, I am truly sorry for the pain that our interaction has caused. I regret the language that I used, I hope you will accept my apology, I hope and pray that you find comfort, my words were an expression of frustration and shouldn’t be considered to bear any meaning about who you are. I truly believe that you are a beautiful human being. I am sorry. I hope you can find forgiveness in your heart, and move forward in your career to have a positive impact in the lives of more students.
    Sincerely,
    Paul R. Davis

  8. Julie Withers
    Julie Withers

    Dear Paul,

    Yes I accept your apology and I forgive you with my whole heart. Neither of us should be defined by the interaction and I wish you the very best. I hope you are in school and that like me, you learned a lot from this experience.

    With goodwill to you,
    Julie

  9. cheyenne

    Paul R. Davis, as a fellow ex-student of Julie’s, I also want to thank you for your apology. I was very sad to hear that Julie would no longer be teaching at the college, in fact I was heart broken. I appreciate a professor who I feel more equal to, who I feel comfortable going to to ask questions, not simple questions, deep complicated ones, or one who makes me feel comfortable enough to ask for help when I’m having trouble in class. For me, that kind of professor is hard to come by. I respect Julie so much, as my sociology professor she helped me to gain a much greater understanding of the world, our society, and life as a whole. That’s not very common. I hope that the next time you find yourself in a situation such as this that you feel comfortable enough to really share what your feeling instead of masking it in anger and hatred, throwing out judgemental comments, and burying your true self deeper inside the image of yourself that is portrayed .

    Jacqueline S. Human,
    I thank you for the supportive words you shared here for Julie, and the feminist perspective that you supplied for us all. I very much appreciate it as a friend and former student, of Julie’s and as a woman.

    JULIE!
    This piece is great. I am so glad that you wrote this for yourself to be able to process and also for us to know how you feel. I can not imagine the pain and confusion you went through. I myself know that there is a history of abuse on that campus from my mother. My mother worked for the college on the grounds crew (they do all the landscape maintenance on the campus). Long story short, she left after filing charges of sexual harrassment. Her actions then encouraged a colleague to file.charges of harrasment as well.
    I miss seeing you on campus, and I miss being in your class, you made learning fun, which is mad skill with how controversial the subjects were that you had to teach. Mad skill. I look up to you Julie.

    Many thanx to you all,
    Cheyenne

    1. cheyenne

      Paul Davis,
      Sorry, I mis-spelt your name, or rather added an extra initial. Sorry about that, not too sure where it came from.

  10. Dr. D

    Julie:
    I am also a working class Ph.D. who earned four degrees after marriage to a working class husband. Like you I am also leaving academia because of classism, elitism and lack of opportunity. Three years before defending my dissertation, as an ABD, I had a FT teaching position alongside persons from Harvard, Columbia and other “good” schools. The position was less than ideal: at a for-profit that was trying to legitimize itself for accreditation. However, I had great, kind colleagues and we believed were helping kids who had no other route to a better life. For a long time I earned “average” humanities money while also adjuncting at a state school to try to stay in academia. My mission: to give working class kids like myself a shot at a better life through good teaching. After 13 years FT and 5 part-time, I am burnt out for so many of the reasons you cite above.

    Universities are in free fall and their “customers” are neither encouraged nor able to get a good education in the current fragmented environment staffed by professors making poverty level wages. As a parent I can report that the K-12 model is broke too. As you know, the classism and elitism you reference in academia is all about posturing to feign importance in your sub-specialty field. If you probe a little deeper you will find that many of your snotty colleagues do have working class family members and/or they are also “one of us.”

    When 70% of the faculty is contingent, there is no future for the academy or those who aspire to work therein. This decimation happened on the watch of the snotty Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who feel entitled to FT-TT positions because their scholarship is “superior”, more trendy and laced with appropriate jargon to mask the banality of their conclusions. These generations benefited greatly from the egalitarian impulses of the early Baby Boomers who have since retired and moved on.

    Move on without guilt. What have we learned? 1) Writing eloquently about class, gender and race bias does not entail actually eliminating any of them from the academic workplace. 2) TT faculty are dysfunctional like other adults and insipid department politics can poison the workplace. 3) The “life of the mind” is closed to working class persons and the current generation; the university is like Sears – in its dying throws thrashing about for relevance. 4) it’s just not worth it when we are threatened by our students. 5) Life is short and a humiliating second class work status while holding a Ph.D, is a recipe for unhappiness. Leave and be happy! 😉

    1. Julie Withers
      Julie Garza-Withers

      Hi Dr. D,

      Thank you for your comments, they were good in the sense of sharing and discussing education but also helpful personally. Choosing to move on was difficult and I had difficulty not internalizing the disappointment I heard from others about my decision. It was refreshing to be supported, thank you again. I am making a new life for myself post-academia and feel my old sense of joy returning every day.

      Cheers,
      Julie

  11. Sunny

    Julie,
    [TW: transphobic slurs; descriptions of stalking]
    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am a young professional (ABD) and teach undergraduate courses in women’s studies. I also identify as trans* and I receive a ridiculous number of poor student evaluations for the sole reason that I am transgender and do not pass. Students have stopped me in the middle of discussion/ lecture to belittle me based on my clothing, body, and presumed identities. Students have called me “tranny” on ratemyprofessor and to my face; I’ve been stalked and followed by students (waiting for me outside of the other courses I teach); and I suspect that I have not received teaching assignments because I am a “risky” choice (because I choose to teach trans issues). I can’t complain or seek any sort of legal refuge because gender identity is not covered in our university’s non-discrimination statement. Title IX investigators did not find conclusively that the student who was stalking was not within their “normal daily routine.” (Trust me, it was stalking) It is exhausting to deal with this fear every single day and I am terrified about job prospects.
    In my short time teaching, I have encountered so many instances where white heterosexual cisgender middle-class young men attempt undermine my career by “going over my head.” Our faculty go out of their way to prevent any such circumstances by pre-approving all readings, books, and syllabi. There was an instance where a young white male blatantly plagiarized on his final project. When he complained to the chair about receiving a zero, I was forced to grant him full credit because it was not explicitly stated in my syllabus not to reuse material already submitted. Give. Me. A. Break. When I pressed the issue, I was chastised for “upsetting” the student. We are no longer educators. We are customer service representatives with no rights, no benefits, and no dignity.

    1. Julie Withers
      Julie Garza-Withers

      Hi Sunny,

      Thank you for reading my story and sharing your own. I am sad but not surprised to read that you are being harassed by students through the evaluation process. Administrators and department chairs use student evals in nefarious ways, especially if they view you as a “risky” choice and if you teach topics that are taboo, such as trans issues; it gives them a legitimate way to terrorize faculty that they decide don’t fit. It is infuriating.
      I don’t know if you want advice or someone to vent to, but I have become an advocate as a way to channel my rage at higher ed and have resources to share, re: bullying. Stalking is part of bullying and many schools are adopting anti-bullying clauses that protect students and faculty/staff. I’ve used this website in my own personal battle and also doing advocacy work: http://www.workplacebullying.org. From what you have written, you are being bullied and I’m so sorry that this is happening to you. You are correct to be afraid, adjunct faculty are the ivory towers scapegoats, and it is exhausting to work in such a non-inclusive environment, particularly knowing that diversity and inclusion are paid lip service in brochures and on websites but not in reality.
      Again, I invite you (and anyone else who reads this) to contact me at jwithers38@gmail.com I believe the adjuncts (former and current) must build a network among ourselves for support and advocacy.

      With kind regard,
      Julie

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